Syd Tutton (1937 -2010) champion of the poor and marginalized
Syd Tutton spent his life as a fighter for social justice and was the national president of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia from 2008. He was fond of quoting St Francis of Assisi, who said to his followers: ”Preach the gospel and sometimes use words.” Following the example of Jesus of Nazareth, Syd believed passionately in taking the side of the marginalized even if this meant challenging the powerful.
Syd lived, and died, as a fighter for social justice. This, for him, was what it meant to be a man of faith. Following the example of Jesus of Nazareth, Syd believed passionately in taking the side of the marginalized even if this meant challenging the powerful. For Syd, a person of deep prayer and real compassion, this was at the heart of the Gospel. He made it his goal to bring social justice back to the centre of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia. In this respect he was fond of quoting the gentle Francis of Assisi who was remembered as saying to his followers: “Preach the gospel and sometimes use words”.
Born on 22nd May, 1937, in working class Richmond, Syd savoured the lessons of his childhood and threw himself into the rough-and-tumble of life in all its aspects: social, economic, intellectual, cultural, political and personal. This included overseas service with the Royal Australian Navy as a Reservist and National Serviceman, a time he remembered with great fondness and humour.
In 1958, he founded one of the first credit unions to provide low interest rates for the people of working-class Richmond. A strong believer in mutuality he also served as Vice-Chairman of the Board of the Catholic based Hospital Benefits Association.
Syd was incapable of sitting still. He had a remarkable ability to enthuse and energise those around him. His interests and activities were diverse, to say the least. He played a leading role in the Young Christian Workers, including their Cricket Association, Umpires Appointment Board and Football Association Tribunal. He was also involved in the founding of the “Loyola Musical Society”, where he met and fell in love with Josephine Reay. They married in 1966 and together they had six children and ten grandchildren. At the time of his death another grandchild was on the way. Wherever he was and whatever he did, Syd’s family was always close to his heart.
He loved both politics and religion and was not afraid to talk about either of them. Whatever Syd committed himself to meant a substantial commitment of time and personal energy. He was incapable of being a bystander. He always had a hands-on involvement with the church, serving variously as Parish Council member, Lector and Special Minister. He was involved in the establishment of the Catholic Retirement Village, served as Chairperson of the Inter-Church Social Justice Group and, more recently, served as a co-patron of the St Mary’s House of Welcome (Daughters of Charity) Building Appeal. He was also personally involved in both the ALP and the DLP, even standing at one stage as a candidate for the State Seat of Richmond. Moving on from what he saw as the narrow vision associated with “The Movement” he was grateful for the first-hand experience of political life, citing, for example, the deep mutual respect and friendship he even enjoyed with a local Communist activist.
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