Memorial Service for Tonti

(3pm, Tuesday 12 February 2013, Edmund Resch Reserve)

In this celebration of the life of Constance Joy, I firstly acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of our land, and pay my respects to their Elders. I also acknowledge the people of 200 nations who call our city home.

I thank Andrew [Stubbs, from Vine] for organising this ceremony and suggesting a tree planting as the most appropriate commemoration for Tonti.

I welcome you all to our neighbourhood park ironically named after a baron of the liquor trade, Edmond Resch whose Waverley Brewery once stood here.

I especially welcome her brother-in-law, Salvador, her niece, Juliana, her nephew, Rafael, and her dear friend Barbara, for leading us in this celebration.

Tonti didn't come into our neighbourhood unnoticed! Sporting electric blue hair, she was a welcome sight in our street as she made her way cheerfully to and from Vine.

Always friendly, compassionate, and unfailingly polite, she was also quite didactic about the things that matter most, wine and animals, and the things that should matter more to us, principled leadership and politics.

She quietly but firmly imposed her standards on us the paying public.

We went away with finer wine than we anticipated or sometimes could afford, and if it had to be wrapped, it was in paper not plastic.

While waiting at the counter we were left in no doubt who her heroes were and what she cared about. There were shrines to Barack Obama, and Black Caviar; the Dalai Lama; Aung San Suu Kyi and Christopher Hitchens; Puss in Boots, Julianne Assange and the young Princess Elizabeth, among others!

On the counter were animal welfare petitions including collection tins for Monika's Doggie Rescue and for the Sydney Children's Hospital, and there was a thank-you certificate for her efforts on behalf of Bourke Street Public School.

But I have to put in special appreciative barks for Tonti from our neighbourhood dogs. To see dogs straining at the leash to go to Vine might have seemed to outsiders as canine alcohol addiction. But unlike most commercial premises, they were not only tolerated in the shop but made welcome. There our best friends could quench their thirsts out of a silver champagne bucket and were given treats to follow.

Outside when not selling wine, Tonti turned a courtyard into the oasis of potted greenery that it is today, and Andrew is under notice to keep it all flourishing.

Tonti stood up for important principles. I think the polite word for her was "forthright"! But the presence of so many here today reflects the warm respect and affection in which she was held - by the industry, by her neighbours, by her customers and especially by her family and friends.

Peter and I, Banjo and Bessie are among those two and four legged neighbours and customers, and like everyone here today, we will miss her.

A high priority for us and the City of Sydney is to foster community spirit across our local government area in all of our villages. I think that for you all of you here today is testament to the fact that it's individuals, like Tonti, who - through their enthusiasm for life, through their generosity of spirit and through their willingness to stand for some greater good -whether it's freedom of speech or Donkey or Thoroughbred Rescue - actually make our communities work and bring us together.

She will be missed, and to her family, her friends, her colleagues, her neighbours, we offer our sincere condolences. Thank you.