Law firm founder passes away

January 17, 2013 by  
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Rabbi Aviva Kipen officiated at the funeral service for the late Peter Redlich, founder of law firm Holding, Redlich who passed away in Melbourne earlier this month. The following is the eulogy she delivered.

Peter Redlich

Peter Redlich

Type “Redlich” into the Google search box, and it knows you mean Peter. With subsequent searches I also found Julius Redlich and Sons, but the first time, Google immediately went to listings for Peter Redlich AO, including the Linked IN and Facebook profiles (which someone behind the scenes at the firm must have managed deftly for him.) Try it. Follow the link to Holding Redlich’s staff profile of its Chairman and there is a photo of recent vintage, showing Peter informally dressed, wearing comfortable shoes and grinning amiably. Click the Chinese hanzi icon at the top right of the screen and up comes the translation which symbolically compresses Peter’s having guided the firm past its early years of city and country practice in Victoria to national prominence and then on into its specialist work with China and Chinese clients. Nothing could be louder tribute to that work than the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Wu, who have flown overnight from Shanghai to be with us at the service today. The family is deeply touched by the honor that you bestow on upon Peter’s memory by having made that journey and we thank you for it.  Peter moved from daily practitioner to consultant and in his continuing place as visionary of the firm, Peter continued despite the challenges of his illness, the details of which he kept from everyone for as long possible.

I have been in touch with Chris Lovell and Lou Farinotti and in due time there will be an opportunity for a farewell from the profession. Several long-time colleagues of Peter’s are on holidays and as a result there is smaller representation than would otherwise be the case. But I am going to read Lou’s tribute, which arrived by email yesterday.


Peter Joseph Redlich


The partners of Holding Redlich wish to briefly have recognized Peter’s extraordinary achievements in his professional career.

“Peter was not only the founder and Chairman of Holding Redlich but its soul.

Peter devoted his professional life and career as a lawyer to two related things.

First, the law firm he created, nurtured and grew to make it one of Australia’s leading law firms, a goal he set himself some 40 years ago.

The second, to fight for social justice and defend and protect fundamental human rights whenever they were being challenged.

He referred to that as ‘fighting for the under dog’.

His contribution to Holding Redlich is so immenseas not to be measurable nor capable of being put into words here.

Peter made other significant contributions to the wider community along the way as well.

He made a significant contribution to the Victorian community in the various public positions he held during his lifetime.

Peter also made a significant contribution to the Australian political landscape, something we are sure he was deservedly proud of.

Peter has left an extraordinary legacy which we are sure he and his family are proud of.

He was a great leader, partner, confidante, friend and mentor to many of the partners and staff of Holding Redlich and to the many people who were fortunate to know him.

There is no doubt that Peter has left his mark and that we are all worse off for his passing.

He was truly unique and very passionate about the things he believed in.

He had an unrelenting and extraordinary amount of drive to achieve the goals he continued to set himself to the very end.

Peter, may you now rest in peace.”

That professional and collegial tribute refers to the outward Peter, the man awarded an AO in 1992, active leader in arts bodies and almost exactly a year ago, mentor of Holding Redlich’s association with the Victorian Arts Centre, donor, collector and leader in the political, communal and aesthetic life of the Melbourne and broader Australian communities. Today we pause to honour all of that. We also dwell on the more private Peter: the son of Julius and Frieda, younger brother of Max and brother in law of Eva, cousin of Monica and Claire, young husband of Janette and father of Nicole, Jackie and John.

That would have been sufficient for many men. ………… But being a habitual over-achiever, Peter went on to marry Sally and together they added Cassie and Sam to the family network. When I met the family on Friday, I learned of the loved ones of these now-adult children, Christian and Nicole’s children and the partners of Cassie and Sam. I heard about the nephews – of whom Michael was the representative – their wives and children, the grand nieces and nephews and we think in particular of Danny and Jenny who are in WA and at a distance from this significant passing.

As we journeyed down the memory lane of the early years in Australia, we followed Julius’s fortune at having been able to secure visas through the Austrian Consul here, a relative of Frieda’s, Rudi Werner. Having been tipped off whilst volunteering in the Jewish Aid Society of Vienna (following the confiscation of the family business under the Aryanization laws following Anschluss) by none other than the notorious Adolph Eichmann that he should get out of Vienna, the Redlichs began again on Melbourne soil and after initial house moves, took up the family meat trade in their landmark shop in Chapel Street, Windsor. Max’s affectionate memories of the neighborhood kids fighting the national battles between the Greek Mangos-es, the Syrian Yodgees and Austrian Redlichs still brought warm smiles as we imagined the then-chubby Peter (ever after a weight fanatic and physically active man) making war in what was then Hanover Street and after the war was renamed McIllrick!

His later battles were waged through his deft political talent and his sharp, quick mind. But perhaps this was only possible after a cagey teacher at Windsor Primary School realized that Peter was fudging his ability to read in English. Some extra tuition soon sorted that out and Peter duly followed Max via Spring Road Central School to Melbourne High before reading law at Melbourne University and taking articles with Grant Dixon King, before moving to Holding and Company.

Peter was clearly good at learning things, but seems to have been entirely disinterested in some elements of schooling if his approach to the studies of his children is anything to go by. With the greatest affection, Sally and the children all verified that Peter simply wasn’t involved in bringing up his kids in the way that we expect these days. (Max, I am inclined towards the acronym of SNAG, but in your family it has another meaning.) Funny quips which Peter had made were told with wry affection: the fact that he only ever attended one of Cassie’s parent teacher interviews – the last one – and then he disputed that the student didn’t sound like his daughter at all; the fact that he once had to do a pick up from school and had to ask “which school?” brought hoots of amusement. Peter just didn’t do that stuff! Why would he need to? He had Sally.

When they became a couple Peter found the Managing Partner of ‘Redlich Family Holdings’ who could not only keep up with him, but cater to, travel with and run the activities of their two children and his and Janette’s three as well. Sally has supported Peter’s extensive community involvement and found a way to glue the family together, cherishing the individuality of each family member. Peter was quirky, amusing and informed. He had strong artistic tastes and was able to indulge them. His professional work and political life brought him fascinating and challenging friends and Sally just made the wheels turn without skipping a beat.

As we scanned the story of Peter’s life, it became clear that whilst the family is not the least sentimental, the grief at Peter’s passing is immense. 6-7 years ago Peter was diagnosed with a heart condition for there is no cure. He carried on fine with Euryhthmia, for a few years but 3 years ago, owing to shortness of breath, he had to give up jogging and his fitness regime and change the lifestyle he and Sally had shared. Peter kept going to work, deciding not to disclose the condition, not even Max and only when he began to visit Max was there a sense that things were changing.

Peter was a serious foodie. Culinary temptations, pickled cucumbers, sausages, schnitzel and goulash that Frieda had already given up making, became Eva’s specialties and tempted him regularly. When overseas travel had to stop, these temptations remained, even though Patterson’s Cakes had closed and he was no longer able to bail up staff in restaurants if standards were not up to his expectations.

As health failed, it became clear that everything was in the process of changing. 15 months ago Peter began to restrict the time in the office, continuing to schmooze the clients and making the natural progression from active partner to consulting statesman, remaining Chairman till the end. Denial was Peter’s armor against a terminal condition over which – for the first time in his life – he could not exert the slightest control. I asked how that impacted on the children’s ability to farewell their dad. Tears, previously controlled with characteristic Redlich courage, rose for us all. Spanning an age gap of 20 years, the reactions of the men and women, younger and older, was unmistakable. Sally listened to them tell her what a wonderful marriage they had observed and in which they have been key participants.

They spoke of the need for Peter to sleep in a hospital bed which was brought to Caroline Street for his needs and John’s decision to spend the majority of nights there attending to the tasks which Sally admits were beyond her strength. John’s place at Peter’s side in the final months meant that no strangers needed to be added to the Caroline Street crew and John’s leadership in this was a major theme in our family meeting.

Peter having been at home meant that the final dinners at the ‘Ari Table’, could be continued, as they have been since the arrival of the baby who prompted its purchase. Ari, you have a very special place in this story. I know you have been with friends at Merricks while the difficult last days unfolded. I know that this is your first funeral and that you and Mum are pretty good at talking through important feelings. We talked about how your birth gave the family a wonderful reason to eat dinner together regularly. Even though Cassie has to go back to Sweden, this is home and she will visit as she has been doing, so you can know her and continue the family stories which are told and will be retold at the dining room table. Bessie will be wriggling around keeping you mindful of the fact that she needs extra attention too. Ari, that’s probably a good job for you. I know that you created a wonderful card for Oppa for Grandparents Day at school and maybe that will be something you can talk about later

We just can’t fit everything into this tribute. We have to stop, even though we know we have only scratched the service of an exceptional life. The family invites all those who are able to join them, to follow on to Caroline Street after this service and take up the story where we leave off here. There will not be a Minyan, so this is an important part of the process of supporting the family and being supported by the familiar hospitality, in the home which displays so much of Peter and Sally’s taste, including coffee table books which capture his relationship to Israel, the arts which he valued so highly and the garden which brought the outdoors inside, in all but the final days when he had to return to Freemasons hospital to do his dying.

Peter, you out-lived all medical predictions; you were with your dear ones for as long as you could possibly manage. But when it was time to depart the scene, you were cared for by outstanding, caring staff and surrounded in the final hours by your extended family who whispered their farewells, as we do now.

May your memory endure always for blessing and let us say:        Amen

Federal MP Michael Danby  told J-Wire: “Michael Danby said, “Peter Redlich was a key figure in state and national politics and was as much as anyone, responsible for the revival of the Victorian Labor Party after intervention. Peter was a strong supporter of Israel and remained highly influential with future Labor leaders right up until his passing.”

Fellow parliamentarian Gary Gray added : “Peter Redlich was the former President of the Victorian Labor Party and a bridge between successive Australian Governments, the business community and the Australian Jewish Community”

Peter Redlich  born: June 13, 1936   Died January 3, 2013


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