The following is the text of a eulogy delivered at the funeral of Peter John Young at the Wayside Chapel, Kings Cross on 28 August 2022. It details some of the many achievements of Peter’s activism.
We all probably knew a different Peter: the country lawyer, the brother, the partner, the hilarious jokester, the activist. For many of us here in our 2011 community he was a tireless advocate for human rights, a man who knew the law inside and out, passionate about keeping government accountable and transparent – so relevant today – and a walking encyclopedia of contemporary political history. Put all these – and other – patchwork quilt images together and we get a wonderful portrait of Peter, a great friend and a dedicated colleague.
In the Rushcutters Bay Park in 2010 Peter was one of a group fighting to save the caretaker’s cottage and its nearby gazebo-stye tennis cafe from being demolished.
Peter was for years the Secretary of the 2011 Residents’ Association, whose members defend public amenity in our area. Victories won with Peter’s help have included new public toilets under the Kings Cross Police Station (achieved after a gruelling six year campaign) and a community garden in Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo.
Seeing steep increases of alcohol-based violence and anti-social behaviour in the Cross, Peter became an outspoken supporter of the NSW State Government’s 2014 lockout laws. He founded the #TeamOrange activist group which took to the streets to encourage locals to vote in support of those laws which had brought back peace and civility to our streets.
Peter supported the Save Fitzroy Gardens group which saved the beautiful heritage-listed Gardens from a series of intrusive redevelopments proposed by Council.
In 2018 Peter was involved in a campaign against a planned ugly and bulky redevelopment of The Bourbon. After the campaign Council backed down on the original plan.
Peter was one of the founding members of the Kings Cross Arts and Cultural Festival. That organisation was responsible for three highly popular Kings Cross Dog Shows, under the patronage of Louis Nowra and Mandy Sayer and featuring the local identity Ru Bella. That organisation also staged the Candles of the Cross event to commemorate the Mardi Gras 78ers and put on talks in the Cross Art Gallery, including one on the history and the architecture of the Minerva Theatre.
Peter used to go in most weekdays to the Kings Cross Community Centre, whose mission to support local tenants and the homeless he admired, and where he would often give valued suggestions and advice based on his knowledge and broad experience of the wider world. In recent years Peter could be seen in front of the Centre each Thursday, dressed in his signature top hat, hard at work shining shoes and boots to raise funds for the Centre.
For us in 2011 Peter was an effective man of action whose efforts had great ramifications — laws and regulations improved, parks and facilities approved and horrible DAs rejected. His efforts benefit ordinary citizens today in Kings Cross, the Sydney CBD and in certain cases right across the state.