Happy Valley pair hopes for marriage ‘yes’
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.