Occasional Observer

On September 1st, 2010, The Taronga Foundation, one of BTG’s most beloved wildlife charities, celebrated their 10th Anniversary with a dinner to thank the tireless Governors and Patrons for their ongoing support. BTG, a founding Governor, was overseas this night and thus very sad not to be able to accept this special invitation, or agree to the organisers’ request to speak to the impressive assembly of honoured guests. However, determined not to disappoint those who have meant so much to him, BTG agreed to send a short address of thanks to be read out by the Taronga Foundation’s venerated Chairman, Dr Maurice Newman, AC, one of Australia’s most respected businessmen and philanthropists, and also one of BTG’s dearest friends. What follows is the transcript of BTG’s extraordinary remarks, as delivered with heroic deadpan by the august Maurice Newman, respected Chairman of both the ABC and the Australian Stock Exchange. This unlikely combination of dignity and fiendish wit was the hit of the night, and, when you read the script, it’s easy to see why this performance brought the house down:

Maurice Newman

Bradley Trevor Greive

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“Honoured guests, fellow Governors and Patrons, Thirsty souls,

It is a genuine pleasure to channel my disembodied voice past the well-formed tonsils of our illustrious Foundation Chairman. Nevertheless, I deeply regret not being on the fashionable side of the Pacific to partake in this evening’s luminous throb. The Taronga Foundation’s 10th anniversary is a truly special occasion, a defining moment wholly worthy of state, national and indeed global recognition … and of course there are few things more endearing and amusing than tipsy Zoophiles.

I am desperately proud to have been present at The Foundation’s immaculate inception, but I feel doubly honoured for having been able to enjoy the company of my fellow Governors and Patrons along the way – What a dashing and dynamic, well-shod group we make – Such creative, accomplished and generous benefactors are almost as rare these days as many of the precious creatures whose vital cause we champion.

Now fully realised as The Taronga Conservation Society of Australia, Taronga Zoo has come a very long way – From the bare minimum that a civilized society could accept, to a noble institution of profound and increasing global importance and an object of un-muffled international envy.

Much else has changed since the Taronga Foundation was formed. The environmental, financial and political challenges we face have escalated, but our commitment, benevolence and enduring resolve has more than kept pace, thanks, in large part, to a sound strategy and tremendous leadership.

I cannot stress enough how much I admire, nay revere, the firm-loined gentleman gifting sonorous voice to my exquisitely crafted remarks.

I wholeheartedly applaud the commanding silhouettes and winning smiles of Len Bleasel, Cameron Kerr, Matt Fuller, Cameron Mowat, Linda Newton, Simon Duffy, Paul Maguire, Hayley Holloway, Richard Morecroft, and every current and previous member of the Zoological Parks Board and TCSA team who  have fulfilled the promises we made, and have helped us achieve more in this, our tenth year, than any reasonable person could have imagined.

I am supremely grateful to the NSW Government Ministers and Staffers who, throughout a decade featuring spasms of political turmoil that history will no doubt declare a flummery of ineptitude, did not lose sight of humanity’s obligation to set and achieve ambitious wildlife conservation and education goals.

The simple truth is that we have been able to inspire others because we were first, ourselves, inspired. So it is also appropriate, on an occasion such as this, to make special mention of some of those early believers whose tireless endeavours shaped the cornerstone of our vision and paved the way for our success, namely: Bob Debus, Michael Egan, Julie Brown, Shanthini Naidoo, and the late John Kelly.

And of course, where on God’s green, blue and ecru earth would we be without Guy Cooper? Sure, our resident silverback, Kibabu, may have been a marginally more physical lover – at least in public – during his prime – but no human being has given greater service to this noble institution than Australia’s Father of The Year.

Furthermore, The Zoo’s recent Directorial transition has been flawless. Yes, we lost a slim-hipped tango dancer of great renown, but we gained a fearless dawn surfer. In short, the TCSA continues to be in secure and perversely energetic hands as we approach our glittering centenary.

As I travel the world, meeting with our conservation partners and walking the wild verge, it is painfully clear there is much to be done. Make no mistake, a great and empty darkness gathers itself just beyond the horizon. However, for the Taronga Foundation at least and, most importantly, the unique and wondrous creatures we have pledged to save, the future is bright with hope. And this bright light, this same wonderful light we see reflected on the face of every child that comes to Taronga Zoo and Taronga Western Plains Zoo, is a living legacy we can all be proud of.

After years of happy philanthropic moil I still can’t honestly tell you why the Taronga Foundation has done so well. In the 3,652 days since we came into being I have seem bigger and smaller charitable entities of equal virtue struggle under less difficult circumstances than ours. Thus I can only assume that it is the innate, organic chemistry of the Patrons and Governors, our supporters and the TCSA faculty that makes all the difference.

And so, tonight, I close my astral address by saluting the unholy yet blessed alchemy of our mortal union, collective will and the righteous passion of our excruciatingly critical cause.

To each and every one of you, from the most belligerent anchor of industrial might, to the friskiest Harbour City nymph, I thank you all for giving the best of yourself to the Taronga Foundation and for being, and for continuing to be, charismatic champions of compassionate capitalism.

Naked primates, if you will, please join my handsome flesh-puppet and dear friend, Mr Maurice Newman, and raise your glasses for a rousing toast…

To us – To life on earth – To the Taronga Foundation!”

Bradley Trevor Greive
September 1st,  2010.

Pathi Harn (whose name means ‘Miracle’ in Thai), a true miracle elephant baby born at Taronga Zoo and a very precious part of the Asian Elephant breeding and conservation program funded by the Taronga Foundation.

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