‘Big heart’ for family and community

Syd Pargeter with his granddaughter Eden in 2002.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells


Sydney Herbert Pargeter OAM

16/9/1928 – 4/9/2020

Sydney Herbert Pargeter OAM was sparked into 27 years of service for Doveton as a councillor, shire president and city mayor by a throwaway line by a Narre Warren North pastoralist.

The farmer mused of Mr Pargeter’s then-home suburb: “All those houses and not a leader amongst them”.

Mr Pargeter was a leader, whose works stand to this day such as Doveton Pool in the Park and the region’s free library service.

His name bestows the Sydney Pargeter Reserve in Endeavour Hills.

On 16 October, rich tributes were made to Mr Pargeter at a funeral service sparsely attended due to Covid-19 restrictions.

During a eulogy, former mayor and state MP Neil Lucas joked that this would be a “rare opportunity that I have today to say something about Syd without having a right of reply”.

“Syd the man, when I first came to know him in the 1960’s was a tall fellow with quite a physique, and certainly claimed everyone’s attention when he argued his case.

“He was absolutely committed to obtaining the very best facilities and services for his community and at budget time would work the room with the other Councillors initiating cross-support deals to achieve what he wanted.”

In the 1960’s, Mr Pargeter – as president of the Doveton Progress Association – lobbied for Doveton to have its own representative at the Shire of Berwick council.

In 1965, he was elected as the ward’s first councillor. He was installed as Shire President in 1969, and City of Berwick mayor in 1982 during his “very long innings at the council table”, Mr Lucas said.

The Pargeter’s front fence on the corner of Power and Kidd roads was strewn with election posters at each election.

“And they worked – Syd was an extremely well-known local councillor and regularly topped the poll.”

Even after the Pargeters moved to Harkaway, he remained a councillor for Doveton.

“I might live in Harkaway but my soul lives in Doveton,” Mr Pargeter would say.

Mr Lucas recalled: “In fact Syd maintained a post office box in Doveton and we all assumed that his soul lived in the post box.”

Mr Pargeter was part of a Berwick Shire Severence Movement that successfully split the former Shire of Berwick into the fast-developing City of Berwick and the rural Shire of Pakenham.

In 2005, Mr Pargeter wrote a book on City of Berwick’s formation – The Money Miracle That Paid for a ‘New Town’ and Created Australia’s Best New City.

He initiated the formal Sister City relationship with the Borough of Berwick-Upon-Tweed in England.

He was a leader of community groups such Doveton High School’s council, board member of Doveton Credit Co-Operative Union and Doveton-Hallam Community Health Centre, Doveton Community Bus Committee and the Police Paddocks Co-Ordinating Committee.

He narrowly missed a state upper house seat for the ALP in the 1967 election, and chaired the opening of Gough Whitlam’s federal election campaign opening at Dandenong Town Hall in 1969.

Son Greg Pargeter described growing up in the “growing suburb” of Doveton – home to tens of thousands of post-war immigrants with young families.

“The 60’s were an idyllic time with lots of kids to play with as we rode our bikes around the neighbourhood.”

Residents mainly worked for General Motors Holden, Heinz and International Harvester’s factories, as well as other industries in the Dandenong region.

Mr Pargeter lobbied as part of Doveton Progress Association to address the “lagging” social, educational, sporting and medical infrastructure.

The family home would be “witness to a sea of endless faces seeking a solution to their trevails”, son Greg recalled of his father’s role as councillor.

Doveton’s pool was created as a result of children drowning in Dandenong and Eumemmerring creeks.

Mr Pargeter successfully argued for increasing rates on the nearby multinational factories to fund the pool, sparing the residents of financial burden.

He also persuaded then-Premier Henry Bolte to sell State land for $2 to establish Power Reserve – the home of Doveton Lions Football Club.

Another of his initiatives was the annual Riding of the Bounds event at Akoonah Park, Berwick.

Born in Ballarat in a family of six children, Mr Pargeter often remarked he was a “child of the Depression” – a time of “mend or make-do”, his daughter Sue told the service.

Mr Pargeter had academic and sporting success at high school, son Greg Pargeter told the service.

Mr Pargeter was part of Ballarat High School’s first victorious schoolboys rowing team, beating large private schools on Lake Wendouree.

In the 1950’s, he studied at Massey Agricultural College in New Zealand and hosted the ‘Country Hour’ on ABC Radio in Tasmania.

He met his future wife Pearl Spink while she holidayed in Tasmania. They were married for 53 years until Ms Pargeter’s death in 2008.

Mr Pargeter was a teacher at schools such as Doveton North Technical School.

He retired from official civic service in 1992 – a stint that earned him an Order of Australia Medal (OAM).

After that time, he led vocal campaigns for the public good.

His last was in 2017 when he called for the disused Harkaway quarry to become a spectacular water park.

It would include an equestrian trail and a landscaped artesian lake – transformed like the former quarry at Wilson Botanic Park in Berwick.

The future of the site is still undetermined.

Son Greg told the service: “Ultimately, Dad had a big heart for family life and community life – where we can all shine brighter and achieve more if we work together.”


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