A lifetime of giving

Des Custerson working at the Dandenong Stockyard.

By Casey Neill

 Des Custerson’s family has welcomed news that a Dandenong park will soon bear his name.
Greater Dandenong Councillors agreed to ask the Office of Geographic Names to rename Dawn Reserve the Des Custerson Reserve at their Monday 9 April meeting.
“Des was a well-known Dandenong identity,” Cr Matthew Kirwan said.
He started the Chubbies Dance Band with his wife Maureen and they performed at venues in the region for 50 years, until Des was 84.
The duo raised money for charities, including Dandenong and District Hospital.
Des also had a long association with the St Mary’s Parish and Dandenong football clubs and worked for the council for nearly 30 years.
“Des and Maureen embraced the diversity of Dandenong and always welcomed new migrants to the area,” Cr Kirwan said.
“He was a gentle and ethical man that shared his love of Dandenong and football with his neighbours.”
Neil Custerson said his dad battled cancer for 20 years and died four weeks shy of his 87th birthday, in April 2016.
“To have it renamed is just extremely humbling but also well-deserved for lifetime of giving,” he said.
He said the name was collective recognition for both parents.
“My mum’s family were born and bred in Dandenong,” he said.
“Dad really was a bit of a pioneer.
“He stood up for the new migrants.
“Dandenong’s really become a thriving multicultural melting pot.
“Back then the seeds were sewn.
“A lot of people came to dad and asked for general life advice.
“He was a great communicator on all levels, from princes to paupers.”
Neil and his sister Rose Custerson–Ahrens both said their dad instilled in them a respect for “new Australians”.
“I just find it really lovely that he’s going to have that park after him because it’s so diverse in Dandenong now,” Ms Custerson-Ahrens said.
“Dad would not have thought this in a million years, he was such a humble man.”
She said her mum was now in care in Kooweerup, aged 85.
Cr Jim Memeti said he’d known the family since the late ‘70s and spent time with them in Sunset Grove.
He said the council needed to look at its policy of not naming locations after living people.
“The family came to me a few years ago while he was alive,” Cr Memeti said.

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