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Australian Dictionary of Biography Volume 19: 1991–1995 (A–Z)


YEEND, Sir GEOFFREY JOHN (GEOFF) (1927–1994), public servant and company director, was born on 1 May 1927 in Melbourne, second son and youngest child of Victorian-born parents Herbert John Yeend, Commonwealth public servant, and his wife Ellen Muriel, née Inglis. In November the family moved to Canberra following the opening of the Federal parliament. The city would be Geoff’s home for the remainder of his life; indeed, he mostly lived and worked in, or within walking distance of, the parliamentary triangle. Educated at Telopea Park Primary and Canberra High schools, he played cricket and hockey, participated in debating, and was active in the Canberra Baptist Church, Kingston.

Yeend’s Leaving certificate results in 1944 were sufficient for him to be recruited by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and, soon after, the Commonwealth Public Service. In 1945 he joined the Department of Post-War Reconstruction as a clerk, albeit briefly, before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 22 June. He served in regional centres within Australia, and in New Britain at Rabaul (March–June 1946), and was discharged at his own request on 20 November 1946. Back at the Department of Post-War Reconstruction, he was appointed an assistant research officer reporting to the department’s specialist economist, Trevor Swan [q.v.18]. From the late 1940s he studied part time at Canberra University College, which offered University of Melbourne degrees (BCom, 1953).

In 1950 Yeend joined the Prime Minister’s Department as research assistant to the secretary (Sir) Allen Brown [q.v.], previously director-general of Post-War Reconstruction, and began to develop his great expertise in parliamentary, ministerial, and cabinet business. At Brown’s urging Yeend became private secretary to Prime Minister (Sir) Robert Menzies [q.v.15] early in 1952, his main duties being to handle paperwork and liaise with the department. Yeend’s father had considerable reservations about the appointment; he felt that to work as a private secretary for a prime minister could be seen as getting too close to politics, and thus might be detrimental to a public service career. In September 1953 Michael Bialoguski [q.v.17], an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation informant, sought an interview with the prime minister concerning his payments. Yeend handled the matter directly with ASIO, as ‘this was the sort of thing the Prime Minister left entirely in the hands of responsible officers’ (quoted in Manne 2004, 31). Shortly afterwards Bialoguski’s services were terminated. This brief and entirely formal encounter gave rise to suspicions, largely in Australian Labor Party circles, that there was some sort of conspiracy behind the defection the following year of the Soviet intelligence officer Vladimir Petrov and his wife Evdokia [qq.v.]. Menzies maintained that he only became aware of the possibility of a defection in early 1954; however, Labor believed that he knew about it the previous year as a consequence of Bialoguski’s activities. It was not until Yeend had worked for several months at close quarters with Gough Whitlam as prime minister that these concerns were eventually laid to rest.

On 20 December 1952, at St John the Baptist Church, Reid, Yeend had married a fellow public servant, Laurel Dawn Mahoney. (Dame) Pattie Menzies [q.v.] attended the wedding. Yeend resumed regular departmental duties at the beginning of 1955, adding education and social security to his continuing responsibilities for parliamentary matters. This led to a posting in 1957 to Australia House, London, as assistant secretary in the High Commissioner’s Office, where he handled education matters. Returning to Canberra in 1961 he was appointed assistant secretary, establishment branch, later general branch, in the Prime Minister’s Department. During this period he attended the second Commonwealth Education Conference, held at New Delhi in 1962, and the 1965 and 1966 Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ conferences, at which he was involved in the establishment of the Commonwealth Secretariat. In 1969 he became the department’s first assistant secretary in charge of its parliamentary and government division.

Accompanied by his wife, Yeend spent six months in the United States of America as an Eisenhower fellow in 1971, an experience he regarded as a high point in his career. He was promoted to deputy secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet the following year and, in 1974, took over supervision of the cabinet secretariat. From 1974 to 1978, under the secretary John Menadue and then (Sir) Alan Carmody [q.v.13], Yeend had a wide-ranging brief over the machinery of government, including preparation of the Cabinet Handbook, which was based on a comparable Whitehall document. In 1977, following some ill-tempered negotiations involving Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and the Public Service Board, he was promoted to a unique position of under-secretary; he became secretary in 1978 following Carmody’s sudden death.

After a decade of mild turbulence, the department assumed a more active role under Yeend’s guidance, overseeing policy development and appraisal in addition to traditional operations of the cabinet. Its role in the managed float of the Australian dollar in the late 1970s and early 1980s is an important instance of this enlarged mandate. In 1982 Yeend carried ultimate administrative responsibility for the success of the first meeting in Australia of the Commonwealth heads of government in 1981. Two years later he oversaw the change of government from Fraser to Robert Hawke, arguably the smoothest since Menzies took office in 1949. During the years of the Hawke government he participated constructively, if cautiously, in restructuring the public service and, later, was active in the preparation and passage of the Australia Act 1986 in both the Australian and British parliaments. This legislation eliminated the possibility that Britain could legislate with effect in Australia, and for any appeal from an Australian to a British court.

Appointed CBE in 1976 and knighted in 1979, Sir Geoffrey was appointed AC in 1986. Ill health prompted his early retirement from the public service that year. Even so, his skills were nationally in demand in the business world. He held directorships in Coca-Cola Amatil Ltd, Mercantile Mutual Life Insurance Co. Ltd, Canberra Advance Bank Ltd, Australian Capital Television Pty Ltd, and the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust, and was an adviser to Qantas Empire Airways Ltd. He was appointed chancellor of The Australian National University (ANU) in 1990. As well as taking a close interest in the university’s relations with the Commonwealth government, he participated widely in university activities, enriching studies of Australian government and politics with lectures and seminars. He was reappointed to a second two-year term in 1992. That year the government of Japan awarded him the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.

A keen sportsman, Yeend played several sports but hockey was his greatest interest. He attended the Olympic Games in Melbourne (1956), Rome (1960), and Tokyo (1964) as an official, and was a councillor (1956–66), vice-president (1967–76), and member of honour (1979) of the International Hockey Federation. With the progress of years he continued to play golf and, at a coastal retreat at Tuross Head, New South Wales, found recreation with a fishing rod and a good book. He took particular pleasure in his association with the Woden Valley Youth Choir, of which he was patron. Among other community activities, he was Australian Capital Territory president and national vice-president of the Australian Multiple Sclerosis Society, and served on the board of the National Gallery of Australia.

Six feet (183 cm) tall with hazel eyes and brown hair, Yeend was invariably ‘calm and unflappable’ (Weller, Scott, and Stevens 2011, 93). A highly competent administrator, he was measured, discreet, shrewd, and politically astute. Whitlam described him as the ‘second best politician in Canberra’ (Farquharson 1994, 6). Survived by his wife and their daughter and son, he died of a cardiac arrest on 6 October 1994 at Camperdown, Sydney, and was cremated. ANU established an honours scholarship scheme in his memory in 1996.

Codd, Michael. ‘Spur for Higher Quality of Government.’ Canberra Bulletin of Public Administration 77 (December 1994): 16–18; Farquharson, John. ‘Public Service’s Quiet Persuader.’ Canberra Times, 8 October 1994, 6; Manne, Robert. The Petrov Affair. Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2004; National Archives of Australia. B883, NX207452; Personal knowledge of ADB subject; Weller, P., J. Scott, and B. Stevens. From Postbox to Powerhouse: A Centenary History of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, 1911–2010. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2011.

J. R. Nethercote

YOCK, DANIEL ALFRED (1975–1993), dancer, was born on 7 February 1975 at Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement, son of Tottie Yock, formerly Fogarty. The poet Lionel Fogarty, Daniel’s brother, said later of the siblings: ‘Our roots, the familiarisation of our land in the spiritual sense, comes down to here [Brisbane] and the Beaudesert area’ (Fogarty 1995, 122). After attending Cherbourg State and Murgon High Schools, Daniel left for Brisbane in 1991 because of the poor employment outlook locally, but returned, only to depart again for Brisbane later in the year. There he was effectively homeless, though he would often find a bed at a hostel. He and his friends formed the Wakka dance troupe, performing occasionally at schools and festivals; his earnings, though, were meagre and irregular.

On 7 November 1993 Yock and a group of companions in Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, came to the attention of two police officers in a patrol car. Assessing their behaviour as disorderly and calling for assistance, the police followed them for a short distance to the corner of Boundary and Brereton Streets, West End, then moved to arrest them. Police later alleged that Yock pulled a stake from the ground and waved it threateningly towards them. He tried to run, but an officer from a second police car secured him. The young man lost consciousness, dying shortly afterwards.

A protest outside police headquarters the next day erupted into a brawl in which about twelve Aboriginal people and six police officers were injured. Between 500 and 1,000 people, including two State government ministers, attended Yock’s funeral at Cherbourg; following a service combining Anglican and traditional Aboriginal rites, he was buried in the town’s cemetery. On 17 November street marches protesting about his death were held throughout Queensland.

Investigating the incident, Queensland’s Criminal Justice Commission conceded that it was ‘more probable than not that Yock did not have a free stake in his hand’ (Queensland 1994, 74). Nevertheless, it found that there was enough evidence to show that he and his companions were behaving in a disorderly manner, so his arrest was lawful. Yock’s companions testified that he was kicked and one resident of Brereton Street asserted that he was punched, though he conceded this might have been ‘an assumption’ (Queensland 1994, xvi) on his part. At the autopsy, Dr D. J. Williams, a government pathologist, had certified that the cause of death was ischaemic heart disease and narrowing of the arteries, not a conventional heart attack. Significant impairment of the right coronary artery existed. Yock’s body tested positive for cannabis and his blood alcohol content was high. It was reported that he had suffered several fainting attacks since 1990 (one, during a boxing match, recorded on video). A cardiologist, Dr G. H. Neilson, suggested a Stokes-Adams condition, in which a temporary arrest of the heart occurs, as a possible cause. The police minister, Paul Braddy, said that the report (released on 5 April 1994) showed there was ‘not a scintilla of evidence to back up a claim of police assault or brutality’ (Courier Mail 1994, 1).

The Socialist Labour League organised a ‘Workers Inquiry’ into Yock’s death. The investigation found that Yock had died from a lack of oxygen after being left face down, unconscious, and unable to breathe. A medical practitioner, Dr Holman Koops, testified that it was ‘highly improbable’ (Truth About the Killing of Daniel Yock 1994, 99) that Yock died from a Stokes-Adams attack, noting that his fainting incidents had occurred during stressful situations. Concluding that Yock was unconscious because of police treatment, the inquiry argued that all six police officers involved in his arrest were directly responsible for his death. The authorities did not act on the report.

An uncle, Warry John Stanley, described Yock as ‘a jovial sort of guy’ who ‘loved to break down the barriers between the black and white’ (Queensland 1994, 12). Lionel Fogarty recalled his efforts as a youngster to write poetry and songs and to learn and maintain the traditional dances of his people, seeing him as ‘a Song Man [who] used to make songs up from his own dreaming’, a ‘very culturally talented guy, very dedicated to his culture’ (Fogarty 1995, 125). With Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee) (d. 2004), Yock became one of the best known of the Aboriginal people to have died in custody in Queensland. His short life and tragic death were commemorated by a songwriter, Kev Carmody, and by at least two poets, Fogarty and Kaylah Kayemtee Tyson.

Berghofer, Greg. ‘Aboriginal Community Farewells Daniel.’ South Burnett Times (Kingaroy, Qld), 19 November 1993, 3; Courier Mail (Brisbane). ‘Police Demand Apology.’ 6 April 1994, 1; Fogarty, Lionel. ‘Musgrave Park: Lionel Fogarty Talks to Philip Mead.’ RePublica (Sydney), no. 3 (1995): 119–31; Queensland. A Report of an Investigation into the Arrest and Death of Daniel Alfred Yock. Brisbane: Criminal Justice Commission, 1994; The Truth About the Killing of Daniel Yock: Workers Inquiry Exposes Police Murder. Marrickville, NSW: Labour Press Books, 1994.

Brian F. Stevenson

YOUNG, DOUGLAS GARY (DOUGIE) (1933–1991), Aboriginal songwriter and singer, was born on 30 August 1933 at East Mitchell, Queensland, sixth child of Queensland-born parents Frank Young, white labourer, and his wife Olive Kathleen, née McCarthy, a Gurnu woman. His father was a pious Christian. Most of what is known about Dougie—or ‘Youngie Doug’ as he often styled himself, satirising the way the police entered names in charge books—comes from the songs he wrote. He rejected school and left early to become a stockman. This work took him away from home, and eventually to New South Wales.

In the early 1950s Young arrived at Wilcannia. On 11 December 1955 at St Therese’s Catholic Mission Church, he married Christina Johnson. A riding accident in 1957 put him in hospital in Adelaide for many months, and ended his career as a stockman. He turned his talents to singing and songwriting.

Wilcannia, then a town of some 800 residents—about half of whom were Aboriginal—was a lively community, with much music and much drinking. The law forbade most Aboriginal people to consume alcohol, but they obtained it anyway, and the police spent a great deal of time looking for Aboriginal drinkers and locking them up. These circumstances were the theme of Young’s first composition, ‘Cut a Rug’. ‘Pass Him the Flagon’ and ‘They Say It’s a Crime’ followed about 1960. ‘Scobie’s Dream’ and ‘Victor Podham and His Rusty Hut’ appeared by 1964. ‘Old Wilcannia Town’, in which he whimsically imagined what would happen to the town if the Aboriginal people stopped drinking, came a year or two later. The early songs were about him and his male friends; he sang affectionately about them as well as for them. The chicken-stealing exploits of Frankie in ‘Frankie and Jonesy’ emulated those of a real-life Frankie. Women—unfaithful in ‘Wilcannia Song’, and censorious in ‘Cut a Rug’—never attended the men’s drinking parties.

The compositions were often parodies of the songs of white country-and-western singers, but the message was always Aboriginal. Young communicated the experience of being Aboriginal in the days before land rights and civil rights. His drinking songs expressed defiance of a discriminatory law, mockery of pompous magistrates, the miseries of gaol, and scorn for whites who became rich (in his words in ‘Old Wilcannia Town’) ‘supplying darkies with grog’. As he said in one of the few explanations he offered, ‘It’s experience’.

Later songs, such as the classic ‘The Land Where the Crow Flies Backwards’ and ‘I Don’t Want Your Money’ were political in the strict sense. ‘Half-Caste’, a troubled and troubling song composed about 1966, examined the stereotypical idea of a person caught between two races. But ‘The Treaty’ (1979), his last song, resolved the problem, declaring: ‘There are many different colours now in the Aboriginal race’.

Young’s early songs were transmitted by word of mouth among Aboriginal people. Some, quoted in a journal article (Beckett 1958, 38–40, 42), were taken up and reproduced in other books and articles. Young also became known to travelling country-and-western singers who performed at Wilcannia. On one occasion, his son Robert recalled, he stood in when Chad Morgan was indisposed. Athol McCoy bought and issued recordings of ‘Scobie’s Dream (Hangover)’ and ‘The Land Where the Crow Flies Backwards’ and, as a consequence, Young derived little financial benefit from either song. Wattle Recordings produced in 1965 an extended-play vinyl disc of songs taped at Wilcannia the previous year. In the same year, folk singer Gary Shearston recorded ‘The Land Where the Crow Flies Backwards’, the detailed sleeve-notes for the first time bringing Young’s name before a wider audience (Walker 2000, 94–95).

In 1967 Dougie and Chrissie’s marriage was breaking down, and one day he left without warning. He was seen at Bourke and he also spent some time at Balranald, adapting ‘Old Wilcannia (Balranald) Town’ for his friends there, and composing ‘Alf Kelly’ for the family with whom he lived. In 1979 he was in Sydney, giving the lie to a newspaper report that he was dead, and making his last recording—the only one in a studio.

By this time, Young was a sick man, and he was hospitalised in Melbourne for a lengthy period. He then lived quietly with a daughter at Newcastle, New South Wales. Shortly before his death, he was reunited with his other children at Wilcannia and travelled with them to see kinfolk at Cunnamulla, Queensland. He died of heart disease on 1 April 1991 at Wickham, Newcastle. His children arranged for him to be buried, following a Catholic service, at Wilcannia. In 1994 the National Library of Australia and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies issued The Songs of Dougie Young, a recording on compact disc and audiocassette of all but one of his works, and an accompanying booklet with the lyrics of all of them.

Beckett, Jeremy. ‘Aborigines Make Music’, Quadrant II, no. 4 (Spring 1958): 32–42; Beckett, Jeremy, ‘“I Don’t Care Who Knows”: The Songs of Dougie Young.’ Australian Aboriginal Studies, issue 2 (1993): 34–38; Personal knowledge of ADB subject; Walker, Clinton. Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music. Annandale, NSW: Pluto Press Australia Ltd, 2000.

Jeremy Beckett

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