Date of Interview: 4 December 2000
Interviewer: Di Brown
Image: Outgoing and incoming Caloundra City Council Mayors, Des Dwyer and Don Aldous, ca March 2000.
Ex Caloundra City Council Mayor Desmond James Dwyer passed away on 28 November 2013. He had settled in Caloundra in 1938. Des was actively involved in many community projects and organisations in the Caloundra locality including the Rotary Club of Caloundra and the Caloundra Local Ambulance Committee and Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Life Saving club. In 2004 he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
Local Government – Caloundra City Council – 1980’s
DB The ex-Mayor has been interviewed previously on his early years in Caloundra. Now we are going to look at his period of time as an Alderman and leading up to that time. Would you like to tell me a little bit about what made you decide to become a member or try to become a member of Council?
DD Well, I think all that happened was that I was asked by some people in the community if I would stand. I really didn’t have any intention of standing as you know I have got a business. But be that as it may I did nominate and was duly elected for the old Division 5 as it was in those days. Then I spent that term under the present Mayor Don Aldous. Who was the then Mayor and I suppose I did learn I believe quite a bit in that time. It was a different type of world as far as Local Governments was concerned in those days I believe as from what it is today. But still, it was a good experience and I did half way through become Chairman of Planning in those days. I was the Division 5 Chairman as it turned out and there were five of us on Division 5 in those days. It was also financial separation as it was called. Our council was structured in that mode so that each division was in itself was like a small council. That’s crudely put but you had a certain amount of autonomy within your own division. So you then met as a committee so your decisions were debated or ratified on the general meeting. But it was certainly different to the way council is structured.
DB So you were a member of Division 5, you were saying there were other people there with you. Can you tell me the names of those people?
DD Yes. There was Norma Fox who remained on Council but subsequently was the Deputy Mayor when I was Mayor the first time and Robert Staines, Norman Butler, Norma Fox and myself. That is four; I will come back to that other name in a minute.
DB Why would you say that things were different in that period of time, in the 1980’s?
DD I suppose it was easy for me to define in so far as I had a break then from 1991 to 1994. I didn’t stand for re-election in 1991. But in 1994 when I came in a new act a Local Government Act had just come in to be. State Government put it in place with regards to Local Government and the way it was to run. Financial Separation was abolished as well by the time I came in 1994. So there was no more of each division being its own little entity.
DB So talking of Financial Separation that meant you had an allocated budget and your group worked within the constraints of that budget?
DD Yes, like the money that was raised in that division was I suppose essentially speaking for that division but there was a certain amount that was taken out for the overall administration of the council. Yes, each division had its own budget and its own little works committee. They made their decisions on that basis and as I said it was ratified at a General Meeting.
Don Aldous – Boardwalk established
DB In that period of time the 1988 to 1991 period, what things did you see happen in Caloundra?
DD Well at that time when Don Aldous came in which was his term, he pushed for the establishment or the initial construction of a part of the Boardwalk.
DB Bulcock Beach
DD Yes, Bulcock Beach from where Jamie Stewart’s restaurant is now down to the Ithaca Life Saving Club was, that was the Boardwalk. Following that Division 5 then decided to go with the upgrade of Happy Valley as well as the continuation of the Boardwalk. So the two things were done in that period of time.
DB How did the public feel about that, the local voters?
DD Oh, I feel it’s like anything else in Local Government when it was first mooted there was some people that had some concerns. It’s the old story why was the money spent there and it should have been spent in their area. Those were the sort of things that came up. But, I think Don Aldous should be proud, well he is proud of that Boardwalk. The fact that it suited and plus Division 5 went with it and once it was established and as you know today it is a pretty desirable part of Caloundra too.
DB Happy Valley too?
DD Yes, Happy Valley. The good thing with Happy Valley was that it was done and similar to as I understand it to Kings Beach Redevelopment with our work force. Our work force did the actual works in Happy Valley.
DB So that keeps people employed.
DD That was one thing that I think was a good outcome. It gave our work force of the day a good feeling that they were involved. Also, a sense of pride for our work force that they were involved with Happy Valley.
DB Other people working with you in Division 5 who are still around like Norma Fox. She is still around in our community today and is a strong worker for Caloundra City. So your working relationship that continued on?
DD I think at that time it was a good feeling, a good happy Division 5 committee. We certainly had our differences but if there was a majority in that Division that’s how we went to the council of the day. There was no disruption, people at the time did not try to undermine. For that reason I think we had a good term.
New Council Chambers
DB You would have been in the new white building at that stage?
DD No, it was the old Council Chambers.
DB Can you tell me a little bit about that please?
DD Yes, I think even in those days from 1988 to 1991 it was becoming quite apparent then that the old building was not going to be able to sustain itself as an administration centre by virtue of the fact that it was just packed with people as the town grew and the council responsibilities grew. There were demountable buildings out the back as well to accommodate staff. Some of them worked in terribly uncomfortable situations and to their credit I don’t think they really ever complained. It certainly was not a really good environment for them. The old library building which is now the art gallery was also used for administration at that time. The Council Chamber itself was quite a nice area to be in. As a matter of fact some of the cedar panelling which was in it was salvaged and is being used over in the new building upstairs area there. It was a great building then and still is as you can understand today. It is still being used.
DB It is starting to become a bit crowded again today because of the growth of our area.
DD That’s right. I suppose for some people I was aware of it but particularly for people like John Smith and Carmel Barr who had come from Landsborough. When they worked in Landsborough there was probably about eight or ten people in those days. That is where the Landsborough museum is. When they moved it must have been a great lift going into Bulcock Street. The same thing for the staff when the new building was completed, they moved across to the new building again it was a great lift.
Caloundra City Libraries
DB You have always had a strong association with the library as my Manager Dawn Maddern has told me. She has been a long term employer of the Caloundra library.
DB How did you see the library in that period 1988 to 1991?
DD It was a focal point of the community. It was a very strong area that the local people related to. Certainly Dawn to her credit perceived what she wanted, well what her vision was for the library and the services it provided. So I think it’s a lot of credit to her that it survived and became what it is today.
DD But it certainly is a facility that people in the community relate to.
DB They certainly do we have a very high readership per population. In that period of time 1988 to 1991 you were on council for a full three years?
DD Three years, yes
Re-entering Local Government
DB If you don’t mind me asking what made you decide not to run again.
DD Well the thing was as I told you at the outset I really had no intention of standing for council because I had a business. But when I did, it was done right at the last thing as usual. I suppose some of the differences I was alluding to before with council in that time. I could in conscience as a councillor and an alderman I could do three days in council and probably three days away at my business. Without feeling I was taking money unnecessarily from the community. In other words the effort put in justified what the remuneration was at that time. Well that’s what I felt and I was comfortable with it. In fact my shop, the three days that I was probably there it was like a council office anyway. Quite often when I got to work there would be three or four people waiting there to see me at the shop.
DB Your reputation is of being able to be approached.
DD Yes. So in that sense, I really felt I suppose it was something in me that I had lived here a long time and perhaps I should give something back. I suppose that is what it was. But at the end of the time it was a good experience. I thought oh well I have done a stint I will go back to my business. That was it. There was nothing wrong nobody had upset me or anything like that. It was just that I felt like I had done a term and given something. I was never really into politics. I might sound naïve. So I really never had a comprehension of what people think about politically about standing and continuing. That is the only reason. I just went back to my shop and put it out of my mind.
DB What did the local people think about that?
DD Oh, probably afterwards I found out some people were a bit miffed that I didn’t continue on. At the time I didn’t know, not a lot. Most people were reasonable about it. I think when I explained it to them just the same as I explained it to you they accepted that. Probably there would have been some pockets of people saying why he didn’t continue. It’s just that I didn’t have that political sort of drive I suppose at that time. The next time was a similar experience though.
DB That period of time the three years that you were not in council from 1991 to 1994 you continued on with your business. What other groups, clubs or organisations were you on?
DD Oh, yes as you know, I still had the Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Club and the ambulance. As it was in those days the old QATB committee system. It is different now as you know.
DD I was associated with that.
DB How long were you associated with that committee?
DD The ambulance was just over ten years now.
DB You were on the committee there to get things moving as far as services.
DD I was asked to go on, I was an ex-councillor at the time. I think Ben Bennett might have been the one. Well it might have been just after Ben Bennett died. Ben Bennett had been the Chairman of the ambulance for years. He had also been a member of the council several years ago. Funnily enough he was a life member of the surf club as well before my time. It was either just after he passed away. It might have been Ben who actually asked me when he finished.
DB So, you were on the ambulance committee and surf life saving. Any other groups like Rotary.
DD Oh. No Rotary I was always too flat chat. I didn’t like to make a commitment to Rotary I was on it for a short time at one stage but that is what beat me. My business beat me.
DB Your business in this community as the population grew your business grew with it.
DD That’s right. Like we talked about the council growing with your business you really have to try and grow it. You can’t always be comfortable and stand still.
Dwyer’s Electrical - History
DB Can you tell me a little bit about that history of your business?
DD When I started work in that business it was called Caloundra Radio Centre. It was owned by Les Skipper. When I left school at 15 I was indentured to Les as an apprentice radio mechanic that is where I started work. I think I have mentioned him to you. That is where I started. It was Caloundra Radio Centre that he founded in about 1938 or something like that. When I bought the business it became Caloundra Appliance Store which was 1966. So I traded as Caloundra Appliance Store.
DB It was in the position that it is now? Can you describe where that business was please?
DD 31 Bulcock Street, presently it is Shannon Shoe Store. It is virtually the same as when I left it. Funny enough the shelving in the windows is the same shelving that I installed in the window. I put a mezzanine throughout the back where the office was. I put it in there. When I started work it was a shop residence it was just a small shop at the front with a residence behind. This was not unusual in Bulcock Street in those days. When I purchased the business not the freehold my old boss Les Skipper allowed me to knock out what was the lounge room in the shop to get extra display area. I then traded there and in the little shop, a narrow shop next door. I started which must have been in the early 1970’s. There were no record bars in Caloundra. I started a record bar in that little narrow shop at 31 Bulcock Street. I ran that, I had a Tandy Store for a while; I had a Tandy Agency as well. In those days I used to do service so I was at the back. There was a shed at the back, corrugated shed which is a ceramics or something in there now. I had a radio work shop in there and an auto mechanic and an electrician. In between times I bought the freehold in the main street. My old boss then worked for me for some time. We were always good friends. He only died a couple of years ago. Then in 1986 I had a feeling that I had to do something. I had stewed about it for quite a few years. Where I am situated now at 87 Bowman Road I had bought two small shops that were facing the road there and I decided to make a move. So I had sold the shop in the main street, Bulcock Street and moved down there in 1986. I have been at 87 Bowman Road since then.
DB You have quite a lot of your family involved in your shop?
DD Yes, I have family in there and some of them have gone on to do other things. I have nine people employed there now including a couple of my family.
DB That was in that period of time there.
DD We have got away from it.
Local Government - history
DB The period of time 1988 to 1991 you were in council. Then you had three years off.
DD 1991 to 1994 if you are talking council terms, yes. Honestly, I had no intention of having anything to do with Local Government again, council.
DB What made you change your mind?
DD Well, it might sound a funny story. I was coming back from Brisbane. Traditionally I used to run my truck to Brisbane and pick things up. It was the day before nominations closed. Funny thing I had just got a mobile phone, one of the first mobile phones in the truck and I got a call on the way home. Would I stand for council? I was prevailed upon by a couple of people, rightly or wrongly that is what happened. I signed the nomination form that night, the night before the nominations closed. I really had no preparation. That is what happened there was no build up to it. I really had no preparation.
DB How did you go; did you get a strong vote?
DD Yes I did, I did get a reasonably strong vote.
DD Particularly for those people who probably doubted me because I hadn’t stood previously. So, there probably were some doubters there. I don’t hold that against anybody.
DB I guess the 1988 to 1991 period, I am not sure of the population at that stage of Caloundra.
DD Oh, I suppose it would have been just under half what it is now.
DB Going back into council in 1994 you would have seen a lot more people coming into this area.
DD Yes, I was aware of that, through my business.
DB The older people in this community as well, because people had retired here. There was a fairly high elderly population residing in Caloundra.
DD That was one of the criticisms or the jokes about Caloundra. God’s waiting room it was called. I don’t think that was ever true. But it was certainly a big population of retired people. I saw something in one of the papers the other day talking of the significant change. I am aware of it, the significant change. There still are a big percentage of retired people. But there is also a huge population of the 15 to 35 age group or something in that area. It balances it out. In my view it is not a bad mix.
DB Ok You had put your name down and your now back in council. How did that feel in 1994?
DD As I said, it was pretty daunting. What I have just said. From the one day I had no intention of standing to the next day and to get in there. And what you’re saying there was a complete change in those three years again. And the council, that intervening council had put different structures in place. Financial separation had been abolished, so it was a whole of City.
DB A new structure
DD Yes, so the way the departments were structured with a department head that hadn’t worked like that before. That was completely new for me.
DB You had to learn the ropes again.
DD Yes, there was a committee system in place as well. Whilst I was used to a committee system under the old council, Don Aldous’s time. It was done in a different way. The Finance Committee as it was in those days and the Town Planning Committee virtually half the council were on. One half was on one committee and one half was on the other. So it wasn’t a whole of council on each committee, when I got into council this time.
DB Were you still Division 5?
DD Well no, the divisions because of the growth of the area, there was about ten divisions. So that had all transformed as well. What was Division 5 then became three divisions. In the old days, meaning in my time previously you went from Currimundi to Golden Beach and out to well this side of Little Mountain. Little Mountain wasn’t actually in the Caloundra division. So the five councillors at the time looked after from Golden Beach to Currimundi. Whereas when I got in, there were three divisions with a councillor on each division.
DB Who did you stand against Des?
DD The first time was Barry Gray who had been the Mayor from 1991 to 1994. He defeated Don Aldous. And then Andrew Champion stood at the same time in 1994. So they were the two, the Mayor that was the incumbent was Barry Gray. Then, Andrew who was a Kawana councillor and still is a Kawana councillor, he had been on the council with me previously. He stood for Mayor as well.
Mayor Des Dwyer
DB You stood for Mayor and you were successful. I guess never in your dreams would you have imagined that was going to happen. You were just driving home from Brisbane with the new mobile phone.
DD That’s right (laughing)
DB So that was a major change in itself coming in as Mayor of Caloundra City.
DD Yes, from just having been a councillor and then a gap, I mean it is probably not the done thing in a sense. I suppose people do it.
DB The proof is in the pudding. It certainly worked.
DD Yes, so how can I put it I never want to be seen to be disparaging towards any councillor? I think each council irrespective of what people might say about them, criticisms and that. I think each council does its best while they are there. If you look back generally in a term there is something that is done that contributes to the community. But there was certainly with the structure that had been put in place and it wasn’t only me but there were certainly councillors, new councillors that came in with me as well that felt that some of that needed amending or changing. Not throw it out or anything like that but it needed to be modified I suppose. So there was a fair bit of, it was a pretty torrid time for that first three years.
DD To change, to put some changes in place, it didn’t sit well with some councillors. It probably didn’t sit well with some members of the public as well who were comfortable with how it had been. The committee system that existed as I said all the council was on each committee. In my heart I couldn’t see why, the council had been half and half like I said before. There was some semblance of acceptance of that but to have the whole council meet on a Tuesday and go right through a committee. And then meet again on a Thursday and virtually go through the same thing again in a general meeting. To me, it seemed to be a huge waste of time and resources. That is what I felt, but it wasn’t only me it was other councillors who also had that view. So I didn’t necessarily drive that. That was the feeling; some of those changes were put in. The committees’ were virtually eliminated eventually. Then the council met each week and made decisions on the day. There were criticisms and a lot of angst about it. So, that is what happened in that time. So that was one of the big changes again.
To be honest with you I thought well I have done my bit again. I really didn’t have that; it didn’t drive me as much. I thought ‘oh well’. But then I was asked to stand again for the next time. I really did stew about that for a long time.
DB I suppose it is very tiring too.
DD Yes. Some people thought I was playing games. I wasn’t I really was trying to think it through. I only made my mind up again right near the end. I did that and anyway I was re-elected.
Then the next term there were quite a lot of changes again. John Smith retired.
DB He was always well known.
DD Yes, he was well known.
John Smith Deputy Shire Clerk
DB Can you tell me a little bit about John Smith?
DD Sure, he came here as the Deputy Shire Clerk as they were known as in those days. I can’t think back then.
DB I have got some history from when I interviewed Jack Beausang.
DD He commenced work in Landsborough. E. B Roberts was the Shire Clerk at the time and when E. B Roberts retired, John Smith applied for the job. He was appointed as the Deputy Shire Clerk. So, he was there right from when the council was very small. Like I said administration and the outside work force it wasn’t a huge number. He went from that right up to when he retired even in the existing Council Chambers. He came right through that transition period.
DB Jack Beausang respected him greatly.
DD Jack Beausang always said that when he was Chairman and then subsequently Mayor that if he went to a Local Government Conference people used to say that he had the best. That was Jack’s boast, not boast but that was his claim that he had the best Shire Clerk in Queensland. John Smith was highly respected within the Local Government. You have to appreciate in those days the infrastructure that was going to have to come into Caloundra to take care of this population increase was a tremendous amount of work involved in that.
DB Forward thinking too.
DD Forward planning and limited resources and no real access to the finance that councils have today. The state bodies, they really had to get up there and fight for their funding with banks. There was a lot of responsibility trying to get that. John Smith was involved with that and also the formation of the Water Board. Probably the worst time not the worst but the hardest time because of all the land acquisitions and resumptions in the valley.
DB That was for?
DD Water Board, Baroon Pocket. So John had a lot of the responsibility with that. You can appreciate people are never very happy about acquisitions. So that was a long hard road to get to finality so the dam could be built. He was involved with that and in his time and some was in E.B Roberts’s time. Then the sewerage and water supply and ultimately the Caloundra Maroochy Water Board were all in that period of time. The Civic Centre was built in Jack Beausang’s time.
DB Jack was always very proud of the Civic Centre.
DD That’s right. Again when you were asking about the boardwalk in those day’s there was a lot of kerfuffle about, and you can appreciate it because the place wasn’t very big and that sort of debt.
DB The people would think who would want that.
DD That’s right. To his credit he perceived that the same as Don did, with the boardwalk. You would probably be flat out building one today like the Civic Centre, like the costs that were involved.
DB He also had a really good sense of humour John Smith. He has always had a very good reputation with my Manager, Dawn.
DD Yes he got on very well with his staff. Long before council when he first came here, I got to know him and we were really good friends all those years before council. I never really used to ask him about council we were just mates involved with junior rugby league and the church and those sorts of things and with our kids growing up.
When I got into council he was very supportive of me. I was lucky in my term I had John Smith and then when Gary Storch was appointed I got on very well with Gary Storch as well. Fortunately I was well backed up with a good team
DB We will get back to your time Des 1994 to 1997 saw you come in as Mayor.
Local Government elections and history - change
DB 1997 to the year 2000 you again stood for council and were successful as Mayor. That was the period of time when I came into council. We were very sad when we heard that our Mayor was leaving. That would have been a very big decision but you always said that it was the time for you to make those decisions.
DD Yes, sure.
DB We might just go into that period and then deal with the end and the change there. As far as your decision to resign once the elections came up again or rather not to stand again. In that period 1997 to 2000 that would have been a very significant period as well. The growth rate on the coast was just really taking off. Caloundra has the second highest population, Maroochy first, Caloundra second and then Noosa third. What things did you see happen in that time and what were you involved with, can you recall?
DD Well, there was a lot I suppose when I think about it. I really didn’t think much about it while I was there. I was going all the time. Gary Storch came in and as you know it is the CEO’s job to drive the Council.
DB He got there in about 1998 wasn’t it?
DD Yes1998, that’s right. As you know he came from a background of cities. At the same time the National Competition Policy came into being with regards to requirements for Local Authorities had to adhere to certain things. So we had the implementation of the National Competition Authority in so far as the structure of the council was concerned and that was one huge change that the Council had to come to terms with. I suppose the community as well now like all things some agreed and some disagreed with it. Council went down that track. There were the commercial units put into place like the building and Cal Aqua came into being, water supply and sewerage so they were commercial entities and ran as businesses. I personally didn’t have any problem with that. A lot of people don’t agree with those things but to me Council had got to a stage by virtue of its size and its responsibilities with population. It got into a phase that really something had to be done to make it work as a business, put it that way.
Traditionally I suppose Councils weren’t seen as businesses but they really are. They are not profit making businesses, they run they are huge. This is the biggest business in this City isn’t it?
DD So that was a whole range of things, with regard full cost pricing, all the asset valuations were done. Nothing to do with me personally but all that had to be driven by Gary Storch. There was also a reorganisation of the council occurred again. It is like all things with change a lot of people don’t really like change and that is understandable.
DB That is when our Manager Dawn Maddern went over to council and took over the management of Community Lifestyle?
DD Yes, so all that came into being. Now the proof is down the track what happens.
Gary Storch CEO – Manager of the Year
DB Gary Storch has just been named what was the term Manager of the Year in Local Government, Australia wide too.
DD That’s right. I don’t have any accounts in my background or anything like that. I had a settled feeling inside of me too once it seemed ultimately to get over that initial phase when the changes took place, the fear of change and people not being too happy about it. I think when it came through that there was more productivity. Even talking to people who weren’t happy with the change that person had been in one area. One person in particular had said to me it was the best thing that had ever happened. People got a grasp of it. We managed to get some infrastructure in place with regards with the stadium, the new swimming pool at Kawana, the library at Beerwah, the library in Maleny. Some of those things managed to actually start and some are still not finished yet.
Des Dwyer Library – Beerwah and District
DB Your name is proudly associated with our new Beerwah Library.
DD That was an honour I didn’t expect anything like that.
DB We noticed that when we looked at your face at the opening.
DD I was always a bit dubious about those things. But still that was very, very kind of people. All of those sorts of things, certainly when Cr Jock Alcock was there he drove the sport side of things. I think he did a great job when that was on. We were probably were behind the other two authorities on the coast in acknowledging sport as being an important factor in the community. So I think some of those things were acknowledged. I don’t say everything was perfect but at least it started. Like all things with subsequent councils have their philosophies they might change it but it raised the standard in so far s that was concerned around the place.
What was pleasing for me I suppose was the councillors of that term could see something tangible there. Not for kudos, but the fact that if you are collecting rates you have to look after the basics and that is very important. But at the same time if you can do smart things for the betterment of the community that are tangible and beneficial then I think that gives a council some satisfaction. Not for them personally but the fact of at least while you’re there you have done something. I have always had the theory you could very easily go into Local Government and do the term and if you didn’t get on well with one another as a Council everything functions you know the water, sewerage and rubbish and all the rest of it. But at the end of it there is not much left to show for that time if there is going to be procrastination. I mean you have to respect people’s point of view and differences. If you can get to some sort of a consensus that you can do something I think that is a good thing.
DB Your reputation always has been by staff of one of being able to be approached. When I first came to this organisation to work I was told you never forget a name.
DD Well I am not that good (laughing)
Mayor’s popularity with staff
DB Staff always said you were always very friendly towards them
DD It cuts both ways with the roles etc. but you have got to have respect for each other, you have got to respect the person too. If you feel like I said before if you want things to run and get some achievements in place it can only happen if people have got respect and cooperate. Cooperate in a sense that once you can sort the problems out you can make your decision and it is respected. If you can get some trust in there then I think it works a lot better. Try and treat people with respect. I mean there is a hierarchy I know that in council and a lot of other things in life. You have got to try and treat those people if you look at the hierarchal structure the ones at the lower end of the structure you have still got to I think treat them equally the same as those people, the same as the others.
DB Yes because they are doing their work
DD Yes, they are doing their job. Nothing happens unless everybody does their job. Everything is dependent on everybody else from the lowest paid worker to the highest there has got to be that trust and respect. Because if something falls down in that whole chain that’s where things grind to a halt. I always felt very lucky
DD That unless everybody has that respect and works with each other.
DB And communicates
DD Yes, and communicates. I really believe that the outside workforce worked tremendous. You know, because years ago you would get the criticism of they were standing on shovels and things like that. I truly, particularly in that last term it was the converse. All I used to get was how workman-like they were and professional in what they did from the people outside. And they are in everyone’s view all of the time, aren’t they?
DB Yes they are
DD That was the message that was coming back to me all of the time and I think that was good and to their credit that they really did a great job.
DB I guess too, over the years as equipment and things have modernised. People they have had to up their skills and different methods in those areas.
DD That’s right.
DB Council did a lot of training with their staff.
DD Yes that is right. That gives people that little bit of a lift all of the time whether it is council or private enterprise if they get that little bit of a lift.
DB I noticed that too in the time I have been working in local government over thirty years that when I first came to this organisation to work. One of the things I do remember the first Christmas and I was working on the old mobile library that day. In comes, through the door Mayor Dwyer, I think Gary Storch might have been there as well and all of these heads popped in to say Merry Christmas. They had been out with the outdoor staff at Landsborough depot. I thought that was very nice.
DD One of my regrets was I didn’t or couldn’t get out of the office enough. It might have been me with my management of time. But one of my regrets was I didn’t, couldn’t get out of the office enough.
DB So speaking at the coalface
DD Yes, even my business I used to get criticised by some people that I spent too much time out of my shop. You can only go the way you feel. To me, I used to get a lot of business just because I was out and about. Really being in there it was difficult for a Mayor to get away, when he wants to get away. Because there are so much time demands on his time in the office itself.
DB What sorts of work load in a day, how many hours would you have roughly done in that later period of your work day?
DD Well you know the local government association used to do those surveys periodically you know how many hours you spend. One came in one day and I never ever really thought about it.
Karen Karaloukas was there and I said put me down 45 hours for the week.
‘No Mr Mayor’ she said,’ have a think about what you have done this week.’ She used to know where I was going.
DB What was her role at that stage?
DD She was the Head of Communications and Marketing Manager. She was appointed to get information out to the community which we lacked before.
She said, ‘you tally up where you have been and what you have been doing.’
Tallied up it was over 60 hours that week. I never wrote those things down. But it certainly was a lot of hours involved. I think you have got to expect that. I am not complaining about that. It really was not much different to my own business. Because I used to put a lot of hours into my own business it didn’t seem much different to me for that reason.
DB I guess at that time that you were Mayor that your business then you had to hand it over?
DD Oh, yes you would kid yourself if you were going to try to do two things I believe in any way. So again I was lucky with my staff. I would pop in every now and again. I don’t think people if they are paying the wages that they get paid now that I think that there is some justification. The public sometimes you know don’t like to see you spend too much time in your own business.
DB You are there as a representative of the people.
DD Yes, I think you have to acknowledge that and respect that.
DB You keep saying the word luck perhaps it might be the choices you made as far as staff and things like that.
DD Yes, so that was another thing the communications we used to have outside consultants for our main communications. That was ok because again it comes back to your capacity of your business or your council at the time. So that is no criticism of what transpired before. I think we had just got to a stage we could afford that sort of thing. I think the proof was in that. It may of changed again I don’t know. They really worked like mad to get through what they had to in a day and all of the requirements to run it.
The other thing that was out in place when Gary got there was the Customer Service counter. I would imagine it still works very efficiently. I think that was one of the big plusses in so far for the council and the community. At the time there were people who used to walk into Councillors doors or walking into one of the Managers when they felt like it. Traditionally that is how it had been but today it has got to be business.
We had to get over that hump where some people might have been a bit miffed.
I used to say well look, ‘they are better trained than I am to address your problems. You should give them a go. At the end of it if you feel like you are not getting any satisfaction. Then you can come and talk to me.’
I think the big transformation from when I first came in 1994 to my own phone at home here. It was minimal towards the last year.
DB Your reputation of always being able to be approached, your phone you didn’t have a silent number.
DD No, I think some of the staff when I first got down there used to try and shield me. I would say no worries I don’t mind, angry people and they don’t worry me greatly. Because I have had to deal with people like that in my business all my life. You have always got people who are upset. It is always a challenge isn’t it to work through those things when people are upset? That didn’t faze me. I think I was lucky there.
DB You had that sort of nature?
DD Nature yes. That I had been through that and that gets at you, I can understand people not wanting to but if you don’t get onto the problems and address them. So if you can’t get onto those problems at the start of the week I always said they are still there at the end of the week. And everything etc. gets worse and worse. So if you can deal with them and get them out of the way or if you can’t solve them or satisfy them let them have a go.
Sometimes people want to see the Mayor and get stuck into him and let off steam. Lots of times they were happy with that and they had thought they had gone to the top which they hadn’t. Because there were people they should have gone to. Once they got crooked on you or abused you they felt good. It saved a lot of letters, which was what I used to reckon anyway, writing letters and things like that (laughter).
Beerwah Library – Des Dwyer Library - surprise
DB In that period of time there were so many things happening in the community in so far as libraries. There was the new Maleny Library and the new Beerwah Library was in the pipeline. The new Beerwah Library was named after you and I know you were very surprised about that. You felt that the naming of a library or building you were very humble there Mr Des. You also told me that you did have a long association with those areas before even as a Mayor. They were your old stamping grounds going out with your business. You were very well known in the Hinterland region.
DD That’s right, it was a lovely day that day. Because when they announced that I thought, oh, well, it has always been contentious naming things after people.
DB Your face, we knew that the new Beerwah Library was going to be called after you. Lots of us from the library were watching you and we could tell you had no idea the new Beerwah Library was going to be called the Des Dwyer Library.
DD The good thing that day afterwards I suppose when we were having a cup of tea there was about half a dozen people I could name them that came up and spoke to me that were long term residents and farmers of that area and they were genuine. So I thought I don’t feel too bad now when I knew they came from that area.
DB The new Beerwah Library has been a tremendous success in that community.
DD That’s great.
DB It certainly was well needed down there. The thought that went into that has certainly been a very successful part of the libraries history as well.
DD Dawn said I have to go down one day very soon she is going to ring me.
DB We might put you in the children’s activities such as surf safety.
DD We have to get a clock for down there Dawn says.
DB There is lots of young families using the library and older people in the community. Just people residing there as well but it is beyond the libraries expectations of the strength of that library.
DD Yes, It is a growth area too you know.
DB It certainly is the railway corridor is growing at a rapid rate.
DD Yes well that was good the fact that those people thought I deserved to have the library named after me
DB You are very humble.
Retiring from Council
DB The period leading up to making this decision how long did you stew over this before you decided?
DD Not to stand, yes I suppose for twelve months I had sort of stewed about it and agonised about it.
DB Were you tired.
DD I didn’t feel tired about being there as such. It was no different than going to work like I always did. I never thought about it, you never had time to worry about whether you were tired or not. You did it. That was the same as the council. I took a bit of liberty I used to go to work at about eight thirty unless there was something early. I used to get home about six here at home. Sometimes I had to go out at night as you know. What I worried about was I think and I never really used to think much about my age but I thought I was sixty seven then and then the four year term came in. I think that was the thing that tipped me at the finish. I thought to myself that means if I get back in am I going to get tired in that term? Realistically, not being morbid about it, I think you have to face up to that.
What are your capabilities? These communities, my theory again but this sort of co don’t think I could live with being in there and feeling that I wasn’t giving it my best. I think there is no other way to explain it. Probably if I had been a bit younger some people laugh about that but if I had been about fifty five or something like that and had done the two terms I might have probably considered it pretty seriously. People said to me you have done all the hard work the next term will be easy. But nothing is ever easy. There are always issues, you know Local Government. You can never get away from that, there is no easy way in this life. There is nothing easy in this life.
There was no dissatisfaction with anybody, anything or the job I think that was the decision in I wouldn’t have ended up being a passenger. You know what I mean. Another thing, who knows it may well, be with the way Local Government is changing and I have had a long experience with it. Again with these growing communities but maybe like now a couple of terms it will be eight years. It might be a couple of terms is the limitation of somebody being there trying to generate enthusiasm and ideas and that sort of thing. It might be that communities need a change. I don’t know. A perception comes into it, I mean I don’t suppose we want to follow the Americans with the troubles they have with their elections. That’s what happens there it is two terms in that same vein I am saying you could be there too long. That’s no take away from people who have been long term Mayors and there is still going to be. Depending on the sizes of the communities I think there are a different set of circumstances now.
DB Life is different.
DD Yes, look at the people I grew up with in the town here. They would be absolutely minimal in number now with respect to the whole community. While there is a certain degree of a nice warm feeling and knowing them even if you are not close friends but you have known them all that time and can talk to them. There is a whole range of new people with totally different ideas and aspirations and what their expectations are out there. So it may be that there must be some different way of things being looked at.
DB So leading up to the period of time towards the elections in the year 2000, just as you were leading up to your end of term did you have regrets?
DD No, people asked me that. No regrets. I had thought it through. I was at peace with myself in the sense that I had felt I had thought it through properly from my point of view and the communities’ point of view. Some people might not have seen it that way. You can only go in how you feel inside yourself. The people you are associated with in that environment there. You miss those people it is like every day association when you have been so involved with them. I think Local Government is associated with people needs. Not just business needs but people needs. There is a difference again in the way you relate to people in the organisation. There is a different way of thinking. So I think in that sense yes you miss that. I went down to the statuary meeting and I would have gone to that irrespective of whether Tim had got in or not. I made up my mind that is what I was going to go to and that was it. I felt real good when I saw Don up there. It was good to see. I didn’t have any regrets.
DB What did you do when that day came and you stepped down?
DD I note when I said I wouldn’t stand that was a couple of weeks out. Well once when I made it public. Gary was very good. He was a bit disappointed but again the organisation said is this what you are going to do well we will get this out the right way. They have the expertise so that was done nicely. Then there was the responses came back some were good ones; some were funny ones, lovely ones. Then I was with peace with myself.
DB What was the date.
DD I can’t remember the date right to the last day when Don declared the poll. I washed the car and had it cleaned for Don.
DB You wouldn’t really know that it was going to be for Don until the elections came?
DD No it would be whoever. Monday, following that was the first time I really had not gone to work for 52 years. I had gone down to my shop and I was in all of turmoil down there to get back home to get back down to the office. All of a sudden I thought I don’t really have to hurry today (laughter) so I read the paper and had a cup of tea. That was a strange thing.
There had been a huge change in the products what we used to sell in the shop. Then I had lost touch with the everyday stuff in so far as what I used to have in my head. I was lucky there was the implementation of GST that kept me really active for about four or five months. This was really a tremendous amount of work involved for the staff. You are trying to run your business but you have all of these new things into place. I didn’t do it, I just oversaw the staff. At the end of it I think it was probably one of the better things that happened.
DB What did you think about the GST?
DD I have never been opposed to it. The proof will be down the track so I will reserve my judgement. Other than that initial three or four months when there was a tremendous amount of work for the staff. It is a bit like a reorganisation in a council. We are getting off council. In my view, it makes you look at your business in a different way. You really have got to step back and have a good look. And then change some things. You have got to change them. As I said at the end of that period I thought it was probably a good thing for businesses. Not everyone agrees with that. That was my view, I could be wrong.
DB Your business there now where all of the big chain stores going into electrical goods and different things though your business always seems to be always very busy.
DD Yes. You never get carried away with those things. As I said right at the start of the talk you can’t stand still and be comfortable in the same role. I have done everything now that’s all I want. You would just go backwards or go out the door. You have got to make your mind up whether to keep going or get out. So that was good for me I had things to do.
DD There was a lot of things in council I had let go, that I had not done because of time. Every day now I might pick something up; I can do now or fix that up. Yes, my days are full.
Surf Life Saving and Lifeguards – establishment of professional lifeguards
DB You had told me today when I first came in here that you are back working with the life savers?
DD Well, there are a group people of more mature people that wanted to form a march past team. They rang me and asked me if I could train a march past team when the season started. I said I would. The fact they have got twelve people that want to do something. It is only a matter of turning up or being there. I said to them don’t count on winning too many championships with me. It’s good, they enjoy it. It is a nice thing.
DB I suppose in the area of local community with surf life saving and then the implementation within councils of life guards. The changes there, council actually paying people to …
DD Well, you know that was another thing in the term of the council those two terms. We had got the life guard service I shouldn’t say we. The life guard service started we were the first local authority on the coast on this part of the coast to have a life DD Well, you know that was another thing in the term of the council those two terms. We had got the life guard service I shouldn’t say we. The life guard service started we were the first local authority on the coast on this part of the coast to have a life guard and indirectly I was associated with that. Ben Bennett the fellow I mentioned before that was a councillor at the time and also a life member. He was the one that really, I had spoken to him because we had had some drowning’s here during the holidays. It was through him speaking to Jack Beausang at the time that they decided to put a life guard on for that few weeks for that first time. I can’t remember the year but it was in the school holidays. It was for a few weeks for the first time.
DB During the school holidays?
DD Yes during the school holidays. I forget the years. I know the fellow who was the first appointed first. He lives up at Kingaroy now.
DB What was his name?
DD Jeff Hardcastle.
DB He would be related to the Hardcastles that were here in the early days of life saving.
DD Yes, his son, Jeff’s son is associated with the club now and Jeff’s father was a long time president you see. So it started from that and in that time it was expanded again. I really had no problems with that because there were more and more demands. There was the Currimundi area coming along. We got the jet skis put in place for the life guards which has made a tremendous difference and it has become quite professional. Col Roughsedge has been with us a long time.
Speeches - new councillor in the family
DB We will just get back to yourself and you have stepped down. There has been another member of your family that has been successful and that is Tim Dwyer. Has there ever been anyone else in your family who have been in politics?
DD No, there was never any thought of it with me either.
DB You also have a reputation as a speaker. You have been known to pull an interesting speech out of a hat so to speak.
DD I kid you not that has been the bane of my life trying to get up and speak at functions and things.
DB Was that acquired, did you find that you learnt that as time went on.
DD Yes I suppose you have go to. It really used to worry me tremendously. I didn’t mind the work but I used to dislike public speaking.
DB But you can do it.
DD Some of it comes a bit easier now to me. I think in retrospect the surf club is a great grounding for people who want to go into public life. There has always been a great range of ages in surf clubs, more so today. Even when I joined at fifteen years of age to eighty years of age you mixed with people that were well up in business and public administration and you couldn’t help I suppose unwittingly you were picking up what those people were really expert at. Whilst I really didn’t feel particularly comfortable with it I think that some of it I was lucky that I had been in that background.
Jack Beausang – Local Government
DB I know that we are getting to the end of this interview and in my time working in Caloundra City that we lost a very well-known member of the community when we lost Jack Beausang. At the memorial service for Jack Beausang you seemed to be very emotional about that.
DD Yes, I had a great deal of respect for Jack Beausang. Because I hate not hate but I keep going back to life saving. Well, when Jack Beausang was Chairman and then Mayor and that was a long time. I cannot ever remember him missing an annual dinner and presentation of our surf club. He was very supportive; he in himself was very supportive. You have got to think back to those days, whilst it was very hard getting money it was doubly hard in those days. He was good, long before I had ever had anything to do with council he was always very decent to me. I had known him a long time.
DB He was from the old school.
DD Yes. He used to come in probably every month to the council. I used to say to Norma always make sure if I am not here that he gets his cup of tea. He used to just want to come in and talk and have yarn about the council and the community and that sort of thing and then away he would go.
DB I know he was very pleased when I did the interview with him that we had the mayor’s office for that. He sat there very proudly.
DD Yes, that’s right. There was that long association. There was somebody, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t known him a long time. I think that I was lucky that I had the association with the Hinterland as well. That was good for me that the fact that I had that long term association.
Art Gallery – Norma Fox and Joan Sheldon
DB Just getting to the end of the tape now another thing in your period of time and was spoken highly of was the opening of the new art gallery.
DD Yes, (laughing) they used to throw off at me because I am not a … The used to say, Norma Fox used to say she had train me up because I hadn’t got any art or culture. Not culture, you know but the fact that I had never been I suppose I was a bit sports orientated.
DB Not interested.
DD Not so much not interested but it was something I had never really associated with. So Norma used to give me a bit of cane and Mrs Sheldon she used to stir me up about it.
DB Joan Sheldon she has had a great relationship with the arts for this area.
DD Yes. So she used to remind me all the time about it. But, what I came to realise was that whilst I might be sports orientated there was a lot of other people that were interested that relate from that. So it fits in there same as the libraries and all of your sporting organisations. So it fits in there. Sometimes I think there is a little bit of a hard road to hoe. I think it is because it comes back to the growth of a community, where all of a sudden it fits. That might not be the way to put it. How can I put it?
DB That the community is ready, there is a great need.
DD Yes. There is a point in time where all of a sudden.
DB Judging by the response that the gallery has received also it was the right move.
DD Yes, I have heard Sandy say the other day that there were 17,000 that have gone through it.
DB That has been in a short period of time.
Caloundra City Concert Band
DD Yes. It is like the band. The Caloundra City Band that’s there now. Now they have had a band before. But it sort about it a fair bit. Because we knew where the instruments were you see. There was fellow who still had the instruments. He hadn’t taken them. But he had them.
DB Stored them.
DD So we had a meeting in the Civic Centre. I think we got six people there you know. I used to say to Norma I am not musical but there has got to be people in all these thousands we have got in the community that play music. So we had another one about a month later. We got a few more just to get it started. And now gosh it is tremendous. That was another good thing.
DB Now it is a magnificent band. Norma has been a keen player in all of this.
DD That was another good thing that has been pleasing. I think before I left they needed a trailer or something. They had got to the stage they needed to transport all of their gear. So we gave them a few dollars for the trailer.
DB They are certainly great ambassadors for this area. They play a lot of charity events; they play at the local Catholic Church, wonderful presentation at the last Seniors Concert. The two years I have been coordinating the concert they have been fabulous.
DD Yes. I saw in the paper the other day they had been up to Coolum for something.
DB A bit more than six people now?
DD Yes. The last annual meeting I went to I think they said they had forty musicians.
DB What do you hope to see for the future of this area just as a person in the community.
DD Well, I have lived here nearly all of my life so I have seen the changes from where it was. Its still, in my view it is still a beautiful place even though we have got buildings and infrastructure. You can’t, it would be difficult to try and keep everything the same even though there a lot of things that are lost but then people want to live here. But even for that it still has got a lot of lovely things about Caloundra City itself, Caloundra and where I live. We are very lucky.
I think the Council that is where they are trying to get to. Try and retain what we now acknowledge. Once upon a time you took for granted. I think that is what probably what has happened in the past here you tended to take it for granted. You think it is always going to be here.
DB Meaning the environment?
DD Yes all that. So I think to me that seem to be that in place in the Council so if we can respect those things and retain them. But at the same time we have got to progress because of the people that live here and because people have to get a job. There has got to be that balance all of the time. I would just like to see Caloundra City grow and that respect for those individual areas for what’s there. Try and respect that. Make some room for people to be able to live and also to be to create businesses and create employment. Make it a viable community.
I think we are pretty lucky, nothing to do with me. In the fact that we have got some major developments here and I have said it before, i.e. Kawana and Pelican Waters that are master planned and structured. There is a lot of work goes into trying to put things in place for the future. Whoever we are the time when you are trying to do it probably might be condemned in twenty years’ time when they say why you did that for? You have got to make your decisions. I think that is better than an adhoc type of development because at least now, in the major part of the coast there, in those two areas particularly, essentially people are going to know what is going to happen and what will go there. Nothing should change that. So I think that is good for the older part of the town.
Kings Beach – redevelopment
DB Now we are going to see the beautification to Kings Beach.
DD Kings Beach was tired. I had to be a very careful in my view because of my affinity to Kings Beach and everything and support, because it was tired. The town had sucked a lot out of there to sustain itself. People might not agree with that but that was the thing that sustained Caloundra for a long, long time that area. It had just got tired.
You can see little things happening now even with this redevelopment. I think there will be another phase now that will fit in with that. Caloundra will have its focal point here the same as the other authorities who have got theirs. I think that is another good thing I have always said that too about the Sunshine Coast. We are one great area the Sunshine Coast but we are individual still. So if you live here you can go and get something a bit different up the Coast or conversely people can come down here. We may have been a little bit behind before but we have lifted again.
DB I find the people in this town very friendly. They have always got a smile.
DD That’s right when I walk around the Headland just about everyone always has a smile. Generally speaking they have always said good morning.
DB I would like to thank you for your time. Thank you very much Des.
DD Righto Di
Caloundra City Council
1988 – 1991 elected as Alderman for Division 5. This was the first Caloundra City Council election (previously Landsborough Shire Council)
1994 –2000 elected as Mayor of Caloundra City Council. 1994 was the first Caloundra City Council election where preferential voting was employed.
Mr Dwyer lived in Caloundra for 69 years, and was a resident of Division 9 for the past 38 years and was well known and respected by the Caloundra community.
Mr Dwyer achieved prominence in Caloundra City during the terms he served as councillor of Caloundra City Council from 1988 until 1991 and also as Mayor from 1994 until 2000.
Mr Dwyer's interest and love of recreational walking was paramount to the creation of the Coastal Walk. He has also been a member of Rotary, served a number of years on the Ambulance Committee and held the position of Life Governor with the Metropolitan Surf Life Saving Club at Kings Beach until his death. He was awarded Life Membership of both the Caloundra Rugby League Club and the Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club.
During his term as former Mayor of Caloundra City Mr Dwyer provided many years of outstanding service to the Caloundra community.
Sunshine Coast Libraries – Beerwah branch is named after Des Dwyer
Surf Life Saving - Des joined Metropolitan - Caloundra in 1949 and represented his club at Bronze level for seventeen years. As a member of the club he obtained the status of branch double ski champion and was Captain of the 1957, Senior R & R Team who won the Queensland Championship in February at Mermaid Beach. The club then represented Queensland at the Australian Surf Championships at Bondi, NSW that year and were runners up.
Des Dwyer was awarded life membership in 1959 for outstanding service to Metropolitan Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club. In 1970, Des Dwyer was awarded life membership of the Sunshine Coast Branch of Surf Life Saving.
He was a foundation member of the Metropolitan - Caloundra Nippers as well as the Supporters Club.
In 1966 Des Dwyer purchased the local Retravision store.
Dwyer’s was a genuine family business which was built on the foundation of personal and friendly service. The last day of trading for this store was 18 June, 2014.
END OF INTERVIEW