A Sample of David John Dunkin’s Life

Posted on December 10, 2020

David Dunkin was born 21st August 1950 in North Croydon London. The family moved to Bombay (Mumbai) in 1955. David says “I loved growing up in India. It was amazing. The curries were mouth-watering, and I loved wearing robes while my sister wore saris. It was fantastic”. 

My sister and I were then enrolled in Friends’ Boarding School in 1959. 

“We were totally out of our comfort zone from the previous 9 years. It was winter in Hobart, freezing when we arrived and I’ve never experienced that cold before. Honestly my lips got severely cracked.” 

In David’s first year at the boarding house he was homesick and not only missing his Mum and Dad, but also his sister, who he only saw briefly at meal times. David says that because he was younger, older boys in years 10 and 11 picked on him and more than once he had his ‘head dunked in the toilet’.

After that experience in 1959, David says, Mr ‘Cracker’ Morris came to his rescue. He speaks fondly of this time and explains “we were mentored by a real gentleman, who really cared for us young boys”. 

David loved sports and biology. He was made cricket/swimming/athletics/football captain and house captain of Mather House. He says this was the start of growing up and acknowledging acts of responsibility and loyalty. 

“I struggled at first but, after a few events and notching up wins, I gained respect from the older borders, the teachers and from Mr Oats, our headmaster at that time.”

“I must say that my blazer was my first item of clothing I felt really proud of. It had the ribbon of blue, my favourite colour and scarlet embroidery on the pocket.” 

Then in 1966, at age 16, David left school and got a job working as a spare parts clerk at SPARCO in Argyle Street. “That was brilliant,” he says “I was earning money at 16 and had a job with responsibility and I loved learning something new”. He remembers the days of being young, carefree and surfing all over Tassie with his mates and girlfriend.  

A young David Dunkin after he graduated from Friends’

On June 27th, 1969 David’s number was called to the National Service. He chose the RAAF because of a long family history with defence in RAAF. He served 6 years in Vietnam and suffered life changing injuries. He remembers the aftermath of the war, when the Australian public looked down upon returning soldiers and he recalls being spat on in the street while wearing his uniform. 

When he returned home in 1976, his family had moved to Howrah. He says it was “an absolute delight living right on the Derwent River and waking up each day, looking out at Mount Wellington, covered in snow in winter”. 

David decorated with his war medals on ANZAC day

When David couldn’t find work in Hobart he says, “Mum and Dad were giving me vibes that right, your now 26 (1976) and you need to start your life”. So, David packed his Holden panel van, fitted it out for cooking and sleeping and told them, “I’m catching the ferry tomorrow to Melbourne to start a life”. David says he was in a difficult head space from the war and the severe accident which left very deep scars. However, he remarks, he was keen to start a new life and prove to his parents he could do it on his own. 

In late September,1976, David arrived in the big city where he knew no one. He found a unit in Elsternwick near St Kilda and the very next day he was working as a car accessory fitter. “A job and money, the start of my new life”, he says.  

After 5 years of living in Melbourne (1981), he and his girlfriend Margie bought a VW Kombi camper and took off touring Australia’s beautiful outback and coastline. David remembers this time very fondly.   

During the following years he worked his way up from a credit controller to be a New South Wales Credit Manager, a huge responsibility which was stressful. David says it was during this time that his personal life took a tumble, after Margie passed away from breast cancer. He says the experience “shattered” him and his family, who just adored her. 

He decided it was time for another change, he wanted to do something different.

He packed up and left Manly and moved to Pacific Palms outside of Forster on the NSW north coast. He found a job as a builders’ labourer on the first Kmart shopping centre, which eventually became the largest shopping centre on the mid North Coast, hiring nearly 700 local builders and traders. He says being first on the job, meant always being last to leave the  job. Over the 9 months of building, he became labourer, carpenter, and then the building estimator manager. A challenging job, with high stress and responsibly. 

“If it wasn’t for the teachings of Mr Morris and the other teachers who guided me through obstacles whilst at school, I never would have achieved these heights and goals.”

In 1983, David moved to Palm Beach Sydney, on the northern beaches. He had a good steady job and life was stable, then the GFC hit.  He recalls “Jobs were disappearing and everything was unstable, so I decided to leave that profession and went to night school to study administration and leadership”. 

After night school, David started work at the Avalon RSL Sub Branch Club. He enjoyed this very much. “Talking and meeting people, I experienced veterans who went to Vietnam whilst being in the RAAF from 1969 -1975 and WWII veterans inspired me to do a welfare course for DVA veterans and to start helping others.”

He soon became Welfare Officer for the Northern Beaches RSL Clubs. He became involved in caring for veterans who were searching for answers and their missing entitlements and pensions.  David says “this was a very satisfying job, as you could see the changes in quality of life after fighting in wars, and I saw this to be a major contributing factor to the increasing rates of suicides”. David continues that “this has been the most satisfying thing I’ve done so far in my life. I have been the flag bearer in Anzac Day Marches for Club Palm Beach Sub-branch since 2006. I still go every year (bar 2020) to Palm Beach for Anzac Day”. Each year he makes the drive up with his Labrador, Roxy. 

In 2017, David suddenly found himself homeless. He explains this was “shattering”, He says, “After 35+ years I had no home and money was literally down to my last cents”. He says he was 67 with no home and absolutely no idea of what to do. Thankfully, after 17 weeks of living in his car the RSL Defence Care came to his aid.

In August 2017 they moved him to Somerset, Tasmania, right on the beach and David says, “to a life with no stress”. This new home is close to his mother, who lives in Launceston and this year celebrated her 98th birthday. 

David says “My Mum is the Dunkin stone; she has taught me many valuable lessons during my life.” He goes on to say “the enormous amount of strength she has given me cannot be quantified. She showed me if you want to get through difficulties you have to work hard, everything is achievable”. 

David is now 70 years old, “I still have the travelling bug, and I cannot stop thinking about having a no fixed address in my motorhome and Roxy by my side somewhere on a coastline in Tasmania or Australia”.  He has never been married, but says he is still patiently waiting for that person. 

David says “I have lots of stories over the years to tell, my achievements, my travels, my worldwide experiences and of course my family. This is a sample of David John Dunkin’s life”. 

David’s life is an example of the real ups and downs that we all experience after we leave school. We would like to thank David for sharing this incredible story with The Friends’ School Community. If you live on the North West Coast of Tasmania and would like to connect with David, please email us at stayconnected@friends.tas.edu.au.

A Friends’ School sports day