global health

Dec 21, 2012

A terrible loss. Vale Gavin Mooney and Delys Weston

Such terrible, devastating news. Health economist Professor Gavin Mooney and his partner Delys Weston have been murdered in Tasmania (more details here

Melissa Sweet — Health journalist and <a href=Croakey co-ordinator" class="author__portrait">

Melissa Sweet

Health journalist and Croakey co-ordinator

Such terrible, devastating news. Health economist Professor Gavin Mooney and his partner Delys Weston have been murdered in Tasmania (more details here from ABC and AAP).

Gavin will be known to regular Croakey readers as a prolific contributor since this blog’s start. Delys had recently completed her PhD in the political economy of global warming.

Gavin will be remembered for his passionate advocacy for equity and social justice at local and global levels, for his championing of citizen’s juries, and for his commitment to Indigenous health.  

Since moving to Tasmania from WA, he’d become actively involved in primary health care reform, as well as pursuing advocacy for action on the social determinants of health.

A man of forthright views, Mooney was not afraid of ruffling feathers and speaking his mind, whether this meant taking on prime ministers and the medical lobby or the pharmaceutical industry.

His most recent publication at Croakey (which was actually written earlier this year) was to share some recommendations for books:

“Having recently moved to Tasmania I read The Sound of One Hand Clappingby Richard Flanagan (Picador 1999). Tells us so much about Australia (and not just Tassie) and the stories of how so many have come here … and also about longings and regrets and the horrors of war. Deeply moving. Very, very dark but quite extraordinarily beautifully written. This really moved me as few novels do.

Revolutionary Doctors by Steve Brouwer, Monthly Review Press 2011.  (Monthly Review Press publish some great stiff!) On Cuban and Venezuelan health care and Cuban and Venezuelan doctors. Uplifting.

Another world of health and another health care world are possible.

As a Scot from Glasgow – that ‘No Mean City’ – with a mother from the rural poor and a father from the slums of that city, I read The Tears that Made the Clyde by Carol Craig (Argyll 2010).

This is a book that is special for Glaswegians but it is a story for all who have a concern about the social determinants of health and who see public health as being essentially political and incapable of being fully understood outside of a class analysis.

Then Bad Samaritans, The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang (Bloomsbury 2008). The title says it all.”

Gavin’s own most recent book, The Health of Nations: towards a new political economy, was recently reviewed for this blog by Luke Slawomirski.

The last article that he wrote for Croakey was classic Mooney – looking at the public health and equity implications of wider political and economic debates – arguing that the recent GST review had been a missed opportunity for health.

Gavin Mooney had associations with many organisations, including the Universities of Sydney, NSW, Tasmania, Cape Town, Southern Denmark, and Aarhus.

Below are some of the early tributes from Twitter. I hope to share more memories at Croakey next week.

I am sorry not to be able to include more information about Delys here now, as I mainly knew Gavin. I know from others, however, that she cared passionately about many of the issues that also engaged Gavin’s concern and attention.

May Gavin and Delys rest in peace.






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5 thoughts on “A terrible loss. Vale Gavin Mooney and Delys Weston

  1. Gavin McDonald

    Gavin was a true and loyal friend of my parents for decades. It was very good to see him this summer in Scotland. He was a very humble and caring individual. His dedication to others was second to none. Your career was outstanding, and as a person you were special. I hope you and your partner will rest in peace now.

  2. Steve Jan

    The last time we saw Gavin and Del was in May this year. They were visiting Sydney for the launch of Gavin’s latest book and we had arranged for them to come over for dinner at our place. Our conversation that night was typically frenetic as we tried to cover everything that had been going on in our lives since the last time we’d caught up – we talked of their new life in Tasmania, about family, work, politics, PhDs, books, Aboriginal health, Africa, East Timor and of course, all our plans for the future. For Gavin, the future was always a topic to be relished, an opportunity to do more –whether it be to right a wrong, to challenge an injustice, to make a statement, to help a stranger, to think new ideas or to run the next marathon. Even in retirement, there were always numerous exciting things to do around the corner. His energy and passion seemed limitless, with much of this driven by a commitment to others; in this he and Del were always unwavering.

    His contribution to health economics has been immense. He was the founding director of the Health Economics Research Unit in Aberdeen, Foundation Professor of Health Economics at University of Sydney as well as holding, at various times, Chairs at Curtin University, Universities of Copenhagen, Tromso, Aarhus and Cape Town (I’m sure we’ve missed a few). Many of the major figures in the profession have at some time in their careers worked under his leadership, with many of these individuals beginning their careers as PhD students under his supervision. We’re certain that his influence on health economics in terms of the people he has trained, the influence of their work and the people they’ve subsequently trained and so forth, is unrivalled. If anyone were to look at the genealogy of health economics, they will find the biggest branch being the one that that leads out from Gavin Mooney.

    In his own right Gavin’s research transformed health economics. As a sub-discipline, health economics has often been practiced with the type of simplifying assumptions and reductionist claptrap that has rendered a large part of mainstream economics irrelevant. Gavin readily challenged these assumptions and encouraged us to look at economics as a system of values, rather than as simply a set of tools that could be unquestioningly pulled in from mainstream economics. He encouraged us to examine viewpoints from other disciplines, he gave prominence to equity – to be treated as a key objective of health systems rather as an inconvenience, and as much as anyone, highlighted how health and health care are different. In this respect, whilst a lot of his work (particularly in recent years) has been about ‘challenging health economics’, there is an irony (and one that Gavin was probably too modest to recognise) that much of the identity that health economics has been able to establish for itself derives from Gavin’s intellectual legacy.

    We have known Gavin for almost 20 years. He was a wonderful mentor, having guided us through PhDs and setting us both on courses to achieving everything you could hope for in professional life – happy and fulfilling careers. To have had Gavin as a mentor was the greatest gift a young researcher could have. Although we have not worked with him for a decade, we continue to be inspired by him. As a friend he was always there. We both feel extremely privileged to have known him and Del. We miss them both dearly.

    Virginia Wiseman and Stephen Jan

  3. Fran Baum

    The news of Gavin’s and Del’s murder is so shocking that it is hard to know what to say. Gavin’s contribution to public health has been huge. Always a champion for the cause of equity and social justice. Always questioning accepted wisdom and power. Always a fierce advocate for the rights of Aboriginal people. I remember the time he told me he’d love me to meet Del when they had recently got together in Perth. They were so obviously both head over heels in love! From then I came to know lovely gentle Del – such a contrast to Gavin’s Glaswegian streetwise toughness! Del’s PhD work on climate change and sustainable development has made a great contribution to the world. She was so passionate about working for a sustainable environment. I’ll never forget their great excitement about their new place in Tassie. I last saw them in Hobart earlier this year and promised to soon take up their invitation to visit their new place at Mountain River. Sadly it is now too late. The best tribute to them both (and one that I think would please them both) is for us all to continue working for the socially just and ecologically sustainable world they both struggled so hard for. Vale Del and Gavin and rest in peace together as you were in life.

  4. Luke Slawomirski

    I am shocked and stunned. Gavin was an inspiration and a hero, a true champion of justice and fairness. He worked in many spheres throughout his distinguished career. Together with Del they have done great, tangible work in helping disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Gavin’s true passion, however, became improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and, in my view, he is one of the few whitefellas who truly ‘got’ it. Although he quite often despaired at the state of things, he always maintained a positive outlook and always respected the views and values of others. He had no plans on slowing down and, until recently, was regularly running marathons. Gavin has educated, mentored and inspired many, and his legacy will continue for a long time. Gavin and Del will be sorely sorely missed but never forgotten. May they rest in peace. LS

  5. dsb

    David Briggs President SHAPE, Editor APJHM. On behalf of all the members of SHAPE I pay our respects to a colleague and friend of many of our members.In my personal and professional opinion Gavin was the champion of ordinary people and communities. His scholarship was central to the principle that communities should have greater involvement and say in their health services.This is a worthy cause the pursuit of which should not be lost with his passing.Perhaps others might consider how he might be remembered in future scholarship in this respect.

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