Farley Eulogia


Vale Robert Farley

The Board and staff of People With Disabilities(PWD) were deeply saddened by the news of the death of Robert Farley on 28 August 2011.

Robert served as President of PWD from 2006 to 2010, during the period when Australia signed and then ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
He made a significant contribution to the rights of people with disability, not only through the positions he held at PWD, but also with the Disability Council of NSW. He provided advice to NSW Ministers for Disability Services through his tenure as Oficial Community Visitor and was very involved in the disability community of the Newcastle and Hunter region serving on the Board of Disability Services — Port Stephens Inc.

PWD owes a debt of gratitude to Robert’s determination to promote the human rights of people with disability. The achievements he made in the disability services and human rights sectors will not be forgotten.

Robert was a lifelong participant in the arts, publishing short stories and having his plays performed on stage. He won literary awards and enjoyed painting.

Those of us who had the privilege of knowing Robert will miss him greatly


Kirsten Girnth ~ On behalf of Disability Services Port Stephens Inc.

Robert was a great friend and colleague. Robert’s dedication to our Service showed in his many years of service on our Management Committee, both as a Committee Member and as Chairperson.
Robert was always willing to help with anything we asked of him. Many times over the years we would turn to Robert seeking his guidance, his knowledge and wisdom. After speaking with Robert the most complex of problems were reduced from the size of a mountain, to all but the size of a pinhead. Robert had a wonderful sense of humour and it was common for an intended five minute chat to lead into an hour long conversation that would branch off into many wonderful, different and most often, thought provoking directions.

Robert was a true gentleman and always full of knowledge on the happenings in the Disability Sector. Robert was one of the first clients in our Respite Service and was instrumental in the setting up of our Service over 15 years ago. Robert was also involved in many other Committees and Boards over the years and was dedicated to each and everyone of them.

Robert spent many years as a Volunteer on the front desk in the Community Care Centre and had a great rapport with all the other volunteers he worked with.

Robert loved his outings to the Bowling Club and his glass of red wine or champagne. He also enjoyed his cultural experiences at the Civic Theatre. His signature waistcoats, scarfs, and that special men’s fragrance he wore, bore a significant resemblance to his personality - bright, cheerful, colourful, interesting and refined.

Robert will be sadly missed by all of us, and we will miss him each month at our Meetings. Robert touched the lives of many, many people and proved that one person can make a difference.
As we all know, when each of us reflect on our own time with Robert, he was special. Gifted, artistic, social, a great orator. He enjoyed life and touched so many others.

Heidi Forrest ~ People With Disability Australia

I’ve been asked to say a few words on behalf of People with Disability Australia (PWD). However, I would not be able to limit myself to talking about Robert merely in relation to one of his roles. In fact, Robert would hate that, he always said he would not allow himself to be identified by any ‘one’ thing, he was a product of a lots of different qualities and experiences.

For example, I remember a play he wrote about disability awareness. He played the part of ‘Robert’ and had an actor play the part of his disability. He refused to be identified by his disability. Robert had a lot more facets than merely his disability. Robert’s disability was one part of ‘Robert’ - maybe an integral part, but still only one part – in Roberts words ‘disability was the superficial part as it drew attention but lacked depth’. In typical Robert style the play was performed with finesse, substance and humour.  In the play his ‘disability’ asked him what service he liked best i.e. Respite Care, Home Care etc.; Robert’s character said his favourite service was ‘Ticketek’. Robert said all his disability ever did was create barriers and prevent him from doing what he wanted, so he then bundled up his disability and put it in a package and sent it off to ‘disability world’.

Robert had a wonderful ability to communicate with all people at all levels. When I first met him he was an Official Community Visitor. I’ve since been told he was one of the best ones they ever had; he had an amazing ability to strike up an instant rapport with the people he met, they felt comfortable in his company and he was able to liaise with service providers to help make a positive difference in their lives. (I think just meeting Robert and being exposed to his charm and wit is enough – but I’m biased).
I first met Robert at a disability meeting in Newcastle through a mutual friend, and I think she knew together we could make a difference, but Robert was doing that all by himself mainly in his local area. I introduced him to another avenue where he could have a lasting impact - PWD

Robert used every tool in his repertoire to help make a difference in the lives of people with disability. This included his amazing communication skills, his charisma, his compassion, his empathy and his lived experiences as well as those of the people he came into contact with.  He had an ability to convince people to do things to help him accomplish what he set out to do.

As an example of this, he was once convening a stream on consumer perspectives at a major conference in Newcastle (the one where he first performed his play), and one of the major presenters dropped out a week before the event. He had a gap in his schedule and he wasn’t happy. He told me he "wracked his brain" to think of who he could think of "to be nasty to, and get to fill the spot at such short notice.” Unfortunately, I was that person. He didn’t try and convince me directly; he was much more subtle than that. He convinced me indirectly by telling me how great I’d be for the ‘vacant spot’ by using my life story and experiences. Robert always said ‘you catch more flies with honey’ (cliché I know, but it works) – he bought me off by appealing to my better sense of self and a session of gourmet cheese and red wine. He was helping prepare my presentation and told me “culinary and 'vitinary' (wine) delights help the creative juices flow”.

Robert joined the board of PWD in 2004 during my presidency and became vice-president. He was not only a valuable asset to the board but was a great friend and support person to other members – he was my wing man and always helped me out. I have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth and acting before I think things through properly. Robert knew I did it from the heart and he’d fully support me even if he disapproved, and he’d laughingly say “that’s another interesting mess you’ve gotten us into.” I could always count on him.

While he was vice-president, PWD played an integral role in the development of the UN Convention the Rights of People with Disability (CRPD) and I was required to be away a lot. Robert was often required to fill in as President and he filled the role admirably. He had his own style and everyone loved and respected him. He was always modest and would say he didn’t have to do much, but I knew that was less than an understatement. I can’t pinpoint his forte, as he had lots of amazing qualities, but his ability to relate to, and learn from all people and all levels was certainly one of his strengths and was invaluable to PWD, particularly when we were extensively involved in consultations for the CRPD.

When my term was finished at PWD, Robert became President. He was modest and so proud that the members thought highly enough of him to elect him to that role, even though he’d demonstrated he was able to fit the role excellently.  During his time as President he showed fantastic leadership of the Board and staff, taking PWD through an extensive organisational review which resulted in one of the most innovative models of leadership I have ever seen in the community sector. He was also responsible for considerable growth of PWD, taking the organisation from the position of operating from one site in Redfern to having multiple offices in NSW and Queensland. His legacy is a bigger and stronger PWD as a result of his vision and decision making, enabling more people with disability to have our voices heard.

Unfortunately he had a few setbacks with his health that affected his ability to attend meetings at Sydney on a more regular basis, but it didn’t stop him from contributing to, or participating in, teleconferences when he was bedridden. Doing this was problematic for him for all sorts of reasons, but he was stoic and determined.

At this time we kept in contact on a regular basis, and in typical ‘Robert’ form he didn’t complain about his situation, but made jokes. He didn’t want to upset me with his problems, he just wanted to be happy and look forward to having more good times.

During a member’s event earlier this year, Robert was awarded life membership of PWD. Unfortunately he was not able to be there to collect it that night. Robert asked me about being granted the award as he had a few concerns. I told him to shut up and to accept it and stop whinging because it was testimony to how much PWD valued his contributions and his friendship. I also lectured him on sitting back and accepting accolades and giving people the opportunity to let them tell him how much they appreciate everything he has done.

There is no single defining point about Robert - everything about him shows us a person that was warm, bubbly and always on the lookout for a good time.

He was down to earth, a quiet gentleman with hidden depths, he loved the arts, he loved being creative and he loved living life to the fullest. People like Robert make the world a better place, he touched everyone he met and will be sadly missed.

I’ll always remember him with fond memories and a smile – I’m proud he let me into his inner sanctum.

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