In 1996, University of Sydney academic Dr Ivan Molloy and his then wife Cate, a nurse, left the bright lights of Sydney with their three daughters and traveled north to Noosa, Queensland, to live out their own ‘SeaChange’ experience. It was to be the move of their dreams; to be able to live the quiet life in the idyllic resort town of Noosa Heads. But within twelve years their dream was shattered; they’d become widely considered the most notorious and politically controversial couple in Queensland, and in some respects even Australia. What had happened?
Within a few short years of arriving Ivan became well known locally. He was considered ‘a radical’ academic because of his constant and controversial criticism of the Howard Government and local Federal and State politicians in the local and national media. But to Molloy this was not radical work; he was merely carrying out his responsibilities as an academic with his skills sharpened by many years as a Political Scientist and Open Learning Australia political commentator on ABC Radio National.
Cate Molloy soon achieved national fame also. She entered Qld State politics and won the un-winnable seat of Noosa from the Liberals and joined Peter Beattie’s Labor Government. However she then achieved further media attention when she championed nude bathing on some of Noosa’s secluded beaches, which attracted the wrath of Premier Beattie and a cohort of Labor Party ‘Feminazis’.
Over time, the Molloys became fearless campaigners for many other local and national issues, but most especially against the Iraq War. Together they led an anti-war rally of over three thousand people through Noosa’s streets; an event never before seen in the famous holiday strip. The Molloy’s activities seemed nothing spectacular to them. They were widely praised and liked around town. But soon they were engulfed in seemingly endless controversy that threatened to destroy both their public and private lives.
Now a Senior Lecturer in Politics at a local university, Ivan became an Australian Labor Party candidate in 2004 for the Federal Seat of Fairfax only to spark enormous national controversy when photos were released in the media showing him holding a machine gun in the company of former Muslim Filipino guerrillas in the Southern Philippines. Enormous public outcry erupted. Some say the controversy even cost Labor the election. Nationally and even globally Molloy was branded a ‘terrorist sympathiser’. A heated dispute over his candidacy broke out in the media, within National Parliament and within the Australian Labor Party itself; and most particularly between Molloy himself and then ALP leader Mark Latham. Ironically both eventually later quit the ALP in disgust.
Meanwhile, after becoming a Surf Life Saver, a decorated Patrol Captain and Vice President of a Sunshine Coast Surf Club, Ivan soon attracted even more national attention. In 2005 he had an adapted ‘Noosa-Style’ replica of the famous iconic Melbourne-based ‘Chloe’ nude painting hung in the Surf Club to attract patronage. However, while it sparked praise from Noosa’s artistic and progressive community, it also provoked an unexpected torrent of rage from many local conservatives who demanded his head.
Within a short time, there was further community outrage and dispute when Ivan and Cate (also an Active Life Saver) were suspended from the Surf Club. As the Club Vice President and the spokesman for over 50 Club Actives (local Surf Life Savers) he had attempted, with Cate’s support, to expose alleged corruption and financial mismanagement in his Club which provoked their suspension by the Club President. The subsequent battle and bitter internal dispute within the Club and then within the Surf Life Saving Movement itself was possibly the greatest and longest in the history of the Australian Surf Life Saving. Bitter public controversy, abuse, even assaults became part of the virtual ongoing ‘civil war’ not only within the Surf Life Saving community but Noosa itself as the issue of the Molloy’s actions divided the town. Eventually State Centre made a very questionable ruling that the Molloys ‘had brought Surf Life Saving into disrepute’ and suspended them. Ivan Molloy was then later expelled from the Movement when he attempted to clear his name on ABC radio after the CEO of Qld Life Saving entered into a very public ‘On Air’ attack on Molloy. The suspension and subsequent expulsion of the Molloys sparked a mass exodus of both Active and Social members from the Club and an ongoing boycott in protest against the treatment of the couple.
Meanwhile, Cate Molloy had won her second Qld state election in a landslide against the anti-Labor state trend only to be eventually dis-endorsed from the State ALP on Premier Beattie’s order. Cate had listened to her community’s calls to stop the construction of Beattie’s proposed Traveston Dam. She publicly opposed what she claimed would be nothing less than economic and environmental vandalism. Premier Beattie was enraged and moved against her, even though she was acting in accordance with the Party’s constitution. Cate Molloy then turned independent only to narrowly lose the 2006 election to the Liberal candidate, after Beattie cynically refused to allow the ALP to preference her.
At the time of writing, despite the emotional toll on themselves and their family, the Molloys still battle on, publically debating issues and pursuing political causes. Despite the turmoil they have experienced, they still have strong public support. Their many supporters in the local community urge them to continue on; not only fighting for Noosa, but simply what they believe is the right thing. There is much more to this following account, which as a work of literary ‘faction’ it is greatly inspired by the Molloys experiences and therefore includes many factual events. It includes encounters with former Prime Minister John Howard, current PM Kevin Rudd and many other national identities. Within this fascinating account Ivan also sheds light on many other national issues including suicide and depression, community violence, drugs, political rorting and corruption at all levels, even in the most revered of our public institutions.
This book is drawn from an account of a real life SeaChange. It exposes real life issues and controversies which affect not only Noosa but echo throughout all Australian communities. As such, this book has enormous relevance for all Australians whether city, town, rural or ‘famous’ beach resort dwellers. It lays bare so many common themes and controversial human frailties that affect us all at some time in our lives, some of which always lurk just below the surface of our many individual social and institutional facades.
Many names have been changed in this story to protect the innocent from the guilty and any resemblance to actual people within the Surf Life Saving community is entirely co-incidental.
The Editor, Rock Mountain Publishing.
This book is available at $5 (Aus) plus postage. Contact Dr Ivan Molloy, or Secretary, Rock Mountain Corp; email@example.com