It was with great sadness that we learnt of the passing of one of our earliest program participants – Fellow Steve Dilley from ARLP 3. He passed away in late 2022 after a short battle with cancer.
In his professional capacity, Steve was a passionate apple grower from South – West WA. He was also a member of the Shire of Donnybrook Council for 12 years, including eight years as President and was a Nuffield scholar too. In a personal sense, Steve was a much-loved husband to Rosie, and dad to Ashley, Jessica, Katherine and Rebecca. And he spent almost every day working together with his brother Quentin on their Perivale property, a property that the Dilley family has farmed for nearly 100 years until it was sold in 2021.
We reached out to Steve’s ARLP cohort to help get a better sense of Steve. They told me he was funny and outgoing with an infectious character. In fact, he was fondly named ‘Dozer’ by his fellow participants in the Kimberley due to his enthusiasm to tackle whatever was thrown in front of him – long grass, steep hills, impenetrable cave mazes… you name it!
Steve and his wife Rosie were active and generous in their support of various WA alumni gatherings over the years. When WA hosted a conference around the year 2000, Steve was the organiser and driver (literally) for the post conference tour of the Southwest.
We were also encouraged to speak with John Elliott, Fellow from ARLP 1, who was a close friend to Steve.
John and Steve met in 1999 while working together for the WA Fruit Growers Review of the Perth Market Act. John quickly recognised Steve’s passion for the industry, as well as his great listening skills and ability to express succinct views. He was a natural leader who quickly endeared himself to others. He was a big man with a big heart and was always willing to help out. He had an innate charisma to enthuse people in what he believed.
Over the last twenty plus years, Steve would often stay with John and his family every other month when working in Perth, and often with his wife Rosie. The two families became close and there were plans in motion to travel overseas together. John proudly converted Steve from a beer to a wine enthusiast! Steve became an avid red wine lover and John always made sure that his wood fired oven was alight when he visited so they could sit and talk the night away.
There were over 700 people at Steve’s funeral!
We were keen to share this story about Steve for a couple of reasons. Not only was Steve a great human who did great things and was loved by many, we were keen to acknowledge his work and share his story of impact with the network.
We also wanted to explore the connection that exists between those within our network – and particularly between those who did not experience a program together. Steve and John met through their industry work. They may have always been destined to meet, but we were really interested in the impact of their ARLF program experience, albeit a separate one, and how that helped to expediate a trusted and lasting friendship.
So we reached out to John to get his take on this.
“It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to meeting and working with Steve as part of the WA Fruit Growers Review Committee” said John, “and I am sure that our ARLP experience was key to us getting along. We hit it off immediately knowing that we would work well together because we had been through the same program. The committee had some high-powered people appointed by the minister and Steve was in his element. He was a good listener, was expert at putting the horticulture industry viewpoint forward and soon had the respect of the committee members. He would have made a great politician. I thought at the time that the ARLF would be proud of him.”
And yes, you are right. We are very proud of Steve and the impact of his work (and community work) at a local and state level. We have loved getting to know more about Steve through writing this and hope that his family and close friends have found some peace in the collective memories they carry, and in the obvious love he has left behind.
Many thanks to John Elliot, Cameron Keen and John Paterson for their contributions.