In Memoriam: Paul Shetler

Paul Shetler

Paul Shetler

Paul did what too few in public service do these days: he firmly stood up for those of us government is meant to serve, and fought fiercely on our behalf to correct obviously harmful policy and practice. He did so at some considerable cost to his career and his standing within the Australian political sphere. He was in a hurry, and was in no mood to suffer the excuses of those who had failed us for so long.

While I can’t say that I knew Paul well, I was struck by his steadfast belief in holding those you serve firmly in your mind at all times. We are enveloped in too many bureaucratic systems designed by those who have lost sight of the people who must navigate these systems. They have lost their empathy and compassion for us, who they see as other, as separate, from themselves—when they think of us at all. Paul kept his compassion, and instead aimed his ire at those who were responsible for creating these systems, and who could, if they chose to, make them different.

It’s true that his approach rubbed some people the wrong way. I believe those people deserved it.

They deserved it because they chose to think mostly of themselves instead of the public that they were appointed to serve. They chose to continue building systems that required regular feeding with the blood, sweat, and tears of the very human beings they were supposed to help. They chose to ignore huge mountains of evidence of harm, and that their approach was wrong, and that it should be changed and changed quickly.

They chose to fail us.

Paul shared the anger of the wronged, and proudly joined his voice with theirs. He used his privileged position to draw clear attention to the pain and suffering of those who tend to get ignored by the Kafkaesque machinery of the Game of Mates that has polluted too much of Australian public life. He reminded us that it doesn’t have to be this way, that we deserve better. He reminded us that it is not only possible, it should be expected.

Paul and I did not always agree, but I enjoyed his company nonetheless on those few occasions we were able to share a meal or conversation. I am better for having met him, and I am saddened that I will never get to do so again.

Let us remember the better world he was striving to build and keep it alive in our hearts as we continue building without him. I hope that, someday quite soon, I will be able to look contentedly at what we have accomplished and think “Paul would have liked this.”

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2 Comments

  1. I have known Paul since I was a very little girl; as my sister Annie and Paul were inseparable friends, who went to high school together. I became friends with Paul and his wonderful family too. Annie and Paul were outrageously funny; and they both shared so many stories of their radical teenage years. But they would always be friends- after all the years passed. Yes, Paul stood up for people and civil rights all his life. He was and is a genius of a man with a vibrant personality and charisma that lit up the room wherever he went. He had a sharp wit and was very well read as far as history and world politics now. Paul was outrageous and hysterically funny at times; and he was very serious other times. His younger sister Marianne, -who has so much of Paul in her ways, is still one of my very best of friends. One can really see so much of Paul in his family. His soul carries on in them. His charm and brilliance burns on like a torch that will continue the message of peace and goodness and awesome memories. On that note I too am devastated by his passing at such an untimely part of his
    life. My heart goes out to Marianne, Chris and his beautiful mommy Irene.

  2. VALE my friend Paul a fierce defender of public good . We shared an aspiration for better fairer and smarter delivery of government services. He was a digital guru who cherish human creativity. The humans of government and the citizens were his guiding light. His enemy was politics that served shallow self interest of arrogant ministers & bureaucrats.

    He fought hard for the good and right use of technology and railed against theatre .

    I will miss your sage advice your generous sharing of practices and principles and our shared aspiration to use technology to deliver more and better services.

    So sad you have gone but so glad you came into my life and let me and all who met you better. Forever in my secure cloud.

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