Tim Fischer: an old friend
Tim Fischer was a friend of ours. He served as a Member of Parliament in our building, and in his post-retirement years he continued to associate with the Museum as a visitor, donor, speaker and advocate for our values and history.
I met Tim at the launch of the Finders Keepers exhibition, which featured a sample of his large collection of ties. How large? Curator Stephanie Pfennigwerth remembers:
In 2014 Tim (it was always ‘Tim’, never ‘Mr Fischer’) contacted me. ‘It happens that I have in a large suitcase every tie I have ever owned from school days through to Federal Minister / Deputy PM and Ambassador,’ he wrote, ‘I suppose over one hundred … initially skinny then wide then skinny again and now average size. They span two centuries of wear, the question is are they worth putting away in your place’.
True to his word, Tim turned up with a well-travelled suitcase stuffed with a tangle of ties. He teased them out and, with an off-handed precision, flung each onto the table while detailing its exact provenance. Yes, Tim’s ties were worth putting away – and also putting on display. They are textile links to an illustrious life.
It isn’t unfair to say Tim enjoyed the spotlight, and the prospect of being permanently represented in a museum was one he clearly relished. When he was interviewed for the exhibition abou t his ties, his passion, enthusiasm and remarkable memory meant he knew how to tell a good story. I didn’t know at the time that he was quite unwell, which makes his contribution even more remarkable.
'I have such a great memory of Tim Fischer turning up at MoAD with this bulging suitcase, opening it up on a big table and these dozens of ties exploding out all over the place. ‘And I have more at home’ he said. He was so generous and interesting. He’ll be sorely missed.'
- Facebook comment from a former staff member
At the exhibition’s opening I showed Tim around a module about activist Anne Picot. On display was a sample of Anne’s collection of badges and t-shirts emblazoned with slogans advocating for a variety of left-wing causes. Tim examined each slogan critically and said, ‘I’m trying to find one I agree with!’ I tried to lead the conversation around the fact that it wasn’t so much about the causes themselves, but Anne’s right to fight for them. Tim nodded sagely, looked me square in the face for the first time, and said, ‘the essence of democracy’.
Tim’s last visit to Old Parliament House was in 2018, when he made another donation, this one a little more controversial than his ties. For our Democracy. Are you in?exhibition, Tim donated his Lee-Enfield .303 rifle. It was significant to Tim because it was handed down to him by his father. It was significant to us because it was one of the first firearms handed in and registered following the 1996 changes to firearms laws. In the wake of the Port Arthur massacre, Fischer was a leading advocate for gun control, often in the face of strong opposition from his party and rural voter base. To set an example, Tim devoted himself to the reforms, and continued to champion them even after leaving politics.
'Vale Tim Fischer. It was a pleasure meeting you at MoAD and listening to stories about the old party room, what policies were discussed, where you ate your lunch and hung your hat.'
- Instagram comment from a former staff member
Vale Tim Fischer, an Australian icon and a courageous and decent man whose contribution to our building and museum over the years cannot be overstated.
We’ll miss him.
Finders Keepers has now closed, but you can read about Tim’s ties here.
Tim Fischer's Lee-Enfield .303 rifle is currently on display in Democracy. Are you in?