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Docklander - March 2018

26 Feb 2018

Docklander - March 2018 Image

Dally Messenger III, the trailblazer

By Meg Hill

If you’re out to disprove the urban myth that Docklands “lacks community”, you might want to sit down in a local cafe with Dally Messenger III.

Dally was at the forefront of the civil celebrant movement, ran a dance magazine, has written several books and is the grandson of the legendary rugby player of the same name – but this Dockland’s local is a salt-of-the-earth (or should I say sea) type.

Sitting at the Mad Duck at Yarra’s Edge, Dally addresses staff by name and waves and smiles at passers by.

When asked how long he’s been in Docklands, Dally recites the date of his move – December 3, 2003 – before answering the question with 15 years.

“When we moved in, this area we’re sitting in now was rubble, there was no ANZ bank – there wasn’t a building over the other side,” Dally said.

Admittedly, Dally was pessimistic at first. But now considers it his best move.

“There’s a real sense of community. I’ve read stuff that says this is a soulless place and it isn’t. It’s very communal,” he said.

Dally said his only real concern about Docklands was overdevelopment.

“Our whole economy depends on ceaseless building and everyone profits from it, apart from ordinary people like you and I,” he said.

Dally is particularly opposed to the proposed tram bridge downstream from the marina.

“If they build it over the marina we’ll have all the noise and all the overdevelopment and will put people out of business,” he said.

“Perhaps I’m being a bit NIMBY, but here is the quietest place I’ve ever lived and I’d rather like it staying quiet. It will destroy the quality of life a bit.”

A few days before sitting down with Docklands News, Dally celebrated his 80th birthday.

“The building manager had a big sign up on the screen, everyone in the building knew it was my birthday.”

“I walked into the Mad Duck and people jumped up and shook my hand. Turning 80 isn’t very pleasant, but the blow is softened when you have people around you like that.”

Over his 80 years, Dally has reinvented himself in many ways, but has always carried a bleeding-heart with him.

As a young man, Dally was on his way to becoming a priest. Ironically, he later became one of the leaders of the civil celebrant movement in Australia in the early 70s.

Before Lionel Murphy reformed marriage laws to introduce celebrants, Dally estimates around 92 per cent of marriages took place in the Church.

The others were officiated in dusty, un-romantic registry offices.

“People went to church, if they didn’t they felt guilty about it. Divorce was too expensive, so people would separate unofficially and not be able to marry again,” he said.

Dally had notably progressive views on marriage and social issues for the era. In fact, he still does.

Of course, someone who has devoted so much of their life to marriage and ceremony has an opinion on our latest debates.

“If you’re appointed by the state as a civil celebrant, anyone that’s entitled to be married, you should marry them,” Dally said.

“I want people to be happy. When I was first a civil celebrant homosexuality was a criminal offence – why?”

“The whole thing behind the civil celebrant movement, behind Dance Australia the magazine, behind my books, is to contribute to some total human happiness.”

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