No less a feminist hero was Melbourne-born singer, songwriter, author, actress and activist Helen Reddy, who died just two days later aged 78. She wrote the lyrics for I Am Woman, which unexpectedly became an anthem of the feminist movement.
Susan Ryan first arrived in the Senate in the tumultuous days after the Dismissal. She found, in her own words, ‘‘sitting opposite me in the chamber … living proof that women could do the job’’, in the form of Victoria’s Margaret Guilfoyle, who under Malcolm Fraser became the first woman to hold a cabinet-level ministerial portfolio in Australia. Guilfoyle died on Remembrance Day, aged 94.
Doug Anthony, who died aged 90 in December, was the last giant of the Country and National parties and one of the country’s last remaining links to the Menzies government. He was the nation’s longest-served deputy prime minister and a key player in the constitutional crisis of 1975.
The same month saw the death at 83 of Major-General Michael Jeffery, former governor-general and governor of Western Australia. He was described by Prime Minister Scott Morrison as one of Australia’s finest leaders.
Giving us the inside story on politics was reporter-turned-news producer Gerald Stone (87), who brought 60 Minutes to our screens. “He let nothing get in his way, not even Kerry Packer,” Ray Martin said at his funeral at the original Nine studio in Willoughby where it all began.
The funeral of Paul Murphy (77), host of the ABC’s PM and SBS’s Dateline, was attended by Paul Keating. The former prime minister said: “Where he would trip you up was to let you trip yourself up. He was a great servant of the public interest of Australia.”
Alan Ramsey (82), journalist and columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, had a 56-year career in journalism and wrote a weekend column for the Herald between 1987 and 2008. One former colleague said ”he used words like lasers, never missing a target. At his best, he was the most feared political journalist in the country.”
Also writing about politics was Mungo MacCallum, who died in December aged 78, a journalist and commentator described as “a razor-sharp mind till the end and a sparkling wit”.
Former Australian cricketer Dean Jones died of a stroke in Mumbai in September aged 59, prompting tributes from shocked past and present cricket greats. Jones played 52 Tests and scored 11 centuries, but will arguably be best remembered for his one-day international exploits, where he scored 6063 runs, including seven centuries and 46 fifties, in 164 matches.
John Kennedy snr, who coached the Hawks to their first three premierships in 1961, 1971 and 1976, but is remembered for exhorting his losing grand final team of 1975 with the words ‘‘don’t think … don’t hope. Do!’’ died in June at the age of 91.
The world of sport also lost Don Talbot (87), the Australian Olympic Hall of Fame swimming coach, and Dick Tooth (90), a former Wallabies captain, all-round sportsman and pioneering orthopaedic surgeon.
In November ”the world’s best footballer” Diego Maradona died at the age of 60 while the world mourned the loss in January of Los Angeles Lakers basketballer Kobe Bryant (41) who died in a helicopter crash that claimed nine lives, including that of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
The international big and small screens lost many, including some who could only be described as legends. At the age of 104 and a star of Hollywood’s golden age, Olivia de Havilland was best known for her role as Melanie in Gone with the Wind. From the same era was Kirk Douglas, who died aged 103. His rugged good looks made him a commanding presence in Spartacus and The Man From Snowy River.
Sean Connery (90) was considered by many to be the best James Bond. Playing opposite him in Goldfinger was Honor Blackman (94), who was also the first woman in The Avengers. Another Bond girl was Diana Rigg (82), who also played Emma Peel in The Avengers.
Tom Long, who grew up in Benalla and was a self-effacing star of television’s SeaChange and hit movie The Dish, died of encephalitis in the first week of 2020, aged 51.
The world of comedy lost Tim Brooke-Taylor (79) from The Goodies, whose death was due to COVID-19, as well as Monty Python co-founder Terry Jones (77). Australian comedienne and television personality Jeanne Little (82) and stage actress and four-time Tony Award winner Zoe Caldwell (86) also died this year.
In April the poet Bruce Dawe, born in Fitzroy, died in Queensland aged 90. Writing for The Age, Christopher Bantick said ‘‘his subjects raged from the Vietnam War to cornflakes, suburban life to Hiroshima, gardens, books and mateship. He was an accessible and courageous people’s poet.’’
Record producer and label owner Ron Tudor, a tireless advocate for Australian performers and their music as well as a judge on New Faces and Young Talent Time, died in August aged 96.
In the United States, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (87), the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died in September. Architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg subsequently served 27 years on the US Supreme Court, becoming its most prominent member. She was described as a ”tireless and resolute champion of justice”.
Tim Barlass is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald
Maher Mughrabi is features editor at The Age. From 2014 to 2017 he was foreign editor of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.