‘A lawyer with great understanding, a judge with great compassion, and a poet with great vocabulary’– Dr Siobhann Bourke, a former student of Peter’s at The Geelong College. The son of a South Australian farmer of German descent, Peter was sent to boarding school at Geelong Grammar at the age of six. Having a German surname during World War II meant he was made to feel like an outsider, even though his father was fighting with the Allied forces in Tobruk and New Guinea. A boarder until he was 18, Peter learned that he was vulnerable and that institutions can be damaging; he came to believe that the teaching process should encourage confidence – mental and physical. His maternal grandfather, whom Peter idolised, was Major General Edmund Drake-Brockman, a distinguished Australian soldier, statesman and post-war Chief Judge of the Federal Arbitration Court. Fittingly, in 1955, a 19 year- old Peter commenced law at the University of Melbourne. Following graduation, Peter taught English and Latin at Geelong Grammar before moving to Shore (SCEGS) in Sydney. As well as English, he was called upon to teach geography (new to Peter) as well as being the rugby coach, a game which he had only ever played once. He once wrote: ‘Monday morning assembly was sheer agony as 50-plus teams reported on their wins and losses’. In 1963, Peter married Christina and left for America where Peter was to take his Master of Arts in Teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. It was at Harvard that Peter became acutely aware of the racial divide that was to influence so much of his life and work. ‘I became acutely conscious of our own dreadful history with respect to the original owners of the land,’ he wrote. ‘For me it was a moral turning point.’ After a stint at Milton Academy, Massachusetts, Peter, aged 29, became Headmaster of All Saints College, Bathurst (1967–1975), where he is remembered for his extraordinary vision and energy, and early advocacy of Indigenous education. PETER GEBHARDT 23 AUGUST 1936 – 22 JULY 2017 OBITUARIES 44 Trinitytoday This did not translate well at The Geelong College where he was Principal from 1976–1985. A later Principal, Paul Sheehan, recently said, ‘Peter’s legacy lives on in many facets of life, but none more so than at The Geelong College where he changed the face of education through ideas that were ahead of their time.’ Peter, aged 50, returned to law. First as a clerk, then barrister, and was appointed a judge of the Victorian County Court in 1996, where he served with distinction until his retirement 10 years later. His down-to-earth candour and championing of the underdog earned him criticism as a judge. A favourite saying of his that echoed both callings was, ‘Opening the doors for young people will save the need for keys to a cell.’ In 2008, Peter was enlisted as ‘a foot soldier’ by Trinity’s sixth Warden, Don Markwell and then Director of Advancement, Clare Pullar, to assist in furthering the Indigenous programs at Trinity. Peter commented that working with Aboriginal students, giving them support, care and love, made his post-retirement years a wonderful time. One of those students was Kyle Lancaster (TC 2008), who wrote: ‘I met Peter during a very difficult time. Many people came in and out of my life during this stage, but not Peter, he was always there for me during good times and bad times. Whenever my life felt as if it were spiralling out of control, his calm jovial voice would always give me comfort.’ Another former student, now medical doctor, Robert James (TC 2008) wrote: ‘Peter had a deep understanding of Aboriginal culture and tradition, and the difficulties most Aborigines face as a result of colonialism and displacement. Many of us came from fractured lives and Peter was the father figure in whom we could confide and from whom we could seek guidance. He frequently advocated for us, and through his incredible sense of justice and conviction, Peter ensured we had opportunities free of racism and equal to our peers. His passing signifies a great loss to us all.’ His last book of poetry, Crabbed Age and Youth, was a collaboration with another former Trinity student and poet, Dougal Hurley (TC 2011). In Dougal’s words, ‘Peter brought self-deprecating wit and a radiant ease to all of his encounters. He was a monumental man who taught me the value of reciprocity. His rare gift for making people hopeful and exultant about living will not be soon forgotten by all who knew him.’ Peter is survived by Christina, their children Nicholas, Sophie and Anna, and grandchildren Ruby, Max and Matilda. BY KAY ATTALI