Ben Buckley has been one of Australia’s longest serving, best loved and controversial rural councillors.

Story Sue Smethurst  Photos Jessica Shapiro

One of Australia’s oldest and longest-serving rural politicians, Ben Buckley has been elected, sacked and re-elected from Victorian local government more times than he can remember. He’s been stood down, suspended, found guilty of misconduct, labelled a ‘maverick’, ‘pain in the neck’, ‘crusty old fart’ and even a ‘senile old prick’ by one former colleague. “I’ve developed a few enemies in my time,” he says with a grin.

And yet, for years he’s been the East Gippsland Shire’s most popular councillor by a country mile, admired for his straight-talking “no bullshit” stance and tireless fight to make council more transparent. At the age of 83, he was even elected deputy mayor.

Now, after four decades in local government, Ben has retired and, while some are delighted to see the back of him, many are lamenting the loss of a true bush larrikin.

“There’ll never be another like him,” says Bob Yeates, owner of East Gippsland Newspapers. “Ben is a true man of the people with a great heart, a salt of the earth, knockabout bloke and he is a living legend of the high country. He’s ruffled a few feathers along the way because he says the things that others are too afraid to say. He’s never been one for the niceties of political correctness and that’s why we love him.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #136

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2021