4 December, 2000
At The Mass at Kambah -From his son Greg
I'd like to thank everybody for showing up today to pay their respects to my father, Michael John Cusack.
Dad always put himself second to give us kids the best start we could have in life. The best start in life is most certainly what we got. And now the only way we can repay him is to not waste the opportunities which dad worked all his life to give us.
Dad taught me to stand up for what is right and most of the things I like about myself come from him. Dad did an incredible amount of good in only 57 years and I don't think he ever would have been finished.
I feel that the real tragedy is that he never got to relax. He never got to do much for himself. He never got to enjoy his retirement and I think this is really sad. The last time I talked to Dad on the day before he died, he said he had the best friends and family in the world. I could tell he really meant this.
=He also said that he was happy with his life and that he was at peace with himself. I hope this was true. Dad was the best man I knew. I'd be proud to be half the man he was. He has left and enormous hole in my life and I don't know what I am going to do without him.
Thank you. ---
At The Mass at Kambah -From his son Ben
When I was writing this speech I noticed what was on the back of the paper. "HED FOOTY TIPPING'. Me and Dad used to be in this Rugby League Tipping Competition at his work. HED is the Higher Ed Department in DEET as it was called then.
Everybody in the competition had a nickname and right at the start dad wanted the nickname "Raglan T. Tiger" (I think that was the Balmain Mascot). So he wrote this great long email to the guy organising it with a whole essay about why he should get that nickname and on the strength of that email the guy decided to give a different nickname. "The Bull". That turned out to be appopriate in more ways than one. One week the guy running the competition didn't get dad's tips before the deadline (dad put them in OK, but the guy just overlooked the email.
You can imagine dad's reaction when he gets this email saying he was getting zero for that round. Next Monday there was an email going around about a raging bull on the third floor storming up and down yelling "I've put me bloody tips in, I've put me bloody tips in".
It's funny when you're young and your parents talk about how proud they are of you. It doesn't seem to mean a lot. It is not that you don't care or anything. It's just that you don't understand. You don't know what it really means. I'm a bit older now and I think I understand what that means. But for a reason I would not have anticipated. You see, I am really; proud of my dad and what he did in this life. I don't even know the half of it. It is all before my time. But I did (particularly in the last few years) get an idea of the things he accomplished as a freelance consultant, in the public service before that, and way back when he was a priest.
I got an idea of what he was on about. You know he wasn't just working for a living he was about people. He was working to help people. He set a heck of a standard. I want to make you proud dad, because I am really proud of you.
At the Crematorium
My name is Peter Downie. Dally Messenger and I will be conducting this part of the service to honour and celebrate Michael Cusack.
Dally and I, together with John Murray, who is lighting the memorial candles, and a number of other friends with us today, are former priests who have shared some forty years of our respective lives with Michael. We would now like to share with Michael's family and with all of his friends who are present here, some reflections on a life well lived.
The music which you heard as you arrived, and which you will hear again as we leave, is written and performed by Michael's son Ben.
Before we start Fran has asked me to announce that everyone is invited back to 166 Streeton Drive, Chapman where there are refreshments for everyone and much reminiscing to be done.--
Michael's Farewell to Us
Farewell to you ,
and the youth I have spent with you,
It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
But let me figure in your daily conversation,
Tell of my loves and joys
of how I used think and act and talk,
Keep me in your memory,
That way I will always stay with you.
I welcome you to this Ceremony of Tributes for our friend Michael Cusack. Mick was a very special man. By any measurement an above average human being and above average achiever of things worthwhile. Our time is brief so we would just like to briefly reminisce with you.
I could shed a tear or two. Take no notice. I'll recover and carry on. And so will the others.
You all thought that you were Michael Cusack's best friend. But you are all wrong.
That is one of the Mick's wonderful traits. When he crossed paths with a person of quality, and all present company are in that category, he had that extraordinary ability to make you feel very special.
One of our gurus, Roger Pryke, a man in whose debt many of present company are, used to tell us that sanity depends on the esteem of significant others in our lives.
Michael was one of my significant others.
Mick was idealistic, highly intelligent, loyal to his friends, devoted to his country and the good of mankind. He was personal, hardworking, and dedicated to causes he believed in.
He was a person of real honesty and integrity and true to himself. Michael's demeanour of openness often bordered on a seeming naivety, but this was illusory. In his dealings with the world and with people, Mick was sharp, perceptive and intelligent. Witness any of his many reports and submissions which are symbolized by the one we have here on Youth Suicide, now known in Government circles as the Cusack Report.He was a successful operator. He would be a significant other to almost anybody. He admired others, he appreciated his friends; he praised the good others did. He made others, like me, feel they were worthwhile people. He thought you were OK, he thought I was OK, and so we are, and so we must be.
Thanks, Mick. So a bit of our sanity and self assurance goes with you, but we'll hang on to the memory.
I have wonderful memories of Mick Cusack. At one early stage he was CEO of the Youth Council of Victoria. It was well over twenty years ago. With the help of Ross Mellor and the Murray Valley Development League he organised a conference to face the problem of young men, unemployed, leaving country towns, and moving to the city where they fared no better. He hired me as a co-organiser. We brought down busloads of young people form the country to the Camberwell Town Hall.
We roped in Members of Parliament, the Press, public servants, you name it. We proceeded with an intensive Search Conference for two days and isolated the main problem, surprisingly to almost everyone, as creeping salinity. We wrote a lucid report and circulated it to every Member of Parliament, State and Federal. Two or three months ago, twenty years of human and environmental tragedy later, the politicians discovered the problem and decided that something had to be done about it!
He briefed me on the personnel. This one is a self seeker, this one is a time server, this one is an egotist, this one has another agenda, but this one is OK, this one is for real, he does what he says he will do. He passed one politician as OK, a guy called Eddie Hann, Country Party Victoria. Like Michael, he died before his time.
Mick was a marvellous public servant. He did his job well. He saw it as a responsibility to do good for others. I saw him really mad once. Consultants came around as I am told they frequently do. They interviewed him on certain problems in the department. He told them what he thought. Every idea he had, came out almost verbatim in their report to the Minister without acknowledgement, as if they had discovered the truth for themselves. They were paid thousands of dollars. I thought they were smart consultants. They recognised perception and intelligence when they saw it. They made their quick buck and they ran.
More recently he was involved with me, he actually pulled together a group of people, to persuade companies to handle redundancies sensitively. Instead of frog marching an employee of 30 0r 40 years standing to the front door with a cheque, to acknowledge and recognise that person with due ceremony and appreciation. We nearly pulled it off.
We were all in the seminary together. Some who expressed "part one" of this ceremony of farewell, are still in the ministry, others are in the middle, and at the other end, of the religious-to-non-believer spectrum, but the gratifying fact is that there is a great bond between us. We know each other - we share and we shared idealism, love of our world and our fellow man, dedication, perseverance and the best of human values. And now a wonderful person of our number has gone, and we feel like one of our arms has been ripped off. I'll miss you Mick. We all will.
Just a few days ago, Michael and I were reflecting on how long we had known each other and the things we had passed through together. He called me one night less than two weeks ago, and told me that in case anything happened to him, he wanted me to know that he loved me, and appreciated my being there for him over those years.
I had the privilege to share a deep intimacy with Michael. He was a central part of my life journey, someone to whom I could tell anything, and someone from whom I could hear anything.
I recall most of all, Michael's constant affirmation at every turn of my life, from the darkest hours of anxiety in the seminary and our time in the priesthood, to the shared joy of new directions as we both left the Commonwealth public service to commence new careers.
Michael was a brilliant man, but one who wore his brilliance lightly, under the mantle of a childlike wonder. But it was his spiritual richness which will always define Michael for me. Michael was always for me a window on the supernatural. I know that among Michael's many friends here are some who shared his Christian faith, and some for whom the concept of religious faith is a conundrum. But I suggest to you all that Michael always showed that the driving force in his life was a vision of something beyond the immediate. Whatever his endeavour, it was based in a philosophy that things could and should be more just, more equitable, more fair, and that expediency was not the yardstick of human behaviour.
Michael was a passionate human being, and as well as being passionate about the pursuit of justice and goodness, he was also passionate about the things which he saw as evil. In a whimsical e-mail to his son Greg just a couple of weeks ago, he speculated on a book which he might write on a range of figures whom he saw as representing destructive attitudes. Some his criteria for inclusion in this list were:
Having a blind faith in the capacity of the market to solve everything
Being prepared to say whatever it takes to maintain their power base
Showing no commitment to moral values as the center point of their lives
Taking positive delight in tearing down social infrastructure for the sake of it.
I will leave it to you to guess the names.
We shared many good times together, and a lot of time on the phone. Every so often Susan would bring me the cordless phone, and say, "It's Michael I'll see you in the morning." I think you all recall Michael's oxymoron : "To cut a long story short"! Michael never cut a long story short.
For me, Michael was a dear and loving friend, a source of support and well-being. Farewell, Michael, I will miss you always.
Michael rang me on the Friday night before he died. It was, of course, a long conversation. There was never any other kind with our beloved Rags. But it was never idle chatter or meaningless prattle. He always had lots of worthwhile things to say.
This conversation was very special, that rare and precious : "Just in case, I'm saying good-bye."
He told me what I meant to him and that he loved me. Now, I am very grateful we had that conversation.
Michael's outstanding quality was his open heartedness. This caused him some pain and stress because to survive, both in the Church and in the Public Sector, you had to be politically astute and Michael was.
But it went against his generous and open nature. We, his friends and family, have been blessed by his honest, open hearted generosity of spirit.
Michael Cusack has touched the lives of many people, as is obvious from the number of people here today, who have come to celebrate his life and give thanks for who he is.
Michael and I have been friends for 40 years. We met in early 1960 as we began our studies for the priesthood at St Columba's College Springwood, and we became close friends through those 7 years - both at Springwood and at St Patrick's College Manly. Together with our Sydney classmates, we were ordained priests on 16th July 1966 at St Mary's Cathedral Sydney by Cardinal Gilroy. Michael and I were on holidays at The Entrance together with our families in January 1967 when the appointments to our first parishes came out. I remember the many anxious phone calls to Sydney from the post office at The Entrance to obtain that fateful information. We then shared those early years in our respective parishes, meeting together with some of our classmates from time to time to discuss our experiences.
Michael was also a great companion during the transition years after we had both left the ministry and were sharing a flat with two others at Peter's Corner in Randwick in the early 1970's. That was the time when we were struggling to reshape our lives and to find out what was being asked of us
by life, what God was wanting of us. Spiritually it felt like the Abram experience: called by God to "leave your father's house and your father's land to come to a land that I will show you". (cf Genesis 12.1). We had left the known and future directions were still unknown to us - but the journey had begun.
During this time, Jude, who later became my wife, had a good friend from Melbourne staying with her, and so we organised a dinner at a restaurant in Darlinghurst for six of us. Jude's friend was Frances Cremin, and Michael agreed to come to the dinner. Mick and Fran really hit it off - and some time later we were celebrating their engagement and then their wedding, and later again we celebrated the birth of Kara.
Michael often used to say when introducing us something like: "Terry and Jude were responsible for bringing us together..." and you know how he would throw his head back and laugh in his good humoured way with a twinkle in his eye. Mick was always grateful to us for somehow having a hand in the beginnings of the marriage and family that he was always so pleased about in his life. Michael was so happy in his relationship with Fran and took great delight in the gifts, achievements and careers of his children Kara, Leonie, Greg and Ben. He was so proud of you all and used to tell us what you were doing and how you were going, and for many years he used to write about you in his Christmas family update letter to all his friends - something he wrote out of a great love and pride in you his children.
After Randwick our lives took us in different directions - geographically we lived in different cities and states and, for a while, even different countries, but we always stayed good friends and picked up our friendship enthusiastically whenever we met, occasionally visiting each other in our homes in Canberra and Sydney respectively in later years.
Michael was above all a very genuine person - a man of great feeling, warmth, enthusiasm, honesty and integrity. He had an infectious sense of humour, and was a wholehearted person - he was not miserly in his affection and interest in others, and you can see that wholehearted quality in the photo of him that is here this morning - he is fully there and is obviously so pleased with obtaining his degree, when this photo was taken. He had the gift of being able to engage deeply with people and relate to their lives with interest and encouragement, affirming them in their gifts and strengths, but equally able to spot with perspicacity any injustice, unfairness and dishonesty which could infuriate him, as Dally pointed out in his talk.
Michael was absolutely committed to improving life in our country so that people could live with dignity , especially young people. He was perceptive in diagnosing the problems and came up with practical and workable solutions that helped make a difference in people's life. I think of SKILL SHARE, the job training program which he masterminded and which the Government enacted in the late 80's and early 90's. This program helped so many young people to find their way in the employment market; my daughter is one who benefitted greatly from it in the time after she left school, and through it she found her way to work that she enjoyed.
I should like to pay tribute to the family from which Michael come - to Stella and Jack, and Margaret and Stephen. It was in this loving family environment that he was nurtured from childhood to young adulthood; there his fine qualities were developed over the years and the values by which he always lived were instilled in him. He emerged as a generous, enthusiastic
young man with a deeply religious sensibility and a genuine spirituality - someone who wanted to make a difference in life. In his last phone conversation with his sister Margaret on the very morning of his death he said: "I could not have done without my family".
Michael faced the very real prospect of death in the same wholehearted manner in which he faced all the issues in his life. As I understand it, he realised he was facing death before this was made really clear by medical investigation and before any of us realised what was happening. He spoke with as many people as he could. Of course he was scared, but he came to terms courageously with the very real fear of letting go of all that he knew and was, of all the people he knew and loved. Fran said to me that he knew he was in dire straits but gradually he came to terms with it - and he found peace in what was happening to him. He took leave "just in case" by phone of his mother, sister and brother, and of many of his friends and loved ones, including many in our 1966 ordination class, on the Friday before he died (24th November).
Though Jude and I were regrettably overseas at the time, he had rung our home on Tuesday 21st November and spoke with our daughter Maureen asking her to let us know of his heart problems and the possible surgery on the following Monday, and saying that he hoped it would not be too much trouble, because "we were very good friends". Of course none of us realised how serious things were then and I regret I did not ring him from overseas immediately on hearing this news and that I was not there for him - but I feel heartened by the fact that of course Fran was by his side continuously and his children and family were there for him even if sometimes by phone , and Phil Buckley (who anointed him on Tuesday 28th November) and Peter Downie from the class walked with him on his last journey. But he did take us all by surprise! And he faced his death very consciously.
One psychologist has observed that death is a cruel and terrible thing, because it tears away from us someone whom we love, leaving us with a great emptiness. But from another point of view death seems to be a joyful event: "In the light of eternity, death appears as a joyful event, it is a wedding, a mysterium coniunctionis, a mystery of union,.. The soul attains, as it were, its missing half, it achieves wholeness".
So after the initial fears and resistances have been worked through and the understandably deep attachments to this known form of existence have been shaken loose, death can be experienced as a joyful celebration, a reunion with one's deepest being, a union with one's God. As St Augustine puts it: "You have made us for yourself O God and restless is our heart until it rest in you". Death is often depicted in the dreams of the dying (and in the literature of religious traditions the world over) as a banquet or joyful wedding feast in which one is united with one's deepest self - it has to do with the deepest personal fulfillment of all one's longings in which one's wholeness as a person is restored and experienced. People who have had near-death experiences invariabley attest to the joy they experience in the dying process and to their utter reluctance to return to earth - something they only do in response to an authoritative directive, which they also experience.
Michael's death is our great loss, but I would suggest, Michael's great gain. As the preface in the Mass this morning reminded us: "for your faithful people, Lord, life is changed, not ended". The God who called Michael into life and into the priesthood, and then into marriage with Fran
and family life, and into his work, has now called him to Himself.
We thank you Michael for all that you have been for us, and given us - for the light and love, the affection and friendship, the encouragement and affirming support, for the companionship in our common celebrations, achievements and struggles, in good times and bad times; and we sadly take leave of you this morning - but in the sure knowledge that you have found rest in God and have reached the goal towards which we all strive.
I should like to dedicate this poem to the memory of our dear friend Michael: it was written by Jelaluddin Rumi - an Islamic Persian mystic who lived in Konya, Turkey, in the 13th century - he was sought out by people of all faiths, including Christian monks, because of his great experience and knowledge of the interior life. He understands life and death as being two integral and inseparable aspects of human existence:
On that fatal day when my casket rolls along
Do not think my heart is in this world.
Do not cry, do not cry with anguished moans,
For that is a pit a demon has dug, and only that is sad.
When you see my procession, don't cry, "Gone, gone!"
For me it is a time of meeting and reunion.
As you lower me into the grave, don't say, "So long."
The grave is a veil before the gathering of paradise.
When you see that lowering down, consider a rising.
What harm is there in the setting of a sun or moon?
What seems a setting to you is a dawning.
Though it may seem a prison,
This vault releases the soul.
What seed goes into the earth and does not grow?
Why are you doubting this human seed?
What bucket goes down and does not come up full?
Why should the Joseph of the spirit resent the well?
Close your mouth on this side and open it beyond,
For in the nowhere air will be your song.
- Jelaluddin Rumi, 1207 - 1273
I am privileged to be asked to share my thoughts and sentiments about Michael Cusack. While I was not in the same ecclesiastical institution as Michael we shared a sense of priesthood that went well beyond the constraints of any set institution. We had been ordained about the same time and it was when we met up as students at UNSW that our friendship came to life. It was the goodness and the passion of Michael that I found so richly rewarding and I'm sure for all the others that came in contact with him. He proved to be for me and indeed others a great confidante when it was needed most.
We were both struggling and questioning. Our turmoil was real. The ideals of the 2nd Vatican Council were held up to us in words but beyond the rhetoric the establishment seemed to give little credence. The ideal and the reality were two totally different things. That was part of the struggle. It was the support that Michael shared so generously, even at a cost to himself that showed clearly the character, love and compassion that filled his life. He never purported to have the answers. Instead he would readily walk beside another in the quest to find meaning.
Our years together in Randwick were special. In a sense, despite the struggles we went through, they were in their way, halcyon. We shared in the writing and presentation of a thesis together for a sociology assessment. It was eventually published as an appendix to the book entitled "Prophets and Losses". We were awarded a distinction. Michael had done most of the research. The topic was most pertinent to our lives. "Why Priests leave the Priesthood". My main contribution seemed to be in the use and supply of the stationary and the printing press at the Randwick Presbytery!
Michael had a beautiful mind. It was clear, analytical and yet full of love. While he could work so well with the head he was above all a man of the heart. He had the gift of being a genuinely humble man. As Dally has spoken of his expertise in the realm of formulating government reports it was in his incisiveness and balanced recommendations that made his reports read and acted upon.
It was the visits to his unit, which he shared with Terry McBride, at Peter's Corner Randwick that made me value his friendship. Of a night, so as to get away from the rather cold environment of clerical living we would share thoughts and aspirations. And then for some 30 years our paths did not cross. Yet etched in my heart was the picture of a person that had the gift of enriching so many lives, one of which was mine. It was through Dally that we met up again after three decades. And here I was walking with my family across the harbour bridge on Aboriginal Reconciliation Day that my mobile phone stated ringing. It was Michael and those many years past just seemed to come together again. It was as though we were starting a conversation we had just left off the night before. It reminded me of T.S. Eliot's words about the end being but the beginning arriving at it as though for the first time. Indeed we were continuing where we left off. But that was Michael and the wonderful gift he had. Friendship was always a priority in his life and that is why others felt so much at home with him.
It was only a few weeks back that we had our lunch in Canberra. There was Paul Collins, Michael and myself. His enthusiasm and welcome was what I needed. It was a marvellous occasion for the both of us. It brought to life all that we had shared in the past. And when I left that very long lunch I realised what his friendship meant for me, and on my 60th birthday soon afterwards, Michael's e-mail was waiting for me.
What is it that made Michael so real for those of us that loved him? I believe it had to do with an innocence that did not allow him to nurse negative feelings about others. He knew only how to affirm. It was his innocence that protected him from knowing the sinister negativity of life. Yet no one could accuse him of naivety. The Gospel dictum of being as wise as serpents and yet as innocent as doves fitted him to a tee. He kept this innocence alive in order to be the person he was. He would not allow darkness to swamp his mind. The fact that he could allow others to belong in such a rich and precious way in his world was proof that for him belonging was the most natural thing in the world. When it came to friendship and love Michael never held back.
I suppose if I would define what it is that made Michael such a true friend to so many it was to do with that quality of innocence. He couldn't turn it off and on for it was always there. The gift he had for affirming others was because he would always discover something of worth and beauty in the other. Yet as with anything this came at a cost. There was a fragility and a sensitivity in his make up. It was in reality the deep compassion that was so much part of him. Yet as we all know there is always a cost to goodness. Michael in his way paid that cost.
Michael has done something for me that I will always be indebted to him for. He gave a sense of self worth and honour . He allowed two seeming opposites to coexist in his nature. Gentleness and strength were what he carried with him and which he made his own. It was these qualities that made him our friend and the person we loved.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This reflection is a simple tribute to our friend but I also want it to be, from us, a statement to his wife Fran and, his children Ben, Greg, Kara and Leonie. Your husband and father was a wonderful man, and for that reason we honour you all. We extend to you our deepest sympathy.
That man is a Success
That man is a success
who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
who has gained the respect
of intelligent men and women
and the love of children;
who has filled his niche
and accomplished his task;
who leaves the world better
than he found it,
who has never lacked appreciation
of earth's beauty
or failed to express it;
who looked for the best in others
and gave the best he had.
Commital: (Will you please stand)
Before we commit the body of Michael, let us be thankful for the intangibles -
The impact of his life on ours.
We remember his welcoming smile,
The warmth of his friendship
The stimulating pleasure of his company
We remember the significant moments
and the great times we had with him.
Many of us remember the agonising over issues
The searching for truth
Dies irae, dies illa
Solvet Saeclum in favilla
Tenderly and reverently we commit the body of our friend Michael to the purifying elements, grateful for the life that has been lived, and for all that life has meant to us.
We are glad that Michael lived.
We are glad that we saw his face
and felt the pressure of his hand.
We cherish the memory of his words,
and deeds and character.
We cherish the memory
of the beautiful things he did,
his enjoyment of life
his concern and care,
his vitality and involvement,
His friendliness to others
His devotion and contribution
As friend, son, brother,
but especially husband and father
We cherish his friendship
and, most of all, his love.
We should resolve at moments like these that while we live we will strive to make our living of real worth as Mick Cusack's certainly was. We should carry on the good ideals Michael had, to others.
He died to early but Mick did live life to the full. There is some satisfaction in that for that we should
We now leave Michael in peace. Thus thinking of him, let us leave this place in quietness of spirit, conscious of the things that really matter in life, and resolved to live this way toward each other.
Submitted post Funeral by
Several days before he died Michael sent me an email in which he wrote of his declining health. While describing a serious situation, the message ended on a positive note with Michael saying he seemed to be recovering well but slowly. Through a cruel series of circumstances the next news I received was that he had died and the final rites had been performed. It was the fault of no one but myself that I was not in closer touch with developments. Reading the entries on the this web page I am so pleased that his old friends rallied around and provided such fine tributes and, I am sure, support for Fran and the children. For myself I regret that I did not have the opportunity to join the public observance. I also regret not having met up with so many old friends whom I have not seen for too long a time.
I am uncertain that I can add much to the quality of the statements already on the record, but under the influence of that great motivator, Dally Messenger III, am happy to place something on the record. Michael and I had always been friendly at Springwood and Manly, but our paths had diverged thereafter. It was not until possibly 1994, by which time much water had passed under many bridges, that we reconnected. He was by then a senior officer in the section of DEETYA that interacted with the research element of universities and I was Director of Research Services at UNE.
As we established a professional relationship we easily resumed our old personal one that had simply been on hold for perhaps 25 years. As has been well said, Michael was an easy man to love. He had an openness and generosity of spirit that encouraged other to relax in his company and feel at ease with the real person. He visited us in Armidale on several occasions. Once, he drove his mother back from Sydney to her home in Moree and she stayed with us also. Those who knew him will not need to be told how quickly he became friendly with my wife, Judith, and young daughter, Sarah. He had such a genuine concern for people that his discussion of their work and interests was instinctively recognised as the sincere response of a friend and not that of a mere acquaintance making conversation.
I was able to utilise Michael,s professional knowledge and judgement to the advantage of UNE and numerous of its staff. When he left the public service and I the university we maintained contact, discussed future options and looked forward to an ongoing relationship.
There is no purpose in repeating the fine tributes already paid to Michael. In applauding and endorsing them I wish to make two points.
The first is to record the very high regard that Michael was held by many in the tertiary education sector. I know that researchers and research administrators in universities held him in the highest regard.
His intelligence, honesty, availability and complete professionalism were acknowledged and respected by all who dealt with him. Those at UNE to whom I reported his death expressed sincere regret at his passing. I believe such sentiments would be echoed across research establishments generally.
The second point is a sad one. Michael being such a loving and trusting person was, of course, highly vulnerable. He was particularly hurt by the way in which many senior people in the church reacted to his personal pilgrimage and the choices he made. It was with a deep sense of pain that he spoke, on occasion, of the lack of basic charity displayed by a senior cleric in an adjoining parish who publicly denounced him.
Again, he recollected an interview with his archbishop during which an apparently flippant but highly objectionable suggestion was made that Michael should take himself off to PNG. Others may know more detail than I. The point I wish to make is that one so loving and guileless as Michael should not have been subjected to the pain of criticism by those who might have been expected to show greater understanding and tolerance.
However, my abiding memory is not of a sad or stunted man, but of a big fellow with a hearty laugh and a fine sense of humour. He was a man who despite all experiences was not frightened to act positively, face life with optimism and to express openly his deep affection for family and friends. In so doing he helped and enriched many.
A life dedicated to serving the public,
Obituary from The Canberra Times Friday Jauary 26 2001.
Robyn McKay, Robert Crafter, Di Reynolds
Michael Cusack's death in November brought sudden end a life and ca-reer dedicated to public service. His career was remarkable for its breadth in social policy and the commitment he brought to the values of public service in many spheres, including the Australian Public Service, the non-government sector, and consultancy services linking both.
Mike joined the CPS in 1982 as a direct appointment to the Senior Executive Service after several years in the non-government sector. His first appointment was as an Assistant Secretary in the Office of Youth Affairs (1982-87), followed by a long stint in the Department of Employment, Education and Training in the Community and Aboriginal Programs Division (1987-92) and the Higher Education Division (1992-96).
He came to the Office of Youth Affairs at the height of its influence, and was responsible for the design and delivery of youth-related programs, the national coordination of International Youth Year (1985) in Australia and the establishment of the Youth Ministers' Council. When we knew him best, he managed the policy and budget for the higher education research program, still a flagship program, but transformed under his leadership in terms of its management and its funding levels. He played a significant role in develop-ing an electronic processing platform for the Australian Research Council.
Before joining the APS, Mike was the inaugural chief executive officer of the Youth Affairs Council of Australia (1979-82) and a former CEO of the Youth Council of Victoria (1973-79). He also served on the Victorian Consultative Committee on Social Development, Community Youth Support Scheme and Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The formation of the Youth Affairs Council of Australia was a major step forward in youth affairs, bringing together disparate groups. Michael's skills in designing the model and then in negotiations to bring them together were remarkable
Mike decided in late 1996 to "retire" from public service to set up a consultancy business, where he con-tinued his tradition and commitment to public service and made a significant contribution to the public good. He undertook significant projects in the area of higher education, mental health suicide prevention, vocational rehabilitation, support services for foster carers and electronic service delivery in the human-services field. When Mike first left the APS he served as a program visitor at, the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University.
Mike was a board member of the Canberra Enterprise and Employment Development Association from 1987-99, and was recently appointed to the board of the Home-Based Business Association (ACT) Inc.
There were always new challenges for Mike to turn his considerable an-alytical and networking skills to-wards. Major talents lay in finding the way through the mine fields that bureaucracies can appear to be to the uninitiated, and being a mentor and guide. He always went the sec-ond mile to help under-resourced non-government organisations and any group he felt was socially disad-vantaged and needed an advocate
Michael should be remembered for his efforts on behalf of young people throughout his career. He was one of the first to sound the alarm about the impending disasters of youth unemployment and homelessness.
Those fortunate enough to have worked with Mike will never forget his tireless work, energy and commitment to the young. He inspired us all to dig deeper within ourselves, supported our work and thanked us for it. His sense of humour got us through the difficult times.
Mike's career was shaped by his Catholic upbringing and education. His passage through the seminary to the priesthood nurtured his natural tendency to people-related concerns. The service at the crematorium was conducted by his ex-priest friends, who captured his love, humour and unswerving concern for people, and, of course, his tireless effort to achieve social justice.
Michael's early death from a heart attack, in harness, was typical of his whole life. He gave his whole spirit over to his work. He is survived by his wife, Frances, and children, Kara, Leonie, Gregory and Benedict.