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Bryce Courtenay's last goodbye

Hundreds gather at a Sydney church for the funeral of one of Australia's most well-known authors, Bryce Courtenay.

PT2M22S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2avfr 620 349

More than 300 mourners, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson, paid their last respects to author Bryce Courtenay on Wednesday at an intimate and private funeral at St Mark’s Church, Darling Point.

Courtenay, who in his 79 years ranked as one of Australia’s highest selling authors having sold more than 20 million books published in 18 languages, was farewelled by mostly friends and family members.

Described as a solemn yet celebratory service, Courtenay’s second wife Christine was surrounded by well-wishers, including television personality Jennifer Byrne, former Greens leader Bob Brown, the entertainer Kamahl, former advertising colleague Alex Hamill and publishing figures Robert Sessions and Julie Gibbs.

Bryce Courtenay's funeral in Darling Point, Sydney. 5th December 2012 Photo: Janie Barrett photo.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Tim Mathieson leave Bryce Courtenay's funeral in Darling Point. Photo: Janie Barrett.

Scenes from two films based on his books Jessica and The Power of One were screened before the service, with the congregation singing a traditional African song Who Killed Cock Robin.

During the 90-minute service, billed as 'A Celebration' on the order of service which had been printed on what appeared to be a glossy book sleeve from one of Courtenay's novels, mourners heard emotional tributes from his widow, sons Adam and Brett, former Sydney Olympics chief, Simon Balderstone AM, and Hamill.

Robert Sessions, Penguin Australia publisher, read the eulogy, while British environmentalist Robert Swan OBE sent a video message. Tribute was also paid to Courtenay’s first wife, the late Benita, while the congregation heard about Courtenay’s extraordinary philanthropy, having donated much of his fortune to various environmental and wildlife causes around the world. A video of Courtenay talking to his students at his 'Last Class' writing workshop at the National Library of Australia in September, was also screened.

Bryce Courtenay's funeral in Darling Point, Sydney. 5th December 2012 Photo: Janie Barrett photo.

Former students held aloft bright sunflowers as Courtenay's casket left the church. Photo: Janie Barrett.

A keen gardener who has a cymbidium orchid species named after him, Courtenay’s passion for the plant world was expressed in a guard of honour made up of his former students who held aloft bright sunflowers as his casket left the church.

Courtenay announced in September he was battling stomach cancer, he died on November 22.