Harrington Park man releases autobiography about life across five continents

What a life: New author Cliff Reece with his autobiography, The Journey of a Very Grateful 10 Pound Tourist. Picture: Simon Bennett
What a life: New author Cliff Reece with his autobiography, The Journey of a Very Grateful 10 Pound Tourist. Picture: Simon Bennett

Harrington Park's Cliff Reece has certainly led a full life.

The 75-year-old has just released his self-published biography The Journey of a Very Grateful 10 Pound Tourist, and it is quite the ride, covering his life living on five continents, fighting discrimination and influencing movers and shakers.

Mr Reece, now retired, worked largely in consultancy, and was even head of Australia's National Safety Council for a time.

His book, he says, is "essentially my life, from birth to now - 75 years plus a few weeks".

Mr Reece arrived in Australia from the UK as a 19-year-old in 1965.

But he didn't stay in Australia for long, soon getting a transfer through his company to South Africa.

"I was working with a large computer company, and I had the opportunity to go to South Africa, where I lived for three years," Mr Reece said.

"In was during the apartheid years, and I was quite involved in the anti-apartheid movement.

"You had to keep fairly low-key in those days. We had warnings, but we were never put in jail."

After returning to Australia for a bit (where he became chief executive, at age 29, of John P. Young and Associates in Sydney), Mr Reece next found himself working in Hong Kong for KPMG.

"It was during the Tiananmen Square massacre times, and I was heavily involved in setting up a few groups promoting the idea of Britain giving passports to Hong Kong people wanting to get out," he said.

"There was a lot of panic in Hong Kong at that time, probably a bit similar to now actually, and we were trying to get the UK to honour the Hong Kong people who had UK travel passports, but not full UK passports.

"Our view was that it wasn't fair, after 160 years of colonisation, that these people could travel on a UK passport but couldn't live and settle there.

"Eventually the UK did give in and offered 50,000 families passports.

"Part of my job at the time was to go around to other countries, in Europe and North America, back down here and to New Zealand, and speak to as many people as I could to get support for Hong Kong.

"Almost every country gave their support.

"They used to call me Hong Kong's unofficial ambassador."

Mr Reece also lived in Vancouver, Canada for a time before coming back and settling in Australia in 1990.

He worked at his risk management business, Crisis Risk Management, for 30 years until his retirement in 2018 at age 73. Mr Reece said part of his work was actually to deliver pandemic management plans.

Mr Reece said a lot of his research for his book was gathered during the 1990s, when he spent a lot of time gathering an extensive family history.

He said, once retired, he put his mind to creating his autobiography properly, and completed it within about a year.

Harry Hartog book shop at Narellan Town Centre is selling copies of The Journey of a Very Grateful 10 Pound Tourist.

Mr Reece said he hoped people took some inspiration away from his book.

"I've had an interesting journey - I've seen a lot, done a lot, made a lot of mistakes, but generally been quite successful," he said.

"What I'm trying to get across is that you can achieve without being all that good at school, even without an advanced education.

"I left school at 16 and didn't go to university. But you can still learn something every day.

"Anyone can succeed if they want to.

"I even owned a farm for five years in the Southern Highlands - that was one of my childhood dreams.

"You don't need a lot of money, necessarily, to succeed. I came to Australia with the equivalent of about $50 when I was 19.

"I hope people gain some confidence that they can achieve what they want in life if they just work hard and keep going forward."

Mr Reece said his book was dedicated to his entire family - including his three daughters and his partner - but the main dedication was to his late daughter Sonya Reece, who was tragically killed in a road accident in Orange as a 23-year-old.

"She had been on her last visit back to Orange before going to Europe for a big holiday," he said.

"She had resigned from her job as a journalist with Seven, and this was the last trip to pick up all her belongings.

"It was a preventable accident, largely due to the state of the road. After Sonya died the government fixed up the road in record time.

"The last picture in the book is a big dedication to her.

"I've sent the book to the National Library and four other major libraries. Now her story will never get forgotten."

The Journey of a Very Grateful 10 Pound Tourist is now available from Harry Hartog at Narellan Town Centre.