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Talking Heads -

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(generated from captions) THEME MUSIC Welcome to Talking Heads. who are refreshingly different. We often have guests on the show who's spent his lifetime This week, our guest is a man a fair go for everyone. passionately advocating into a lot of trouble. And it's got him profile attracts lots of attention. Father Bob McGuire's high media to the needy that's caused trouble. But more often, it's opening his door what he was thinking, Then again, we'll find out Victor Peirce. when he buried gangland killer Thank you, Peter. Father Bob, welcome to Talking Heads. of South Melbourne. Yeah. Now, you've been parish priest For 35 years. 37 years? 7. I think he wants me out in 2012. I'm counting, because to get out in 2012. I think you've signed a deal Well, was I bullied into it? you've done, the work you've done, Why has your sense of mission, what so got up the noses of the hierarchy? It's too flat. That's a matter of style. Their style is like that. It's been flattened, you see. where we're all in this together. My style is more like that, is in there. Any man, woman or child of good will of setting up... that you were part and parcel But some of the other organisations and Emerald Hill Mission. Yeah, Open Family What's the work you've wanted to do in South Melbourne? these last 37 years Catholic Church or faith community I wanted to show that the can in fact earn its keep. with drugs. See, the place was awash to suburban neighbourhoods I wasn't used to that, I was used boys, we'll turn on the lights", where in fact you'd say, "Righto, or the basketball court, out on the tennis court and that and that, and we'll play sport, God, my son was going the wrong way, and parents would say, "Oh, thank Simple. and now he's playing basketball." in the universe, you could turn all the lights on What happened down there was we had to settle for the fact that and then eventually had better be the parish house and its environs a kind of a home away from home. Yes. A drop-in centre? when nobody else would have you. The place you could go in my life. Father Bob has been a big influence Like... giving me direction and... ..the road process to go. or you're making it up? No, I'm not. Is that true, worked with over the last 37 years The outsiders your group really the destitute, the mentally ill... have been the badly off, the poor, Yeah, but also the rich, you see, because oftentimes they've got such privilege, that it makes them autistic. as the poor. They're as socially autistic on mixing with everybody. The founder of the firm insisted for burying people You see, we were criticised that others considered to be criminals, like Victor Peirce. which is a start. And I say, one, he's dead, And, secondly, I say ask his son of the church with the coffin. just coming out down the steps I said, "Ask the kid." did you set out to be? What sort of priest to be a priest at all. I didn't set out I think I was lured into it, connections, no parents. as a young man with no social a bit of a social activist, And I was the age of 10 or 12. right back till I can remember, some of the literati, Anyway, I just put it to you, what this is saying, to try to work out because, as you know, because we'll have to do it anyway, Roman Catholic Church... we're part of the global all my life. 'I've been fiercely independent I was born '34, which was the Depression. from Scotland in '23 - separately, My mother and father had come a talented man, but he was a drunk. because the old man was He was an ex-Royal Navy sailor, a merchant navy sailor. and he was in World War II apart from having four children, But when he was on shore, he was also working at the Herald office as a proofreader. comfortable with my father, I certainly wasn't emotionally simply because he was a loud drunk. and the McLoughlins, I suspect, My mother was a McLoughlin, of the tracks, came from the other side because four of those girls left Glasgow to come to Australia together. then something terrible happened, Now, Kathleen, who was only about 20... because I remember my sister, She died from TB. of a series of deaths. And that was the beginning My father got lung cancer and died. result of poverty-driven pleurisy. My mother then died, probably as a by the time I'm - what - 12, 13. So they're all gone you see. So, therefore, I'm left alone, took me in for five minutes, My sister who'd newly married and it was too much for her. took me in. My brother, Jim, newly married, until I graduated year 12. So I was there (POSH ACCENT) the fork in the road. And that becomes in 19-whatever it was... 53... So off we went to Werribee There was so many of us there. in those days was unbelievable. The recruits for the seminary that lot that went in in '53, But we were fortunate, on the verge of Vatican II.' because we were in Melbourne. Here we are at Anzac House yourself, weren't you? You were OK with a machine gun In the old days, when I was a boy, Vickers machine-gunner. yes, I was a qualified And that was a great thrill. your compassion from? Where did you get that some of us at school I could never accept the fact because they'd committed offences. ended up going to boys' homes In those days, the label was "juvenile delinquent". So what did you do? God knows what they were like - We had meetings - of 12-year-olds saying, this disorder off at the pass?" "What can we do to cut we decided, The best thing we can do, into little sporting groups. was to organise ourselves arranging cricket matches, So there we were, little boys, attached to hotels, for God's sake. against, I remember, social clubs one of three ways. Yeah. It looks like you could have gone with a Commonwealth scholarship. Mmm. You could have gone to university You could have gone to Duntroon as an officer... I liked to go to Duntroon, yes. And you really liked the school cadets. Mmm. Or you could have gone into the priesthood. I was on automatic pilot. Did you think of... But, you see, there was a mate of mine who did in fact... had made up his mind. Let us go down and have a look at this Roman Catholic priest training factory... uh... Not factory. What do you call it? Seminary. Yeah, seminary. See what I mean? Let's go and have a look. And I tagged along, see. Feral. Why did the idea of celibacy, which was part and parcel... No, it never occurred to us, it never occurred to us. Celibacy wasn't... The question wasn't even raised. Strange, isn't it? Mmm. You see? It was part of the training then, and it may in fact explain some of the problems later, with the clergy. What about the day you were ordained, St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne? Oh, cold, cold, cold. Lying on the floor of the cathedral, you see. You had to throw yourself. I should have woken up, but I didn't. You see, from the word go, you were supposed to be prostrate. You can't do much creative or innovative when you're lying flat on your belly. Now, the Bishop sent you off to various parishes around Melbourne... Yes, off we went. In quick time. In quick time. Would you have looked like a bit of a rebel in those days? It would have been, "This bloke is eccentric - young eccentric, a trustworthy eccentric. We will therefore send him to half a dozen places, where the old man is not performing - cracked, or he was too old, or whatever." They would have had a complaint against the old man. And they said, "Who will we send to these?" And oftentimes it was yours truly. That's why, you see, when I got into South Melbourne I said, "Thank you, Jesus," because I can settle. Before you went to South Melbourne, you were part of the training of those going to Vietnam. Yes, but thank God I never had my hands on a gun then. I was more involved in a special unit called Character Training. 'Fate intervened. A priest who was out in Puckapunyal took sick. So I joined up. So I did that in 1969. Ended up going to live in Puckapunyal. So that cut me off from ordinary diocesan life, which was good, see, because the Yanks had had a bad experience, and they were determined that if you were fighting an ideology you had to have an ideology of your own and they didn't have in the United States of America ideology, they said, at that time, but there was one that they could plug for, and that was Character Training - the strong, Western, Christian character. And so they were prepared to back and to fund a unit. And, lo and behold, the Aussie armed services took that on board too. We got extraordinary insights from 20-year-old Aussie males about the meaning of being human. Cardinal Knox says to me, "Listen. The war's over." He said, "I want you to go to South Melbourne." I said, "I've been moved around a terrible lot." He said, "Yeah, I know that. And when you get there, you may as well stay there." So that was nice, cos I could heave a sigh of relief, and I don't have to live in fear of the transient. Nobody can tell me where to go now. After 37 years in that place, you see, it's been hell. Hell! But, then again, the feeling persists. It might be hell, but it's home. If it wasn't home and it was hell, you'd be mad to stay in the place. Now, I didn't know, of course, that South Melbourne and Port Melbourne were not like the suburbs. They had their own 150-year-old generational poverty and criminality. And there was drugs all over the joint. South Melbourne and Port Melbourne awash!' Father Bob, this is a good place to ask you about your role in the army. Here we are in Anzac House in Melbourne. Yeah. What was your mission there as a cleric in the army? I tried to tell the story, and the program was brilliantly designed by educationalists, to mention values like truth, honesty, loyalty to your mates, respect for the leadership component in a community, and, in our case, in the army. Basic values. It also raised the question, "Thou shalt not kill". How does, "Thou shalt not kill" fit with a soldier? Some listeners can make up their own minds on this - whether we were in fact spinning at that stage, because we were saying, "Don't forget, ladies and gentlemen, the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill,' means 'Thou shalt not kill unjustly.'" Were you comfortable with all of that? Yes! Yes. Because the Americans were killing at a great rate, but overall the Aussies were there as conservationists. The Aussies took great delight in in fact encouraging the locals to seek safe haven and to be protected by our soldiers. One of the things you took out of that experience was to feel you'd learned a lot from those young men. Terrible lot. What did you learn from them? I learned from them resilience. They didn't want to be there. They hadn't volunteered. Their number had come out of the thing. Now, I think, I'm saying to myself in life, "Well, my number has oftentimes come out of the thing." Not of my choosing. A big moment in your life came when Cardinal Knox... Yeah. Well, the war was over in September whatever it was. Seventy, uh... Five. Three. Well, it was over as far as we were concerned in '73. Cardinal Knox sent you to South Melbourne. Yes. What did you find there? Chaos! And also one had been sent, and one went willingly, but one had been sent without briefing. Was it violent? No, the violence had gone with the workers' cottages. And here was a proud city that all of a sudden had become devastated. Now, it took me years to realise, not just as a fact of social engineering going on here, cos that - on paper - that's good. "Look what we've done - we've cleaned up all the slums. That's lovely. Thank you very much." But at the same time, you've ripped the heart out - you've lost your factories where the young people could go to work. And then the football team went to Sydney! 'So that gradually dawned. We're into a new thing here, we're into a new thing. I said, "My God, what are we into?" And then a bloke popped up in St Kilda called Brother Alex McDonald, a Jesuit lay brother who had been working for years with alcoholics, had gone to St Kilda, where he said, "I have discovered street kids." We formed a strategic alliance, we formed a thing called Open Family. He did all the dirty work, cos he had volunteer street workers.' Brother Alex McDonald already meets with people on the street, or at Hampton House up the road there - so, I suppose, will just continue to do that. It'll make things a little harder, but we're used to that. 'That's me, that's us, that's the Father Bob McGuire Foundation, with a touch of Emerald Hill Mission. But they don't like that either much too, you see, cos that tends to go out into the dark, and feed people of St Kilda. We're going to do more of that. Father Bob McGuire Foundation is capable of doing that, because I can go run around the place making a fool of myself, and some people will hand over $20,000 cos they know me. And they know that the funny way of being serious...' Hello, Your Grace. Sausage rolls for all. ' an authentic infotaining technique. And also, on the side, I'd say it was covert evangelism, because if you do good, you do God. Now, the Aussies like that. The Romans hate it because it's's open to all, because they can't command and control.' Bob, some of the things that worked for you in other parishes, weren't going to work for you in South Melbourne - like, for example, organising sports. Mmm. Organising social events and the like. The mob that we had would play up, see, cos they weren't socialised, or they were socially challenged, as we say these days, to behave in public. So they'd be fighting or they'd be "under the influence". What did you want to do for these kids? I wanted them to run on their merits. These are not scatterbrains. These are oftentimes highly gifted, highly talented, clearly thinking... The drug gets in there and wrecks their thinking process, but it hasn't destroyed their ability to think. But the damn feelings are the things, you see. And the system doesn't... They feel as though they have failed. Are you a soft touch? A soft touch with the expectation that sometimes it'll pay off. I'm an old digger, and an old digger who was brought up on the idea that in fact the Aussie soldier is a task force of one. Oftentimes he's on his own in the jungle. And it's the same with places like this. That's why I'm saying every parish, from the Catholic point of view, in fact should be a living example of how to adapt to the terrain. Now, I had to adapt down there, because there were people... There were people after these young men and women's minds and hearts. That's what I wanted the Father Bob McGuire Foundation, or my previous charities, Open Family included, to be a ready response. See, I want Church and I want the State to realise that we haven't got a minute to lose. 'Over the years I've become more frustrated with the willingness of the State of Victoria to treat the disappearance of 40 young people under the age of 20 as if they were cold cases - because, to them, it's offensive to suggest that the memories of people who have sinned should be worthy of remembrance - or, worse still, by any kind of monument. So I got used to monuments at the Shrine. And then there's the new one at Fromelles, with the bloke over the shoulder of the other soldier, because this soldier's leaving the field of battle, it's dark, it's smoky, he wants to get out of there, and he hears the voice from the darkness that says, "Don't leave me behind, cobber." So he turns around, grabs the bloke, puts him over, off he goes. Without asking, "Excuse me, but areyou good, bad or indifferent?" So I decided then, you see, that the only monument I could afford, would be a thing cooked up by my local sign makers. So I put 40 first names, to prove that I know 'em. And I put a very encrypted message, "Forgive us our sins. We have already forgiven you yours." They've forgiven us our sins of neglect, see. That's what drives me for the rest of the time - is that I want to make sure that I don't hear a voice saying, "Don't leave me behind, cobber," and in fact walk away. Cos we often end up with a pious Catholic funeral. No, that's nice, and everybody says it's good, all right.' Are you concerned for your own safety at all, Mr Shannon? No, no. 'Now, along comes Pat Shannon, who got shot dead in September 1973, when I just got there. But then we buried Pat Kennelly, who was the local senator. This is what this place Catholicism is meant to be. It's meant to be all-inclusive.' NEWSREADER: Dubbed the matriarch of one of Victoria's most notorious criminal families, Kath Pettingill today farewelled another of her seven children. Peirce is the third son she has lost, and all three deaths have been linked to drugs. 'So, to me, when Victor Peirce's funeral came along, and I say, "This is one of the most important funerals we've had here," because it's part of the mosaic, see? You can't have Catholicism unless you've got the good, the bad and the ugly. And we were not going to start arguing about who are the good, who are the bad and who are the ugly. Cos you'd be surprised, cos the outside is the inside. Now, as well as those that come to a sorry end... Yeah. ..there are plenty of cases of people that you've helped... Yeah, there are some... ..who've gone on to help you. Yeah. Like, for example... You met Chris when he was 13 or 14... Oh, 13 or 14, see, and we got into the boxing. Well, they all got into the boxing. I encouraged him to practise a businesslike attitude to what he claimed was his vocation, which was song and dance. Later on... Brilliant. And went on for... When he grew up, he was able to raise virtually a million dollars for you. Not only that. His dance business did bring into the area healthy teenagers who came from the suburbs and became visible proofs that if you knuckle down and accept the discipline of training for dance or for song or for drama, you could in fact succeed. One of the struggles you've had has been with the organisations you've set up, to some extent. Hmm. Now, they both were taken over by boards of directors. Yes. Oh, we had boards of directors before. And you've had kind of divergent philosophies... Yeah. ..about how they're going to be run. Those two charities chose to be businesslike first. My argument is, if you've got 10 heads, and 9 hats, you've got a choice here. It's either cut off a head, and you've got enough hats, or it's find another hat. How could you find the other hat? You can because you become creative and innovative in fundraising. And to try and deal with these tensions, in a way you've come up with your own foundation. Had to, because the people were still dependent. What the world needs now, what Australia needs, what Melbourne needs now is more contact work. Someone, one of your parishioners, said you're deeply orthodox, but very unconventional. You can coin the word... Somebody did it for me, a marketing bloke said, "I've got a word for you. It'll help you market the brand." What... "Unconvenstutional". What I thought when I heard that was that it meant that you were actually a believer... Oh yeah, of course I'm a believer. You're a strong believer... Yeah. But actually the ways you go about things are quite... Yeah, but also belief too. ..aren't the mainstream. The way that I go about believing things. See, that's a difference between my Catholicism and other Catholicisms - would be that I believe that the Catholics are only there for the sake of the neighbourhood. The Bishop Denis Hart thinks he's... Yes. The Bishop... God bless him! He thinks he's got a deal with you to retire in 2012. Yes, if he's here, yes. (LAUGHS) He might go first. Well, who knows? ANNOUNCER: A battle about religion and all things ethnic. With John Safran and Father Bob McGuire. TAGLINE: On Triple J. SAFRAN: Hello, dear listeners. Snack, dear John. 'Now, we're doing two hours on Sunday night on Triple J! With these 20-somethings.' How about Philip Pullman? He's got a new book that's having a go at Christianity, called The Good Man... The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ. I don't think it's going to let you off the hook, Bob. I don't think... No, you'll be surprised, if we last that long. Now... 'And that's a pleasure, because it extends me. I have to read books, like Dawkins and Hitchens. It's kept me alert. I was alarmed early, but I'm not that alarmed now, because the constant preparedness when you're with Safran, has probably paid off big time, because I could probably take coarse remarks from anybody about the truths you hold sacred. He and I are not as childishly pugnacious as we were in the beginning, which maybe the kiddies miss, but it's more... Yeah, I like it, I like it. And because that also helps me during the troubles, when all the media were there. The Archbishop attacks me in 2002. First time, and devastating. When the Archbishop said, "Get out," I think the public said, "Not yet - at least not yet." And then rallied.' Godparents, here is the light, the symbol of these two children. 'Oh, I don't know about legacies, because I don't know, I've never thought... I want to do the opposite, I want to disappear, see. If somebody takes over and does something, well, then I would say that's evolution, see. I only want to be part of, not greater than. So I'm perfectly happy. The same as if it's good enough for God to be part of, well then it's good enough for me, isn't it? And I see God as being part of.' What happens next, after you die? Well, I presume more of the same, but digitally enhanced. You're talking in a riddle. See, I don't know, you see. The ancient religion says maybe we're going around in cycles, and maybe we'll come back or some blah blah blah. I don't mind that. But the parallel universe thing interests me more than that. And that is that maybe there are other ways of experiences waiting for us, and maybe we had 'em before we arrived, and all... You know, all that kind... It's much more... It's bigger than these petty explanations of what happens after death. Perhaps when we get there, we'll have a chance to talk about it. Oh, I'm sure we will. But, you see, it won't be Talking Heads. It's been great talking to you. Thank you, Peter. Thanks, Bob. Closed Captions By CSI - Adrian Tan This Program is Captioned

Live. Tonight - back in Canberra,

but not quite back to business,

as the Independents get ready to wield their power. The

counting hasn't yet finished

but already Labor's begun the

blame game. Are there some

State fact Organisation there?

Yes, there are. I can't recall

a worse campaign, it's almost

as if we got caught by as if we got caught by surprise by our own announcement. Still

under water but the aid is

start ing to flow. And

ultraorthodox Jew guitar god by night.

Good evening. And welcome to ABC News. I'm Virginia Haussegger. Julia Gillard and

Tony Abbott are in Canberra

tonight, prepare for the talks

that could decide who forms next government. The

Independent MPs they need to convince are also making their

way to the capital. Mr Abbott

is keeping his negotiate ing