Happy Val­ley pair hopes for mar­riage ‘yes’

Alpine Observer - - News - By JAMIE KRONBORG

ALAIN Thilliez and Don Mathe­son have two great prospects.

The first is one which they see each and ev­ery day come wind or weather: the panorama of tilled or mown pad­docks in their sea­son, be­yond Happy Val­ley Creek, and of the tree-clad hills of the Myrtle­ford Plan­ta­tion above Con­nelly’s Gully.

The sec­ond is one they might re­alise next year if the Aus­tralian statis­ti­cian, David Kalisch, at 10 o’clock this morn­ing con­firms that a ma­jor­ity of the coun­try’s vot­ers want peo­ple of the same sex to be able to marry.

The two men, who have shared their lives since 1984, ex­pect a pos­i­tive out­come from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s $122 mil­lion, na­tional, non-bind­ing, non-com­pul­sory postal sur­vey of en­rolled vot­ers to change the Mar­riage Act – which since 2004 has de­fined law­ful mar­riage as the union of a man and a woman to the ex­clu­sion of all oth­ers.

“I think the vote is go­ing to come in at about 60:40 (in favour of mar­riage equal­ity), but then there are the stodgy ones (in fed- eral par­lia­ment) – and those old di­nosaurs will be want­ing to slow (change) right down be­fore Alain and I can marry,” Don said.

“Alain would like to be mar­ried and I would like to do it for him.”

French-born Alain, who grew up the son of a fam­ily of bak­ers in Ar­ras in the Pas de Calais in north­ern France, would also like the church to bless their mar­riage.

“I would like it to be as it is in France – the civil mar­riage and the church bless­ing,” he said.

“The two com­po­nents should be sep­a­rate. But that’s what I would like.”

It may be a stretch for the Angli­can Church in Aus­tralia quickly to re­spond to pos­i­tive, na­tional sup­port for change, but Alain and Don are mind­ful of the en­cour­ag­ing, re­ported views of John Parkes, Angli­can bishop of Wan­garatta, on the ques­tion of mar­riage equal­ity.

Don was a Qan­tas long- haul flight stew­ard when he met Alain in Syd­ney 33 years ago.

They shortly after­wards moved to Myrtle­ford where Don’s fam­ily op­er­ated Ovens and Kiewa Con­crete – now known as Maw­sons.

Don also wanted to build a so­lar-pas­sive house in a place that had been home to him as a child and teenager. It was a match that worked. “I think we’re lucky, you know,” Alain said.

“You’ve got to have op­po­sites to work to­gether.

“It’s not al­ways a smooth road – it can be a bumpy road – but you learn to be tol­er­ant.”

Af­ter his fa­ther died Don and Alain opened a Myrtle­ford store called Val­ley Goods Trad­ing from which they sold new and used fur­ni­ture.

They after­wards set up an an­tique store in New­cas­tle and moved there for al­most 10 years.

“Then we came back down here to check on the house at one stage and there was a big old 1950s servo that was empty op­po­site the Savoy Club, now where the car­wash is,” Don said.

“It was early spring and there was snow on the moun­tains and bab­bling brooks – and we thought this is just where we’re sup­posed to be.”

They opened and op­er­ated what be­came their highly pop­u­lar Wood Street an­tique store un­til 2006 when cus­tomer in­ter­est in old fur­ni­ture waned but a new op­por­tu­nity open with the pair’s keen eye and fine car­pen­try skills.

“So it mor­phed from deal­ing in an­tique fur­ni­ture to build­ing pieces – pe­riod and mod­ern – for cus­tomers,” Don said.

The pair con­tin­ues to make fur­ni­ture – kitchens, bed­room suites, side­boards, book­cases, the range of do­mes­tic fur­ni­ture – “all day, ev­ery day”.

They also have a much-loved brood of Welsh Cardi­gan cor­gis.

Don heads daily to the work­shop. Alain works Wed­nes­day and Fri­day af­ter­noon and Satur­day morn­ing in Alpine Health’s Bright op­por­tu­nity shop and teaches French at Bright U3A on Fri­day morn­ing.

There’s tea and cof­fee on the din­ing ta­ble while dogs Mau­ricette and Char­lotte each vie for their masters’ at­ten­tion.

“A kid we know from a Catholic fam­ily here – his par­ents are say­ing: ‘Who are we to stop some­one get­ting mar­ried? If two peo­ple care for each other who are we to stop them?’” Don said.

Come today Alain and Don and many other cou­ples who wish to marry will know the strength of such sen­ti­ments.

SUP­PORT: North East com­mu­ni­ties such as Beech­worth in two ral­lies have strongly sup­ported recog­ni­tion of di­ver­sity in the past year.

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