High-profile Australians who died in 2016

By Sarah McPhee
(Australian Associated Press)


ROBERT STIGWOOD (April 16, 1934 – January 4, 2016)

Robert Stigwood was a showman who managed some of the most famous showmen in the creative arts. He moved from South Australia to London in 1955 to establish a theatrical agency before becoming one of Britain’s first independent music producers, with clients Eric Clapton and the Bee Gees. Stigwood produced the West End musicals Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar before taking the reigns on the movies Saturday Night Fever and Grease. ‘Stiggy’ never married. His godson, Robin Gibb’s son Spencer, announced the “creative genius with a very quick and dry wit” died, aged 81.

SARAH TAIT (January 23, 1983 – March 3, 2016)

Sarah Tait was a champion rower and mother who pioneered change for women in elite sport with children. Tait had her daughter, Leila, in 2009 before winning silver with Kate Hornsey in the Women’s Pair at her third Olympic Games in 2012. She retired from the sport when she was diagnosed with cancer after the birth of her second child, Luca, in March 2013. Tait died after a three-year cancer battle, aged 33. She is remembered by the Australian Olympic Committee and Rowing Australia for introducing the Family Friendly Policy, allowing children of athletes to be reunited with their mums while they’re away for extended periods of training and competition.

PAUL COUCH (July 19, 1964 – March 5, 2016)

Geelong 1989 Brownlow medallist Paul ‘Couchy’ Couch had a “beautiful left boot” and 203 goals to his name. The loving husband and father-of-four played 259 AFL games for the Cats and was named in the club’s team of the century, while also representing Victoria on five occasions. Couch died from a heart attack, aged 51, while cycling with friends on the Great Ocean Road near Apollo Bay. He was adored by fans and teammates for his infectious smile and down to earth temperament.

JON ENGLISH (March 26, 1949 – March 9, 2016)

Jon English may have been English-born but he was a much-loved figure of the Australian stage. The larger than life rocker – nicknamed “Ol’ Black Eyes” with his wild mane of hair and dimples – recorded 10 solo albums across the 1970s and 80s and won a Logie for his role in the historical TV drama Against the Wind. He reached the height of his fame in 1972 as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, alongside Marcia Hines and John Paul Young. English died after suffering an aortic aneurysm during surgery, aged 66.

BOB ELLIS (May 10, 1942 – April 3, 2016)

Bob Ellis’ love for Labor became his labour of love. He was unashamedly left-wing, writing about politicians and writing speeches for them including Kim Beazley, Bob Carr, Bob Brown and former South Australian premier Mike Rann. Ellis considered his book, Goodbye Jerusalem – pulped after successful defamation action from Tony Abbott, Peter Costello and their wives – to be the most stupid thing he had ever writt