Dandenong Dave

Between 25 – 30 years seems to be a problem age for some people, especially young men.

I had a friend we knew as ‘Dandenong Dave’ who committed suicide when he was in his late 20s.

I first met Dave about 1976 or 1977. He was what people would say, on the spectrum, high highs and low lows.  Dave came round to our share house at 9 Austral Street, St Lucia a number of times.  He would pick up a guitar and knock out a tune.

Dave’s passing shook me because he visited just before he died and spoke of his desire to end it all.  We yarned till the early hours of the morning. Dave just seemed to want to talk to someone. I obliged, long after others went to bed.

Dave went home and was found dead some days later. After I heard I went around to his house behind the old Toowong Library. No one was home. There was no death notice in the local paper, the Courier Mail. I didn’t know his family, I presume they lived in Victoria.  People said Dave had overdosed on heroin which was cheap at the time.  I had no way of finding out for sure, but I remembered his desperate words from that last night.

9 austral st
Share house in Austral Street St Lucia in Brisbane

There were two projects I worked with Dave on, one was a re-enactment for radio of a drug bust by Det. Inspector Kevin Dorries and the other was The Public Trial of Bjelke-Petersen. Despite the passage of time (over 40 years), I have kept a record of both.

To explain, Kevin Dorries was a much feared policeman of the Joh era; he intimidated people who lived in share houses and/or smoked dope (I did the former, but not the latter).  It was folklore that Dories was capable of every act of violence and intimidation depicted in the re-enactment.

Dave played one of the people that Dorries busted, and I played Dorries (or someone like him) – no technical masterpiece but it reflects fears held at the time. Cops were backed 100% by the government. Police ran the drug trade and the corruption that went with it, something the Fitzgerald inquiry did not explore.

I am no expert on suicide, but the late 70s was a time of alienation, high youth unemployment and political repression. We socialised our poverty by living in share houses. It seemed like Dave from the Dandenongs in Victoria, had landed into this mess. He was smart and talented.

But I had no answers for his despair, except to spend the night chatting with him and to help make this re-enactment. Dave is likely to be the singer of Jefferson Starship’s ‘The Baby Tree‘ at a party at Austral Street.

The beginning and end of the re-enactment feature Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish you were here’ which I have added. David Gilmour and Roger Waters collaborated to write the music, and Gilmour sang the lead vocal. In recent years, Roger Waters has come out in support of the Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel. It is sad that when so many are fighting for their lives that someone should give theirs up.

Finally, for those that are doing it tough, reach out like Dave did to me on that last night.

 “After the guilty verdict was delivered by the jury, they all left for the coast” was the final line of the play, The Public Trial of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, performed before a packed audience in the forum area at the University of Queensland in 1977.

Ian Curr
25 October 2018

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