Tribute to Phil Papworth

Clayton Barr - Private Member's Statement

I make a brief statement about Phil “Pappy” Papworth, who died just before Easter. Pappy was a long-time career schoolteacher who taught all over the State. He was an ugly little fella who played hooker as a rugby league and rugby union player, so members can imagine how cheeky he was. He had white hair and a long white beard by the time I met him, so he was often referred to as Papa Smurf. Pappy came into Mount View High School in Cessnock and did something really incredible: He gave the kids the confidence that they could do anything and be anything. He came up with a really simple formula that he would speak about at every assembly throughout his time at Mount View High School, and it was simply “MV=E”—”Mount View equals excellence”. He would always remind the students about the excellence that would come out of our community in so many different ways, shapes, forms and platforms—whether it was the arts, sports, business, education—sharing stories about a student who had gone to the school and who was now doing A, B, and C or X, Y and Z down the track. Pappy was a real inspiration. He really went out of his way to make sure that he instilled in the young people at Mount View High School that they could do anything and be anything.

On a personal note, I want to recognise Phil Papworth for the chance and the start that he gave me. I was a casual teacher at the time, doing a fair bit of work at the high school, and Pappy did not mind the cut of my jib. He thought a local young bloke who was at local football or soccer on the weekend, and who was in the local supermarkets bumping into mums and dads, might be a good thing for the school. Pappy gave me a crack. He put me on full-time, made me a part of the teaching staff and gave me an opportunity soon after that to be the temporary head teacher. He embraced me in terms of the executive and leadership roles all around the school.

I think that in life all of us need someone to give us a crack at different times—someone who can take a chance on a person who might be a bit rough around the edges and not quite the norm. Phil Papworth did that. Pappy was a giant of a man, despite his stature. He was much loved in our community. Unfortunately, he spent the last 25 years of his life with Parkinson’s disease, which ultimately took his life. Even throughout all of that, he kept on fighting. He kept on being a volunteer at the local bowling club—he managed to keep it afloat financially because of his willingness to take on the different roles. Phil “Pappy” Papworth—Pappy—I love you, mate. Thanks for everything you did for our community and for me personally. Good on you, champ.