Phil Cleary grew up in Coburg in Melbourne’s northern suburbs where he completed an Arts degree at La Trobe University, majoring in politics and sociology. He is a former teacher, VFA/VFL premiership player and coach, and Independent member of the federal parliament – winning former PM Bob Hawke’s seat of Wills at a by-election in 1992 and at the general election in 1993.
Phil is a passionate advocator against family violence, and the author of three books; Cleary Independent (1998), Just another little murder (2002) and Getting away with murder (2005).
Since the murder of his 25-year-old sister, Vicki, in 1987 Phil has been at the forefront of the campaign to stop violence against women. It’s widely acknowledged that his books, newspaper articles and media commentaries were pivotal to the abolition of the law of provocation in Victoria and changing community attitudes to violence against women. Phil is active in speaking to football clubs, community groups and businesses on how they can play a role in ending violence against women.
In July 2016, Phil was appointed to the Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council. Following the recommendations handed down by the Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Victorian Government established the council to advise and consult on the extensive family violence reform agenda in the state. Chaired by former Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, and comprising of 12 members who all have a lived experience of family violence, Phil has contributed to the work of the council in many significant ways.
Phil has played a major role in shaping how Victoria responds, and works to prevent, family violence. The level and type of engagement is unseen in other jurisdictions both in Australia and overseas.
Whilst the anti-violence campaign has become a major part of my life, I did spend 4 years in the federal parliament, 18 years as a player and coach with Coburg in the VFA/VFL, 30 years broadcasting VFA/VFL football, have interviewed a stream of AFL identities – Malthouse, Judd, Brereton, Roos, et al – for the Northern Blues breakfasts and have a regular spot on SEN with Andy Maher and Bob Murphy.
I also discussed the McEnroe – Court issue with them and the Sports Grants question.
I have watched Phil Cleary captivate audiences at various speaking functions over the last year, many different audiences, and many different topics. Last Saturday he was the last of six speakers, presenting to over 100 people in a warm stuffy room. "Well he certainly woke me up", "I wanted more", "Blew my socks off", were some of the comments I got from people as they clamoured to shake his hand afterwards. Hard hitting, but always with a sense of humour, Phil Cleary comes into his own in front of a room full of people. Pure entertainment yet packed with plenty of food for thought. His unique style captivates people in a way that few people can in these days of quiet politeness and mediocrity. He paints pictures of people, situations and circumstances that draw the audience in. He takes them with him on his journey, and they always keep up. One woman who has a PhD said ' it was wonderful to be taken on such a great intellectual pursuit ...I couldn't remember feeling so alive and switched on mentally for a very long time…' He makes people laugh and cry, strive for more and feel brave. His experiences, as a teacher, a politician and a football coach allow him to tune into an audience, challenge the mental hurdles that they have erected and push through them. People emerge less precious, more aware of how we all interact and have a role in this world and more prepared to accept responsibility for their own decisions and actions. I have never known anyone, after hearing Phil in full flight, who hasn't taken something new, unique or exciting away with them, when they left the room.
The ball of energy and passion that is legendary VFA hard man and media commentator, Phil Cleary, swept into Pyramid Hill on 14 June as the headline act for the men's health night jointly initiated by Northern District Community Health Service and Pyramid Hill Football Club. Cleary, well-known for his exploits as a player and coach for Coburg and for his dogged campaign to bring an end to the legal defence of provocation following the murder of his sister, took the reins at training and the night air rang with his barked instructions and praise for the efforts of his temporary charges. The men's health night, held during International Men's Health Week, attracted an excellent crowd of sixty men to Mitchell Park to engage with some of the major issues in men's health and well-being. Cleary also picked up on the night's theme of men taking responsibility in his address. He regaled the audience with amusing tales of his days as a VFA player and coach and of his time as an independent member of federal Parliament. As probably the only MP to have his campaign accidentally kick-started by the Truth newspaper, Cleary had the crowd in stitches with anecdotes about his meetings with then Prime Minister, Paul Keating. Cleary returned to two key challenges for men. Firstly, he stressed the need for good men to take responsibility in the roles of dads and mentors for the raising of fine young men and women. Cleary's description of his realisation that his relationship with his kids was the most important thing in his life really struck a chord with his audience. Warming to the theme, Cleary described how his sister's murderer was able to use the defence of provocation to his advantage and his campaign, not only to change the law, but to urge men to take a stand when they see something, they believe is wrong. Admitting an on-field 'hard man' reputation, Cleary said that in fact he didn't like violence and urged men to take responsibility, not only for their own conduct in their relations with others, but also not to condone it where they see it happening. The passion of Cleary's commitment and his courage in taking a stand against the odds won the respect of his audience and his views are certain to have made a mark.
PHIL CLEARY provided an outstanding keynote presentation at our school's curriculum day in March 2005. Phil provided the impetus for the renewal of our school values and mission statement with his evocative and powerful address. Phil is a most inspiring speaker who engaged our staff with a wide range of thought-provoking, real life anecdotes. A feature of his presentation was the way in which Phil enabled our staff to make connections from his presentation with our practical needs. In addition, Phil worked side by side with our staff following his main address, providing very valuable support to our workshop teams. Phil has a unique and wonderful talent for engaging with people. He certainly brought our curriculum day alive. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending him.
Phil Cleary has been hosting our Northern Blues corporate breakfasts for the past eight years. He has interviewed many of our renowned guest speakers such as Mick Malthouse, Paul Roos, Peter Hudson, Dermott Brereton, Craig Hutchison, The late Danny Frawley, Rodney Eade, Carlton CEO Cain Liddle and Brad Johnston to name a few. Phil is truly captivating, entertaining and comical but most of all well informed, he really does his research and delivers the most left field questions, surprising our audience and guest speakers who are also entertained by Phil’s animated approach, making the interview very candid and leaving our guests well entertained.
"What a pleasure it was to have Phil come and speak at our club. As Mansfield Football Netball Club's first female President and with the local (female) Mayor in attendance the day reinforced to me the importance of Women's ever-increasing role in local communities. It is incumbent on me and those like me to continue to find ways to spread the word and Phil's story certainly helps. The nature of Phil's experience drew raw emotion from everyone in the room, it must remain hard for him to talk about. Having said that his Sister has clearly inspired him to be at the forefront of the battle that is violence against women. He honours her with his work, she would be proud of him.""In addition to the emotion of the day I would like to think that our town has made significant steps toward the protection of Women. The men that attended came away with life changing attitudes to what is and what is not acceptable. There is a sense that this was not a one off, but it forms part of a well-planned and ongoing determination to make sure the Woman of our town and beyond are treated well. We hope to maintain our relationship with Phil to help us facilitate our leadership in this area. Our Club and our Community stands ready to continue the battle and we thank Phil Cleary for helping to motivate, inspire & drive Women's basic rights."
I have spoken at schools, football clubs, municipal councils, corporate events, and community meetings, and now host the annual Vicki Cleary Day with the Coburg Football Club.
To date I have engaged in speaking as a small portion of my professional life. However, I am keen to spread the anti-violence word and increase my speaking engagements across Australia. This includes discussing what we mean when we say violence against women is a serious social problem and how creating gender equality and respectful relationships in football clubs and the community can eradicate the source of the problem.
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