Apr 5, 2012

The Honourable Lionel Bowen

Next Wednesday as just about every one of our residents knows, we will lay to rest one of the greatest sons of this part of Sydney – Lionel Bowen. 

As I said when asked to eulogise Lionel in our local newspaper, Lionel Bowen never forgot where he came from and was never out of step with the people he represented.

Lionel left school at 14, worked and educated himself, and imbued within himself, a life-long commitment and dedication to education. Indeed, although he rose to be Deputy Prime Minister of Australia he considered his finest hours were those spend in developing and implementing education policies.
Lionel Bowen’s commitment to education is recognised in this City through the Lionel Bowen Scholarship, which assist local tertiary students in their first years of higher education. The scholarship is funded by this Council and local business but it is a mark of the man that every year, when he came to our Council Meeting he always sought to make a personal contribution to the scholarship fund.

I well remember how he beamed when he made the presentation of the scholarship and added another name to the roll of Lionel Bowen Scholars from the City of Botany Bay. Lionel, with Claire nearby, was in his element, supporting and boosting the education of young people.

Another local tribute to Lionel is the Bowen Library in Randwick City, a city he served as a member of local government in his first foray into public service.

Lionel Bowen then entered State Parliament for the seat of Randwick from 1962 to 1969, when he moved to the House of Representatives as the Member for Kingsford Smith. He was a minister for the two towering ALP Prime Ministers – Whitlam and Hawke – becoming Deputy Prime Minister after the 1983 Federal Election.

Lionel Bowen retired from political life in 1990 but he never retired from public service. We saw him on many, many occasions and he never changed from the man who first entered public life all those decades ago.

What other politician or leader lived in the same house he had first entered as a boy on the day World War II broke out? Lionel and Claire raised their own family there and it was fitting that it was in that house that he drew his last breath – surrounded by the family he loved.

A lot will and has beens said about Lionel Bowen – and a lot has been written in the days up until today – and all of right. Lionel Bowen was a friend of this City – and he was our friend. He was always there for advice or counsel. He will be sadly missed by each and every one of us.

To Claire and their children, his grandchildren and one great-grand child we offer our deepest sympathies for their loss.

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