A couple of weeks ago the Men’s Resource Centre in Albany invited Julian Krieg from Wheatbelt Men's Health to town and he gave a strong talk about men and their risky behaviour.
During his chat Julian said that throughout his life he had always had a older male mentor, someone other than his father, someone he could talk to about his journey.
In my boyhood years that man in my life was my grandfather, a journalist and story teller, a disabled man who never complained, even when the fish refused to bite.
For many of my middle years there was no such man, but last week an old friend turned up in Albany and as I sat listening to him I was reminded of his intelligence and wisdom.
This is him, I thought, if ever there was an older man in my life who caused me to listen and learn. The funny thing is, he’s younger.
I first met Richard Walley when he turned up at a radio station at WAIT, now Curtin University. I was working at 6NR as an announcer and Richard arrived with his friend and teammate, Ernie Dingo. The two were regular contributors to an Aboriginal radio show and inevitably they were tossing around a basketball and tall stories.
We next teamed up when Richard was the master of ceremonies of a weekly comedy show at the Federal Hotel in Fremantle, a hotel run by Mark Manea, of the well-known Bunbury Maneas.
By then Richard had all the poise and confidence of a seasoned performer and he could tell a joke, a long story rich with meaning and a bloke to leave the premises.
During that comedy run all kinds of funny people turned up, Austen Tayshus, Russell Gilbert, Elliot Goblet, Peter Rosethorn and a few humble locals desperate to make their way. These included this writer in a trio called Off the Wall.
Through all this mayhem Richard Walley stood tall, humorous and dignified. The rest of us did what we could and there were times when Off the Wall had to be scraped down from one.
Over the years I bumped into Richard here and there and he always sat, talked and left me feeling warm, honoured and enlightened.
About six years ago we spent a few days together in Manjimup, during a cherry festival and it was over that weekend that I realised the man meant more to me than I had previously acknowledged.
Richard Walley’s CV includes a gig blowing didgeridoo at London’s Royal Albert Hall, an honorary doctorate from Murdoch University and involvement in the greatest modern Olympic Games in Sydney, but all this fades when I consider what he has given and continues to give, to his people, both Noongar and Wadjela, his country, and to me.