RIP Brendan Keilar: Selfless Courage

This morning at St. Bernard’s, East Coburg, Father Leo read out the anniversaries. Among the endless list of beautifully looping Italian names evoking images of noisy family gatherings and homemade wine, was the name of Brendan Keilar. I don’t know if Brendan was a parishioner, however I can’t think of another reason why Father Leo would include him in prayers.

I grew up around the corner from Brendan in Warrnambool and was great childhood mates with his younger brother, Jason. My memories of Jason and I are like this: playing cricket together for West Warrnambool, or in the driveway, on endless summer days; footy in the backyard in the mud; riding our dragsters on wide, empty streets; and long, unsupervised hours climbing trees in local paddocks.

Brendan passes in and out of those memories. He was the cool, almost ethereal older brother, leaning against the garage wall with a quiet, friendly smile, squinting into the sun, as we tried to impress him with our pace or cut shot, before hopping on his bike and heading off somewhere better, more important. He was a nippy, light forward who, if my memory holds true, played for Warrnambool in the Grant Thomas era.

Jason had a job at Kermond’s Hamburgers, a local institution. With teenage years, we grew, changed and drifted apart, as you do. Eventually, we both left the Warrnambool cocoon and headed off in different, individual directions.

Brendan, husband, father, solicitor, was gunned down along with Paul de Waard, on 18 June 2007, a weekday morning in the city, by a member of the Hell’s Angels, when they went to the aid of a female they had never met before. Paul, a Dutchman, survived, and hopefully is alive and well and celebrating the Netherlands’ victory over Spain.

I hadn’t seen or heard of Brendan for years, but suddenly his smiling face was spread across the front page of Melbourne newspapers for days. His shocked, grieving parents were imposed upon for media grabs. The world intruded, unwelcome, upon the cocoon.

After mass, I went home and searched for information on Brendan. I discovered a site commemorating his life. There were photos of his family at the funeral; his son Charlie, then aged nine, receiving the bravery medal on Brendan’s behalf from the Governor of Victoria, David de Kretser; a cheeky, beaming Brendan with a beer and mates; a Uni Blacks footy photo. I found an old site promoting a school reunion with class photos, deb ball, party and more footy shots. I recognised a few of the faces.

I scrolled further down and found photos of a plaque laid to Brendan and Paul at the site of the crime. It reads: May their selfless courage in going to the aid of a stranger inspire in us all a greater sense of community and concern for others. Rest in peace Brendan.



  1. Wonderful sentiments Andrew. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thank you Andrew beautifully written , life can be so unfair . Thanks Andrew

  3. Peter Fuller says

    Thank you for this superb tribute. I feel privileged that we have been given some insight into this fine human being, who when faced with the most frightful of challenges, instinctively knew the right thing to do. I’ve just read the appalling two-part series in the Saturday Paper about the young man who has recently been convicted and sentenced for the murder of an infant in Bendigo. When we are confronted with some of the worst behaviours that occur in our society, it revives our spirits to hear of the other side of the coin, people who act bravely at ultimate cost to themselves.
    I have a vague recollection of a doughty defender for the Warrnambool Blues in the 1950s, who would I guess have been Brendan and Jason’s father.

  4. Nicely written Andrew. Thanks for sharing.

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