Neil Pickard

Neil Pickard (1929 – 2007) minister in NSW government
His first church was at Barellan. He arrived on an ex-army Harley-Davidson to find his digs were an earth-floor lean-to with no bathroom or facilities, and a strip of wire netting to keep the snakes out. – Pastor Neil Pickard became an alderman of Dubbo City Council, was Western Regional Chairman of the Liberal Party and was Chairman of the Country Mayors Association. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts, a Diploma of Education, a Master of Education, and a Licentiate in Theology. Neil Pickard was the NSW Minister for Education and later Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy.

NSW hansard transcript – condolence motion for Neil Pickard

I want to share with the House this evening what I think is a terrific story. It is a story that, as Liberal leader in this State, I think should be sung by every one of us. It is about a man who came from humble origins and achieved greatness. Whether it was in his own mind, with the Lord or within his career is for others to judge, but I believe he achieved greatness, and I am sure the Minister for Climate Change will agree with me when he hears his story.

I credit Sally Anne for the insert into the funeral program, which enables me to relate this story. I sat there waiting for the service to start and I was captivated by the story it told me from start to finish. I make no apology for plagiarism in my reading of parts of the insert. Neil was born on 13 February 1929 at Strathfield New South Wales, the eldest of seven children.

The early years were difficult; the Depression was well alive. It was a difficult time in which he was born. It got worse when the father deserted the struggling family in 1941 and the family moved to Redfern. Neil, then aged 12, in an attempt to help his family, left school and got a job at Carey’s Butchery as a delivery boy, later becoming the youngest qualified butcher in Australia.

The plight of the family and Neil’s desire to do something good was also recognised by the local SP bookie, who had him running bets on Saturday mornings for which he received a whole pound. In addition, he took night jobs, either driving bread carts or sorting mail. His mother was also working at this stage but, as the insert said, Neil always regarded these years as the best education anyone could have had.

In his mid-teen years he was described as hanging around the Methodist church at Newtown, and his involvement there so inspired him that he expressed the desire to become a minister. Of course, those who were involved in the church recognised how difficult it would be for someone who had left school at 12 to pass the necessary entrance examinations, so Neil moved into free quarters at the church and was given a crash course in theology and English. He passed all six subjects and was accepted into Leigh College in 1951.

In 1953 his mother died and Neil became guardian to his youngest brother, Frank. He subsequently graduated from Leigh College, and his first posting was as assistant pastor at Lismore Methodist Church, where the minister, Reverend A. J. Keeling, became an important mentor. After Lismore he was transferred to the real bush. His first church was at Barellan. He arrived on an ex-army Harley-Davidson to find his digs were an earth-floor lean-to with no bathroom or facilities, and a strip of wire netting to keep the snakes out.

It is reported that his first service had a congregation of four but that his warmth, his familiarity and his commitment soon ensured that the numbers grew. He subsequently moved to Peak Hill, where his interest in politics began. He became a respected alderman of the Peak Hill Council and it was there that he joined the Liberal Party. In 1965 he thought he had been called to make a life-changing career move and he became an English and History teacher at Dubbo High School. Remember, this was a man who, as a boy, left school because of conditions beyond his control at the age of 12.

His interest in politics continued. He was elected an alderman of Dubbo City Council, Western Regional Chairman of the Liberal Party, and a member of the State Executive of the Liberal Party. He was Chairman of the Country Mayors Association. Neil furthered his own education during two separate periods at the University of Sydney, residing at Wesley College, earning a Bachelor of Arts, a Diploma of Education, a Master of Education, and, later, a Licentiate in Theology at Melbourne University. Neil is an extraordinary role model for any of us.

By 1973 the boy who left school at 12, who worked in a butcher shop, who ran bets for a starting price bookie, was lecturing at the University of Sydney. It was there that the then Premier of New South Wales, Robin Askin, approached him. Neil’s recollection of the conversation was as follows: Askin said to him, “Look, fella, at executive you’re always making a fuss, you never hesitate to throw mud at us—how about you come inside and clean some of it up? How about you nominate for Hornsby?”

Neil nominated for Hornsby, which he won against all comers, and held the seat for 18 years. In 1976, within three years of entering Parliament—an achievement for those of us who have been in opposition for 12 years—he had become Minister for Education, and from 1988 to 1991 he served as Minister for Minerals and Energy.

Complete hansard transcript, which includes a number of condolence motions for the late Neil Pickard :
– starting on page 932



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5 thoughts on “Neil Pickard”

  1. Neil helped me get into my car after I’d locked the keys in it. Glad he was there. Saved me calling the NRMA. It was a Sunday and not many mobile phones or businesses open then. It was a thrill to watch what could be done with some wire through the quarter window of a vehicle.

  2. According to a history of Australian pensions, New South Wales (NSW) introduced child endowment in 1927, the Commonwealth had a lump sum payment for mothers on the birth of their child from 1912. In 1942 deserted wives could apply for the Widows’ pension, before in 1941 the Commonwealth child endowment scheme was introduced (NSW scheme abolished at the same time) however, the first child was not included until 1950? This is puzzling and as Neil was the first child one wonders if there was a gap back in those days.

  3. In the light of someone’s passing certain things may have to be said. People who liked Neil claimed he said that when he was a Methodist minister for 9 years he did not know what it meant. These people were using him as evidence of the supposed superior spirituality of their groups that Neil was in. So what is that saying about the Methodist denomination that did so much for him? Let us hope he did know what it meant before he died. God is truth.

  4. I cannot think of a person who has had so much done for him by others and he receives the accolades. The Methodists introduced him to sport, drama, singing, girls, Skakespeare, poetry and music, and also gave him free quarters to study. He had opportunities others in his position could only dream of.

  5. Thank you for this tribute. Neil was my Godfather and a wonderful man. I’m glad he’s been remembered here.

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