Reg Worthy: A Standout Man of Honour and Ability
By Graeme Rule
Some people standout because of their gifts. Reg Worthy was one such believer. Seemingly always on the move Reg, born Maurice Reginald, worked in 18 jobs before his 18th birthday, as he sought to keep working through the ‘Great Depression.’ Having been a Christian for only a couple of years, Reg applied and was accepted to study at MBI in 1941.
After graduation, he enlisted and served as a YMCAwelfare officer across Australia and later, pastored churches in Bendigo and Ballarat at the end of the War. Reg married Muriel Hayes, sister of his fellow student Laurie Hayes and ran a Melbourne City Mission Youth Centre in Brunswick for some years.
Reg was appointed a Justice of the Peace, a Parole and Probation Officer, Reg was later elected to the Local Council, completed an Arts degree in Social Studies and became a senior social worker with the, then, Social Services Department. In 1961, Reg was appointed Administrative Officer for General Welfare in the Northern Territory. He saw first-hand the removal of Aboriginal children from their families to “improve” their lot and soon began to seek ways to remove this practice.
In 1968, Reg and his family returned to Victoria where he became the first Director of the new Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Reg got on well with Aboriginal elders and leaders including Pastor, Sir Douglas Nicholls. He actively worked to improve relationships and, in 1970, toured overseas researching land rights. One of his recommendations to the Victorian Government ushered in “monumental changes to the rights of the Aboriginal Community throughout Victoria ”, which included the landmark decision to hand over ownership of the land surrounding Lake Tyers in Gippsland.
Reg’s catch cries at the time were “a hand up is not a handout” and “Black is beautiful.” Along the way, he ended the practice of fostering “cute little black children,” while strenuously promoting equal rights and responsibilities for all Victorian Aboriginals. He was also invited to establish the Queensland Regional Aboriginal Affairs Department on behalf of the Federal Government.
On retirement, Reg was the First Assistant Secretary to the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs; before being asked to become the Director of the newly formed Prison Fellowship. Reg served in India alongside his son-in-law, David, for a year training young people in printing management. Along with his 15 year role with Prison Fellowship, he was appointed Supervisor of Official Visitors to Victorian prisons.