Al Grassby, the great proponent of multiculturalism, passed away on 23 April 2005.
When Whitlam swept to power in 1972, Grassby became the Minister for Immigration. He revelled in the position: passionate in his support for a truly multicultural Australian society, he was strident in his opposition to racism and bigotry. Even after losing his federal seat in 1974, he continued his crusade as Commissioner for Community Relations.
Just as memorable as Grassby's political achievements was his flamboyance. This was the man sworn in to Parliament wearing a bright purple suit! He was particularly famed for his choice of ties, which were invariably loud and colourful, with eye-catching patterns.
In 2002 Museum Victoria curators approached Mr Grassby, requesting the donation of one of his ties for the heritage collection. It was felt that such an object would playfully represent one of the defining periods in Australia's development as a multicultural nation.
He was only too happy to oblige, and a package duly arrived at the Museum containing an outrageously wide silk floral tie. Worn at a state reception for Queen Elizabeth II at Parliament House in Canberra, the tie also served on numerous other occasions for visiting heads of state between 1972 and 1975.