Ms JODI McKAY (Newcastle—Minister for Tourism, and Minister for the Hunter) [5.50 p.m.]: This afternoon I honour the life and legacy of the late Mr George Stott Bilbie, a man who was deeply admired and respected in the Newcastle community. Mr Bilbie lived a full and extraordinary life, and he leaves a legacy that will motivate and inspire a generation. Mr Bilbie's life spanned much of the twentieth century. He passed away last Sunday aged 100 years. Remarkably, Mr Bilbie continued to practice as a solicitor until his death. He renewed his practising certificates most recently in June and was believed to be the oldest practising solicitor in Australia. He became a solicitor in 1938, and throughout his years of service he continued to practice, to provide advice to his clients and to uphold the very best traditions of the law. Mr Bilbie was not a lawyer in the high-flying sense. Rather, he carved out a practice as a hardworking solicitor providing counsel and advice to those in need.

Mr Bilbie had his regular clients and represented up to five generations of the same family over the course of his career. This is a testament to the trust and service he provided to our community. His practice was sound and steady, and was shaped by his humble origins and commitment to helping others. Mr Bilbie was the son of a coalminer and lived his formative years in Minmi. He commenced work as an articled clerk in Newcastle, working his way up to the position of managing law clerk until his admission in 1938. He established his Newcastle law firm in 1944, and his practice grew into what is today the successful, modern firm Bilbie Dan. Mr Bilbie remained a partner of Bilbie Dan and continued to work three days a week. His final workday was Wednesday of last week, just days before his death. In May this year I was pleased to join hundreds of other Novocastrians to celebrate the occasion of Mr Bilbie's 100th birthday. The event was full of the energy and excitement personified by his approach to life and work.

Mr Bilbie's energy was exemplified by his fitness and renowned daily foray into the water. It was only recently that Mr Bilbie decided to restrict his swimming to the ocean baths as the surf started to get a bit rough. The other vital ingredient in Mr Bilbie's life was the love he had for his family. His wife, Eileen, meant the world to Mr Bilbie, and he described her as his "wonderful life partner". In a piece in the Australian in June this year Mr Bilbie said the support and love of his family throughout his life provided the foundation for his achievements. He reflected on the struggle of growing up in a poor family and being determined to move away from the tradition of following his father's footsteps down into the mines. He said:

    • I am one of the luckiest people out there. When you are brought up poor, you appreciate everything you get.

The wisdom of our centenarians should be harnessed. We should pay a great deal of respect to their experiences, views and lives. We should listen to what they have to say and reflect on their words. I had the great pleasure of knowing George Bilbie. He was a gentleman. He provided wise counsel with good humour, and I greatly cherished the moments I had with him. To his wife, Eileen, his daughters Wendy and Pat, and his grandson, Alex, I pay my most humble respects.


In howling winds and stormy conditions with some sizeable swell compliments of Cyclone Winston, the team from Sanbah Surf emerged victorious in the fourth annual SurfAid Cup sponsored by local Newcastle business, Evolution Business and Personal Advisors.

Held at Dixon Park Beach, Newcastle, as part of the Surfest event, 18 corporate teams raised over $81,000 for humanitarian organisation SurfAid, setting a new fundraising record for the event.

Newcomers to the event, the team from ARTC – Kegan Lacey, Steve Ormerod, Jamie Graham, and Tristan Rossiter – raised over $14,000; more than any team in the history of the event. Following closely behind in second place, the team from Momentum Built – Paul Boyd, Matt Anderson, Nick Cook and Mitch Warren – raised over $12,600. It was an absolutely phenomenal effort by all the teams.

The surfers paddled out in some fun, chunky waves with a building swell throughout the day. A five-man tag team format, the SurfAid Cup is also part of Surfest, and all the teams chose a pro surfer or legend to join their fundraising team.

The judges were impressed with the level of surfing by all the competitors. Toby Martin kept the competitors and onlookers updated and entertained in the commentary box, in addition to surfing with the team from ARTC. Other legend surfers included Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew, Jarrod Morrell, Matt Bemrose and Jackson Baker.

During the final, the crowd was treated to some exceptional surfing including amazing rides by Jesse Adam (Sanbah), Rhys Smith (Sanbah) and Jaxon Brent (KCE) who all scored over 19 points for their teams in the final. In the end, Sanbah came out ahead. Bilbie Dan Lawyers were strongly in second (67.93) followed by KCE (44.33) and the team from Evolution in fourth (42.17). 

The Sanbah team included Jesse Adam, Tom Reilly, Rhys Smith and Jebb Lane. They selected former pro surfer and Merewether local Travis Lynch, as their fifth team member.

Daniel Mason (CSRIO) took out the prize for the best wipeout of the day. A last minute pull out from the waves swept him over the falls.

Evolution SurfAid Cup Newcastle Placings:
1. Sanbah Surf (78.10)
2. Bilbie Dan Lawyers (67.93)
3. KCE (44.33)
4. Evolution (42.17)
5. Hunter Business Boardriders
6. Shaw Gidley
7. 360 Water
9. PKF
10. ARTC
11. Haines Brothers
12. Momentum Built
13. Team Doyllieu
14. EJE Architecture
15. Mullane Plumbing
16. Sessions Legal
17. Slimes Boardstore
18. Musical Surfers


SIDELINES: Text messaging can bite you where it hurts

March 29, 2015, 9:45 p.m.

IT didn’t take organiser Robert Faraday-Bensley long to address the elephant in the room at the De Courcy Club luncheon on Friday at Newcastle City Hall.

Sidelines is not talking about the dead elephant Glenn McGrath was controversially photographed with either.

Former South African captain Graeme Smith was forced to withdraw as the special guest of the De Courcy lunch three weeks ago after media reports emerged that he had accidentally sent a text message, meant for his lawyer, to his wife Morgan Deane Smith.

The message allegedly asked his lawyer to organise a divorce from his wife. McGrath was called in as Smith’s replacement. At the start of the lunch Faraday-Bensley told a story of receiving a text message from Smith at 3am.

‘‘I woke up to this message saying, ‘I’m still right to commentate the World Cup semis, but can you get me out of that lunch up in Newcastle’? Obviously that message was for his lawyer too.’’

Newcastle Knights Members Board chairman Nicholas Dan wants access to Hunter Sports Group's finances

  • 3 YEARS AGO DECEMBER 14, 2012 8:12AM

The chairman of the Newcastle Knights Members Board, Nicholas Dan, has expressed grave concern at the fiscal problems surrounding the club and has demanded full and unfettered access to the financial records of owner Nathan Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group.

The worries of Dan were in stark contrast to the relatively calm reaction from club administrators and NRL officials tonews the Australian Taxation Office had applied to have a liquidator appointed to the club.

Federal Court documents filed in Sydney on Wednesday revealed the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation had applied to have the Hunter Sports Group, Newcastle Jets Pty Ltd and Newcastle Knights Pty Ltd wound up over unpaid debts totalling approximately $2.7 million.

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The ATO documents claim the Hunter Sports Group owes $184,257, the Newcastle Knights $1.424m, and the A-League's Newcastle Jets $1.063m.

Interim NRL boss Shane Mattiske moved to allay fears the Knights were in danger of not being a part of next year's NRL competition, insisting protections had been put in place for both the club and its players. It is understood there is no similar safety net for the Jets.

"In relation to the ownership by Hunter Sports Group, guarantees have been put in place by the commission to safeguard the Knights' position," Mattiske said.

"Those safeguards were a condition of ownership and are there to ensure the club's future."

The safeguards Mattiske is referring to consist of a $20m bank guarantee put in place at the time HSG took over the running of the club.

Former Knights boss Robert Tew told The Australian: "We actually put two protective measures in the contract agreement with HSG, and I know for a fact the complexity of the arrangement means it would be incredibly difficult to change even one part of the deal without impacting the rest of the agreement.

"The first measure covers the possibility of HSG becoming insolvent, the other involves the handing back of the club to the members' board should there be a breach of any of the aspects set out in the initial contract.

"What we are looking at here is the former of those and what members need to know and need to know soon is just how significant the tax problem is and whether HSG is in any position to solve this mess.

"If they are, well that is great. They can do that and we can all get on with things. If they aren't, well, there is steps to be put in place that would see the members regain control of the club."

Dan has called for an independent audit of HSG's books as the deadline of Tinkler's $20m bank guarantee expires on December 31.

Dan takes reins in Knights board play

Oct. 18, 2012, 11:08 p.m.


SOLICITOR Nick Dan, dumped last week from the Newcastle Knights' advisory board, bounced back last night to claim the top seat on the Knights' members club board.


Peter Corcoran resigned as chair of the members board at the start of last night's meeting, realising the numbers were stacked against him.

The board - comprising Corcoran, Dan, Trevor Crow, Steve Doran, Leigh Maughan and Allan McKeown - then voted unanimously to appoint Dan as his successor.

McKeown will fill Dan's former role as deputy chairman, and Corcoran apparently intends to continue serving on the board.

Dan said last night the first item on his agenda would be to inquire about the status of a Knights tax bill of more than $365,000.

Hunter Sports Group has attributed the debt, which prompted a statutory demand from the Australian Tax Office, to the former Knights administration and said it would be "extinguished in the normal course of business".

Dan agreed to step down from the HSG advisory board last Thursday after being accused of "serious misconduct" relating to the airing of information about the tax bill.

The information was made public in an NBN News report.

But when it was recommended that Dan also stand down from the members board, he instead challenged Corcoran for the chairmanship.

"We've already arranged the first meeting with [HSG advisory board chairman] Paul Harragon tomorrow," Dan said. "We just have to move on and meet with the right people."

Dan said he felt last night's result was "ironic".

"I'm happy to go from a bit of a low last week to my board saying unanimously they still want me to be around the place," he said.

Dan said he would have resigned from the members board had fellow directors preferred Corcoran as chairman.

When Corcoran was deposed by Rob Tew as Knights chairman in 2008, he continued to serve as a board member.

Concerns should have been ironed out: RL solicitor

Author: By GREG RAY

IT was disappointing a deal had not been reached between the Newcastle Knights and would-be club buyer Nathan Tinkler, Knights solicitor Rob Faraday-Bensley said yesterday.

Mr Faraday-Bensley, who has been involved in negotiations between the parties, said the in-principle deal Mr Tinkler first proposed had the support of the club's board of directors.

But the "final draft" of three interlocking agreements, which Mr Tinkler's Sydney law firm presented to the club last week, left some serious questions that made it impossible for directors to unanimously endorse to club members, Mr Faraday-Bensley said.

Mr Tinkler had demanded that the Knights directors unanimously endorse the agreements, but Mr Faraday-Bensley said he had advised directors of some potential issues relating to liability, to the definition of sponsorship value and to club members' ability to access bank guarantees if that ever became necessary.

"It isn't my role to comment on the commercial viability of any proposed deals, but it is my job to advise the directors on the legal position they and club members might find themselves in," he said.

Mr Faraday-Bensley said he was disappointed when Mr Tinkler took his offer off the table.

"We were engaged in negotiations, and it is always the case that negotiations involve differences of opinion and give and take. We had hoped and expected to finalise some issues and put the directors in a position where they could comfortably put the deal in front of the members.

"If we could have achieved an agreement that we could agree clearly reflected the offer as it was first put by Mr Tinkler, then I think the directors would have been very happy."

Mr Faraday-Bensley said there was a major perceived difference between the interpretation of directors' liability as expressed in the three proposed agreements as presented by Mr Tinkler.

"Maybe it was just a drafting issue but, if so, it should have been a simple matter to fix."

The directors should not have to be concerned about the future emergence of possible unforeseen liabilities relating to past events, he said.

Mr Faraday-Bensley also queried the definition of sponsorship revenue, saying the Knights directors believed it had expanded since Mr Tinkler's first proposal.

"It could be argued the new definition now covers revenue from sources that currently provide the Knights with more than $10 million a year, arguably making the value of the guarantee being offered potentially zero," he said.

"Both sides should have had a meeting on Monday afternoon and ironed out these concerns."


Monday, April 15, 2013

The team from Bilbie Dan Solicitors has won the Lawler SurfAid Cup in solid 6-8 foot (2.5m) surf at Newcastle’s Stockton Beach. The charity event, which is part of Surfest Newcastle, was moved from the original venue of Dixon Park due to dangerous surf conditions.

Bilbie Dan scored 52.07 in the tag team final, with Sanbah second on 47.77, Beilby Consulting third (24.87) and People Fusion fourth (18.00).

City of Newcastle and Lawler Financial placed equal fifth; Hunter Readymix and Lawler Partners were equal seventh; Michillis, Mullane, Perpetual and Coffey Projects equal ninth; and BT Financial, NIB Health, Maccas and Bennelong Boardriders equal 13th.

Sixteen teams raised more than $56,000 for humanitarian organisation SurfAid. The Bennelong Boardriders team won the fundraising trophy by raising $7,410.

A Surfest charity breakfast held on the same morning, sponsored by PRD Nationwide, and presented by the Hunter Business Boardriders, raised more than $16,000 – with Newcastle raising a total of more than $73,000 for SurfAid on the day.

Charlie Lanchester, a board member of SurfAid, and the Deputy Head of Australian Equities at Perpetual, said it was a great day.

“It was a privilege to take part in the PRD Nationwide breakfast and also the Lawler SurfAid Cup all on the one day,” Lanchester said.

“The broad support from the Newcastle community for both events was amazing. Surf culture clearly runs deep in the city of Newcastle. The ongoing support from everyone who attended these events is a critical part of SurfAid's success in saving lives in the remote surfing locations of Indonesia.”

All teams in the Lawler SurfAid Cup had the pick of a pro surfer and Drew Courtney was outstanding for Bilbie Dan in the final as he consistently attacked the lip in the heavy conditions, scoring 26.67 out of 30 points for his team.  Other winning team members were Rob Faraday, Luke Sessions, Brad Garrard and Heath Podmore.

Pros who donated their skills to compete included 1989 world champion Martin Potter, Luke Egan, Simon Law, Craig Anderson, Jake Sylvester, Travis Lynch, Craig McMillan, Ryan Callinan, Jye Byrnes, Jackson Baker, Louis Stackhouse, Luke Hamilton and Simon Le Rougetel.

Big wave rider Mark Yazbeck was the proud winner of the Lawler Best Wipeout Award for a committed backhand floater on a solid wave that ended in a faceplant on the flats.

Rob Faraday-Bensley, a Partner with Bilbie Dan Solicitors and Attorneys, said it was a great day.

“It was fantastic to score some decent-sized waves and to get the chance to surf alongside some amazing surfers, in particular our allocated pro Drew Courtney who absolutely ripped,” Faraday-Bensley said.

“Thanks again to SurfAid and the committee of Hunter Business Boardriders. Seeing Luke Sessions carve it up was also a unique thrill for all of our team. We can't wait for next year. “

Tim Bolger, Director Distribution, Bennelong Funds Management, said they were proud to win the fundraising component by raising $7,410.

"Bennelong Funds Management and our boutique asset management teams, Avoca Investment Management and Bennelong Australian Equity Partners, were very pleased to be a part of the Lawler SurfAid Cup,” Bolger said.

“We were particularly pleased that donations from our personal and professional networks, along with a generous donation from the Bennelong Foundation, resulted in the Bennelong Boardriders taking out the fundraising prize.
“SurfAid is an inspiring organisation, and we admire the passion and enthusiasm that Dr Dave and the rest of the SurfAid crew bring to their work with Indonesian communities. We look forward to sharing a wave and a laugh with the SurfAid crew in the future, in support of a very worthy cause.”

Chris Davis, the head of wealth protection at Lawler Financial Services, said Lawler Financial Services were extremely proud to partner with SurfAid and Surfest to make the event happen.

“We want to thank all the teams involved in the first SurfAid Cup in Newcastle. The waves were ordinary, the weather was worse but everyone had a great time. We are already looking forward to another huge fundraising event next year,” Davis said.

Hunter XI better known for doing other things

Dec. 25, 2011, 11:05 a.m.


TOPICS, with its microscopic attention span, isn’t at its sharpest this time of year.

You can only come up with so much. Wait. The cricket’s on. We’ve got it.

A Hunter XI Better Known for Doing Other Things:

1. Rob Faraday-Bensley. The lawyer who represented the Knights during the Tinkler takeover was also a University of Newcastle, NSW Country and Australian Country opening bat. We’re happy with him negotiating the first over.

2. Belinda Clark. Yeah, she’s a cricketer. But she’s a giant of the game who transcends the profile of women’s cricket. And she’s from Newcastle.

3. Andrew Johns. In 2006, NSW showed how serious it was about Twenty20 cricket by picking Joey. He made 9 not out off 10 balls in his second outing, so let’s see how he goes at three.

4. John Doyle. Went to teachers’ college and uni in Newcastle. His alter-ego, Roy Slaven, has represented Australia in every sport. We want him in our middle order.

5. Tony Squires. We’re not sure how talented the Caves Beach native and former Newcastle Herald journo was with the willow. But since he’s padded up, let’s throw him in.

6. Michael Hill. The former Knights chairman was also an off-spinner and left-hand bat for his state.

7. Kerry Thompson. The University academic, and our keeper, played four Sheffield Shield matches in the ’70s.

8. Darren Herbert. The Newcastle Commercial Finance director is a NSW Country all-rounder who bowls left arm fast medium.

9. Nathan Tinkler. Not sure if he plays cricket, but he can afford our selection integrity if he wants a spot in the XI.

10. Andrew Cornwell. The Charlestown MP was a slippery left-arm quick who took the new ball for Merewether. Recently launched two booming sixes into the Bill O’Reilly stand in a pollies v journos match at the SCG.

11. Helene O’Neill. The former councillor makes the line-up for her wobbly medium-pacers, which netted her a bowling average of eight in a twilight women’s league in the ’80s.

Hardworking and humble, solicitor dies at age 100

Oct. 20, 2008, 12:19 p.m.

GEORGE Bilbie, the son of a miner who grew up on the coalfields at Minmi to become Australia's oldest practising solicitor, has died aged 100.

A product of the mining community and proud of it, Mr Bilbie was a humble man who believed in hard work and helping others.

He continued working at the Newcastle law firm he founded until the end.

Bilbie Dan Solicitors director Nicholas Dan said yesterday Mr Bilbie was at the office looking after clients last week and he had his regular swim at Newcastle Baths on Friday.

Mr Bilbie, of Bar Beach, died on Sunday night after suffering a stroke earlier that day.

"George had a great life and a brilliant career," Mr Dan said.

"He was a gentleman and a gentle man and will be greatly missed for his wise counsel."

Long after others retired, Mr Bilbie continued to put on his suit and tie three days a week and come into his office.

"He often spoke of his humble beginnings at Minmi and he was very happy to be regarded as the working man's family solicitor," Mr Dan said.

"Helping people was his first priority and in some cases he looked after five generations of clients from the one family."

Born in 1908 George Stott Bilbie began his long career at age 15 as a "stamp licker" at a Newcastle law firm.

He would ride his pushbike from Minmi to Cockle Creek railway station where he would catch a train to work.

Mr Dan said that after completing a stenographers course Mr Bilbie became a managing law clerk and in 1938 he was admitted as a solicitor.

Mr Bilbie celebrated his 100th birthday on May 31 and among the many congratulatory messages he received was acknowledgement of his esteemed career from the Judges of the Supreme Court.

Recognised by the Australian Law Society as the oldest practising solicitor in the country, Mr Bilbie was a mentor to many in Newcastle's legal profession.

Newcastle solicitor Craig Doyle said Mr Bilbie's death was a great loss, not only to the legal profession but to the entire community.

"He was an avid reader, he had a very good historical knowledge of Newcastle and was an expert in old system titles in conveyancing law," Mr Doyle said.

Mr Bilbie is survived by his wife Eileen, whom he married in 1944, daughters Pat and Wendy and grandson Alex.

The funeral will be at St John's Anglican Church, Cooks Hill, at 1pm on Thursday.