ACT News


Ex-public servant Robert Crick explores the world by motorbike at 71

An unexpected retirement, the end of a marriage and the desire to try something new gave Stirling's Robert Crick the means, motive and opportunity to embark on a two-wheeled odyssey that has taken him across Australia and around the globe.

The former diplomat, who stepped down from the public service after a 34-year career split between foreign affairs and agriculture, industry and trade in 2004, has travelled deep into the outback on his BMW and across the Himalayas as far as the Mount Everest Base Camp on a classic Indian-built Royal Enfield designed in the 1950s.

He recently took his 13-year-old grandson, Dylan, as a pillion passenger through Nepal and Bhutan on mountain tracks averaging 4500 metres above sea level. He has also taken another grandson, Oskar, through southern India.

"You are always careful," Mr Crick said. "But when you have your grandson on the back you are really careful."

Until his retirement Mr Crick's sole exposure to motorbikes was when his sons, Kevin and Tim, flirted with them in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Mr Crick, who had studied for the priesthood at Redemptorist Monasteries in Galong and Ballarat before switching to law at Sydney University, never planned to be a Cold War diplomat.


"I was planning to be a barrister," he said. "But in my last year I saw an advertisement for a position with the diplomatic service."

His first assignment was Moscow, a cold climate posting that set a pattern for much of his career.

"I have been posted to the three coldest capitals in the world," he said. "Moscow is third, Ulan Bator is number one and Ottawa is number two."

Mr Crick prepped for his Moscow assignment at Beaconsfield, the British government language school near London that trained a succession of "spooks", before spending three years in the heart of "the evil empire".

"It [the mid 1970s] was a really interesting time to be in Moscow," he said. "It was characterised by efforts towards detente and there were bilateral visits to Moscow by Nixon and to America by Brezhnev. All sorts of things were happening and in Moscow the underground art movement [of which he has several notable pieces]was flourishing."

Fast forward to 2004 and Mr Crick, now an SES-level public servant, found he had planned himself out of a job.

When you have your grandson on the back you are really careful.

Robert Crick

"Retirement jumped out at me; my last job was setting up a national measurement institute that brought three bodies, all of which had previously been under different governance, workplace agreements and structures, together," he said.

"I felt a scientist should head it up and, as a result, didn't apply for the position. There was nothing else obvious to go to so I took a voluntary redundancy.

"This just about coincided with my second wife deciding she could do better. She opted out and that was partly what motivated me to do some different."

The bikes, while not necessarily obvious, certainly qualified and within a few months Mr Crick was a regular with Canberra's "Wednesday Ride" group.