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Obituary: Keppel Earl Enderby (1926–2015)

Kep EnderbyOur esteemed and beloved Kep, former president of the UEA and AEA, died on 8 January. Due to his activity in the Esperanto movement, people all around the world are mourning.

Kep was born on 25 June 1926 in Dubbo NSW and attended the primary and high schools there. In 1944 the 18-year-old joined the Australian Air Force as trainee pilot (1944-45), and then also flew helicopters until his 60s. After World War II he studied law at the University of Sydney, and during 1950-54 at the University of London, where he later worked as a lawyer and a lecturer.

In 1951, as an amateur golfer, Kep participated in the British Open, and showed so much talent that he beat champions such as Kel Nagle and Norman Von Nida, played with such eminent people as Peter Thompson, and even for a time wondered whether to become a lawyer or professional golfer.

In 1955 he returned to Australia and practised law in Sydney. He moved to Canberra in the ’60s, from 1962 becoming a lecturer at the Australian National University (ANU). During the ’50s and ’60s, he was an active lawyer for civil rights; he helped establish the NSW Council for Civil Liberties – always a great passion of his. In 1970, in a by-election, he was elected Labor MP for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). In 1972 Prime Minister Gough Whitlam made him the first Minister for the ACT (later renamed Canberra) and the Northern Territory.

Kep quickly showed his ability, holding several ministries. He was responsible for Australian industry and later for justice. In February 1975 he was made Attorney General. He achieved much, including laws to decriminalise both abortion and homosexuality in the ACT, and laws to create no-fault divorce in Australia. According to colleagues, his parliamentary service was filled with distinction. He was widely respected in various political and jurist circles.

In 1975 the Labor Party lost the election and Kep returned to law. From 1982 until his retirement in 1992 he was a judge in the Supreme Court of NSW. Until 2000 he headed the Serious Offenders Review Council. He always strongly advocated for prisoners’ wellbeing, believing that up to 80% of the Australian prison population should be released; according to him, incarceration of most criminals was counterproductive. However, he not only applied the law correctly and justly, but also according to his conscience. He presided over the Voluntary Euthanasia Society of NSW for 6 years. He and Dorothy ardently defended the right for someone to end their own life when it is no longer tolerable.

They moved from Canberra to Balmain, enjoying sailing, flights in light aircraft, reading and… an introduction to Esperanto. Kep’s uncle was a UEA delegate; here was the seed of the interest. Kep learnt Esperanto in 1987 with the help of an Australian diplomat and a staunch Esperantist, Ralph Harry. Of course, as a lifelong champion of human rights, civil liberties and the oppressed, Kep firmly believed that the international language, if spoken all over the world, would reduce conflict between people. No doubt many would consider this as romantic and quixotic. But the heart of Kep, as of Zamenhof, sought international harmony this way. Kep was also an avid reader of the works of the anarchist Prince Pyotr Kropotkin and fervently supported the Global Non-nationalist Association (Sennaciecan Asocion Tutmondan, or SAT).

Kep was president of AEA from 1992 to 1997, in which year he led the organisation of the 82nd World Esperanto Congress in Adelaide. The following year, 1998, he was elected president of UEA. He was a member of the Committee of UEA for four periods 1992-2004, as well as president of the English Legal Association 1996-2002. La Ondo de Esperanto (The Wave of Esperanto) made him Esperantist of the Year 1999. In 2004 he was elected a member of the Honorary Patrons’ Committee of UEA. Not surprisingly, having been a member of parliament, a lawyer and an ardent reader, Kep excelled in his speeches and articles.

Overall, a remarkable man. Farewell, Kep, a good-humoured, dedicated man, with an impertinent sense of humour and an unforgettable smile. Our deepest and sincere condolences to Dorothy and the Enderby family.

Vera Payne

Kep & Dorothy Enderby

Kep & Dorothy Enderby

Kep Enderby (left), 1996, Adelaide. Photo: Katalin Kovats

Kep Enderby (top-left) at the 90th birthday celebration of ex-PM Gough Whitlam

Condolences

Kep was an important leader of the Esperanto movement in Australia and the world, and a very good friend to many of us Esperantists. When I first met him in Toowoomba (he travelled often to support Esperanto in many states) I hardly spoke Esperanto and I was amazed that it was so easy to be friends with the president of AEA. I was proud also about his activity outside of Esperanto, defending human rights.

It was a touching experience to participate in the second Asian congress of Esperanto in Hanoi with many Australians, together with Kep. In 1972 Kep was a minister in the Australian government, which stopped the war against Vietnam. In 1999, during the congress, Vietnamese honoured Kep, the then president of UEA.

Kep and Dorothy will remain in historical stories and in our hearts.
Hazel Green

My first awareness of Esperanto was when I heard a radio interview with Kep Enderby on the ABC on a plane. He inspired me and convinced me of the value and idealism of Esperanto. After I told him about his conversion of me, he always regarded me as his special disciple.
Steven Pitney

Although I met Kep only a few times, I remember him as a clear-thinking, energetic, positive Esperantist. And I also have much sympathy for many of his other views (e.g. concerning human rights and Australian Aborigines) and the fact that he really tried to improve relations between UEA and SAT.
Sandor Horvath

As a politician Kep was able to travel for free to many congresses to represent Australia. Owing to his knowledge and capability he successfully wrote a constitution for radio 3ZZZ and convinced the management to accept Esperanto among over 70 community languages. He was a very kind gentleman.
Jennifer Bishop

I have never met Kep but I have heard some of his wonderful speeches and wonderful reports by him. Everyone at the Esperanto League of WA will join me in expressing my condolences.
Trish O’Connor