Hero photograph
Graduation 1967

Michael Eastgate...life after St Bede's

Michael Eastgate —

I farewelled St Bede's College in December 1963 from form 6G with no regrets.

The Upper Sixth form year was out of my privilege reach being the 7th in a family of 9 children, all having been in the Catholic Education system.

During my university holidays I enjoyed hard work on construction sites and in the Dalgety Woolstores to earn much needed pounds/shillings, sharing many workdays with SB Old Boys such as John Reynolds and Emmett Hobbs, a great team!

I then graduated B Comm from Canterbury Uni in 1967 at age 20, then CA -NZ 3 years later, followed by FAICD/GrDipUNE in 1993 in Australia.

We migrated from NZ after my being a local company secretary, in 1979 to the Niue Govt Treasury for essential health reasons of our 6yr old daughter (Melissa), with my wonderful wife Veronica teaching at the only English speaking Alofi village school there.

Michael and Veronica Eastgate

As the sole commerce graduate on Niue I had the invaluable experience of reporting to and working closely with our Premier and Finance Minister, the late Sir Robert Rex, 40 years older than me but a great mentor and their first leader after Independence.

Former Bedean pupil and teacher the late Fr Leo McAteer was our mission priest there so we had a wonderful friendship as a family and I supported him with all mission/'parish'/govt issues.

We kept in close contact with him across his Pacific postings for 30 years until his passing back in NZ, fortunately for us being able to visit him one last time down Temuka way in his Presbyterian rest home.

Following Niue, we spent four years in New Caledonia where I took up a finance role, then to head of administration after one year, in the South Pacific Commission, funded by UK, USA, France, Australia & NZ.

I travelled to 19 of our 24 Pacific countries on duty and/or 'leave', as we supported all island countries and territories as far north as Palau, Saipan, the Marshall Islands etc. Since then we as a family have explored much of our globe.

For 4 years our fellow Bedean and Uni Canty grad Dr Feleti (Fred) Sevele was a close work colleague of mine in the SPC, as our Chief Economist, before he went back home to Tonga as their Director of RC Education and then Prime Minister!

Also, on our SPC management staff was another old Bedean, Tamarii Pierre of Rarotonga, a wonderful gifted leader who was our Director of Programs when I had to unfortunately resign due to family safety concerns. Tamarii went on to lead a UN program, SPREP.

I do keep a strong interest in Pacific matters and now like to contribute graduation ties to 'Islander Bedeans' leaving the college, there is not much else I can do for your college community from afar.

With 3 bi-lingual children we moved to Chapel Hill, Brisbane in 1985 after the civil war in Noumea became unbearable for the realistic safety of living, schooling and working, but it was an incredibly great life and career experience for us all.

I then worked for two Australian public companies in the construction materials industry for 14 years, then took on a Comm Govt funded disability service CEO role for 8 years until retirement at 60, then volunteer charity Director/Treasurer until age 72.

I also served pro bono on the board of an Anglican College here for 7 years at their request which was an interesting experience as the sole RC. With no suitable RC co-ed high school in our area, our offspring all attended St Peter's Lutheran College.

One important lesson I have learned as an adult is that from a Bedean background it is important that we all have an ecumenical outlook and kindness/understanding towards all other people in faith-based religions, stepping outside of our fifties/sixties training and school education that often marginalised RCs from the total communities where we lived. Many of our parents from English/Irish backgrounds were somewhat insular by not practising social inclusion, perhaps valuing sameness over difference?

My favourite Disability Australian-wide charity as above of which I am now a life member is led by the Society of St Francis here, an Anglican order of brothers who perform admirable services in our communities. Epic Assist we place and support thousands of people with disabilities across Australia into paid regular full or part-time employment with funding from our Comm Govt, also similarly assisting those people in need in Slovakia.

Veronica took up teaching in Queensland state high schools for 20+ years, becoming a Senior Guidance Officer/Counsellor for a dozen colleges, while gaining a BA in French and an MA in Education.

Our '3 kiddies' are now all over 40, with 6 grandchildren, Melissa our eldest is a specialist physician in Oncology, Department Deputy Director at the Royal Brisbane and an Associate Professor at Uni Queensland, our son Jonathan is the CTO at a large IT company, while his twin Patrick is Manager of Med Imaging at the Uni of SSC new hospital.

All have kept some of their street French like us as parents! Thanks to my/our old SBC French teacher Rev Fr Mackay.

I am still a reasonably keen athlete, having enjoyed soccer and tennis over many years, but following Fr John Goulter's great mentoring I still partake in Saturday 5km Parkruns in Brisbane, along with Melissa, Patrick and grandchildren.

Michael, Patrick and Grandson

It was also our very supportive Fr J G who encouraged me into tertiary commerce and economics, a very positive lasting memory.

(Please note that I am purposely not on Linked-in or Facebook, as for some years in the 80-90s I served on the board of and chaired the Queensland Building Industry Credit Bureau while the Queensland Company Secretary of a major International public company here. So too much high-risk litigation exposure remains!)