Charlie Pahlman Memorial

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Family Statement ] Pam's Speech ] Andrew's Eulogy - Charlie's early days ] [ Cate Buchanan's Speech at Charlie's Memorial Service ]

from Cate Buchanan, friend and fellow Sagittarian

Charlie Pahlman – the finest friend

This is hard. The last time I did something vaguely similar to this - and only vaguely comparable - it was a happier occasion, with significantly less people and Charlie was right there beside me, when I cracked up, holding my hand, helping me move forward in my wedding ceremony that he was the eclectic celebrant for.

Today I am honoured to be able to share some reflections on this amazing person, on the quality of friendship and commitment that he gave us all as a friend, father, partner, son, activist-mate, colleague, neighbour and of course, dog-lover.

Charlie was a legendary facilitator, the penultimate networker. Look at us all here today and those not able to be with us in Thailand, Laos, Sweden, Brazil and many other places, entwined though our friendship, love and admiration for Charlie Pahlman, Yusta. (Apologies Anna-Lena – this is the informal Aussie spelling…)

This comes as no surprise. For those of us who involved in ANTaR, it wasn’t long before we were not only up to speed on Mekong issues, privitisation trends, development dilemmas but also networking and become colleagues and mates with Charlie’s many other friends and networks.

For years now and ironically the night before Charlie’s death I have found myself ending any description of Charlie to others with the phrase, ‘he’s awesome, you’d love him.’ My friend reminded me of this conversation, I had said something along the lines of, ‘he listens deeply and openly, he creates a space for exchange and encounter but he never lets you get away with things.’ That was Charlie. He challenged, provoked, prodded, pushed. It drove us up the wall, provided us with insight, gave us comfort and strength.

This we will miss deeply.

Charlie was remarkable in his super-human capacity to go the extra mile. Often physically exhausted and fighting a battle with insomnia and the demons that challenged him, he never flinched from offering us his help to strategise, to roll up his sleeves and do what needed to be done – whether that working from the bottom up to realise community development in Laos or Canberra, ending the racism in this country that denies Indigenous people their humanity, or protecting the Earth’s precious rivers and oceans.

From day one Charlie made a unique contribution to ANTaR – infusing the movement with his remarkable commitment and high-speed energy for every task – even adapting to the role of the first vegetarian-bbq-chef for the mammoth sausage sizzle at the first Sorry Day activities. Charlie embraced any challenge – big or small, short term or long haul – whatever was necessary.

This we will miss deeply.

I was and I speak for many many others, in awe of Charlie. He was a source of inspiration about how to be, how to act, how to give to others and to this deeply troubled beautiful confusing world of ours. Charlie’s stunning ability to be irreverent, principled, compassionate all in the one breath is an overwhelming loss for us all, and a tragic loss for the planet that he gave so much energy to making saner.

This we will miss deeply.

How do we say goodbye to Charlie, when he was with is, it was difficult enough as there was always so much to talk about. Short phone calls would turn into hours, a couple of glasses of red wine into many, one game of skittles would turn into twenty, how do we say goodbye…This is the challenge that we now face.

So I say farewell big buddy – I will remember, I will mourn, I will miss:

Your enveloping warm hug,

Your ability to see the light before the dark – a rare and true gift,

Cleaning up one metre wide red wine spills on your poor beaten up carpet,

The updates of what a Sagittarian could expect in any week,

Your principled commitment to both the process and goals of social justice,

Your piercingly honest counsel,

And saluting the sun with you to the sounds of birdsong and the smell of the ocean.


Dear sweet, incredible Charlie – you simply were the finest friend.


This will go to Andrew (Charlie's brother) and Anna-marie (tech support). 
Mailing address: 36 Upper Cliff Road, Northwood, 2066, NSW.