‘People and Memories’ Part 2

Ian Gust – Carlton FC

‘Football was a means for me to become an assimilated Australian. Coming from a European background with parents speaking with accents, we were considered exotic. Football gave me a common language and links with people who’d usually consider me a foreigner.’


Medical virologist, Professor Ian ‘Gusty’ Gust (AO), sits in his office in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Melbourne University. He is surrounded by filing cabinets and bulging book shelves, while walls are filled with photographs of past and present colleagues and smiling family members. Well spoken and considered, with distinguished grey hair, and wearing brown corduroy pants, he is every bit the esteemed academic.


Ian’s achievements include developing vaccines for Hepatitis A and Human Papillomavirus and taking a leading role in the fight against AIDS. He founded the Burnet Institute, headed Research and Development at Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) and for the past decade, in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has developed vaccines for developing nations. Ian was awarded an Order of Australia in 1991.


‘Football was my entree in a time when Australian society wasn’t as multi-cultural as it is today.’


Ian’s father, Itzhak, a Polish Jew, fought with the Bolsheviks in the 1917 Russian Revolution. In Palestine, he joined the ‘Kibbutzniks’, in the quest for a Jewish homeland.


Eventually, Itzhak looked to Australia for a new life and landed in Melbourne in 1928. Wife Manka, and baby daughter Amirah, arrived soon after. They settled in Elwood and Ian was born in 1941.


Ian is uncertain where his family’s allegiance to Carlton Football Club originated. He suspects his parents, ‘urban intellectuals’, with little interest in sport, chose the Blues attempting to fit into their new world. A certain Elwood neighbour may also have been influential.


‘They [his family] moved to 292 Barkly Street. They occupied the downstairs flat. The adjoining flat was occupied by Percy Bentley… captain-coach of the Carlton Football Club.’


Ian received his first Carlton membership aged eight.


‘My parents bought me a season’s ticket for eighteen games… I’d go with sandwiches and a thermos of hot soup my mother would give me.’


Ian’s parents were happy for Ian to attend matches at Melbourne’s suburban grounds alone, but if they had known how rough and tumble the outer was in postwar Melbourne, they may have thought otherwise.


‘Inevitably there’d be confrontations between supporters of the two teams… At those games I wouldn’t barrack, I’d just shut up.’


Female supporters were often the most unruly.


‘Women with their hair in curlers and fluffy slippers would hit each other with umbrellas!’


Ian is thankful for the family friendly atmosphere at today’s AFL grounds.


Ian attended matches regularly during the 1950s and ’60s, when Princes Park comprised mainly of stepped terraces and a few wooden grandstands. Prime Minister Menzies watched games from his car, parked on a ramp behind the Royal Parade end goals.


‘Carlton always had connections to the elite of town,’ Ian says.


Ian points out during this period Carlton was one of the first clubs to embrace foreign supporters and players whose parents were foreigners.


Although mostly lean times, Carlton still produced great players, including acrobatic forward Keith Warburton and full back Ollie Grieve, renowned for his ability to control Essendon champion, John Coleman.


‘One day at Windy Hill… Coleman kicked 7 or 8. If he’d been playing on anyone other than Grieve, he would’ve kicked 15.’


Enrolment in a combined Medicine and Science degree at MU introduced Ian to an avant-garde literary and artistic scene. He mixed with writers and emerging theatre luminaries such as John Timlin, Jack Hibberd and Graeme Blundell. After Saturday morning lectures, they would head to the football together.


On field fortunes improved when president George Harris brought Ron Barassi over from Melbourne. Ian was working overseas for the 1968 Premiership, but was at the MCG for the 1970 decider against Collingwood.


‘I wanted to go home at half-time…. But Teddy Hopkins came on and the rest is history.’


Two decades of success followed thanks to players such as Nicholls, Gallagher, Jackson, Southby, Brent Crosswell, who joined the MU literary scene and anti-Vietnam War movement, and Buckley and Johnston. Yet Ian believes it was Carlton’s ‘ruthless, stop at nothing’ administrations, led by Harris and later, John Elliott, that instilled the winning culture.


Ian expected a top four finish in 2012, his 64th season as member. Although disappointed to see the Blues scrapping for eighth spot, like a true Carlton man, he expects Chris Judd to lead the club back to its rightful position near the top of the ladder next year.


When he first supported the Blues, Ian went to games on his own. Nowadays, it’s all about family. He and wife Dianne have five children and a growing band of grandchildren. All are Carlton fans.


‘Going to the footy is a wonderful family thing for us… The kids and their partners come along. It’s a great joy… Regardless of the result.’


  1. Cracking photo, AS. One of yours?
    Interesting comment about his preference for the family friendly grounds today. There is a lot of nostalgia for the grounds of yore but there would be many complaints if they were still in use today.

  2. Hi Starks – I’m enjoying the series. I agree with Cookie – it’s a great photo.

  3. John Harms says

    This is definitely one for Phil Dimitriadis’s book AS. REally interesting read.

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