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BONZA Life - Interview with a Baby Boomer Brian Murphy

In July, I was working on an exciting project; the cover I had to create was for a type of biographical book that reveals the life of the so-called baby boom generation in Australia, those born between 1946 and 1964.

I would like to introduce Brian Murphy, a Baby Boomers' advocate, advisor, educator, change agent, founder, and author. One of his books is “A BONZA Life: The Story of a Baby Boomer" published in 2019 by Aurora House.

Brian, could you tell us more about your book and what motivated you to write it?

We were the ‘lucky generation’ as we were born when the world craved peace and security after the ravages of the second world war so large families became the norm. This was the catalyst for a domino effect of economic and social prosperity and, subsequently, it became a wonderful period to be a child and a teenager as the world rapidly changed through increased education of boomers and acceptance of technology.

My childhood and teens were adventurous and rewarding and my parenting years were happy times. I wanted to share my memories with other boomers and, in doing so, add some knowledge of our lives for historical purposes.

I believe that many of today's young people have not heard of the name Baby Boom Generation, and I would be happy if you could explain to us where and when this term comes from.

The post-World War II generation known as Baby Boomers is a multi-national birth cohort totalling roughly 88 million, within the populations of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

The birth years of this generation vary slightly among the four nations, so the definitions of Baby Boomers are as follows: born in the United States, between 1946 and 1964 (75 million); born in Canada, between 1946 and 1966 (8 million); born in Australia, between 1945 and 1963 (4 million); and born in New Zealand, between 1945 and 1963 (1 million).

It is not a familiar term to the countries that suffered severe damage in WW2 as they had to spend over a decade rebuilding and didn’t have the security needed to increase the birth rate as these nations did although most eventually did have a shorter baby boom but not to the same scale as the countries mentioned above.

You can read and learn more about he baby boomers on the BONZA (Baby Boomers of NZ & Australia) website

It has always been interesting for me to learn about the lives of people who lived in other times and had the opportunity to witness so many changes around the world. Please tell us about your childhood, about the pros and cons; what was your life like then? What has changed besides the development of technology? What do you miss the most, and what do today's young generations miss?

Author Brian Murphy and his book BONZA Life: The Story of a Baby Boomer
Author Brian Murphy and his book BONZA Life

Every generation grows up with the influences of the day as is witnessed by current social media influencers on today’s youth. Our generation were born into an ex-military workforce and society who were strict on rules that were to be enforced as military life had taught them. Children were to be seen but not heard, school was essential for them, and school rules were enforced with a large cane or ruler if you disobeyed. You were expected to gain a good education (which was free) and at first, finish year 10 but later encouraged to forge on to year 12 and then go to work or university.

At home the expectation was to be as well behaved as possible or be punished with the strap or a similar weapon, wear the clothes of our older brother or sisters, do housework for pocket money and stay outside all day on the weekends playing. There was no television until the 60s and that was rented on holidays only as few could afford to buy one, so you had to rely on your imagination to play (mostly soldiers or cowboys and Indians for boys and skipping and playgrounds for girls although they were expected to assist mums in the kitchen).

It was a very ‘black and white’ world with little time for individuals and you were ostracised if you were different in any way. Then came the music revolution of the Beatles and the world changed dramatically over the next decade as television showed us not only that other young people wanted change but how to rebel and how to stand up for our rights. We liberated everything and questioned everyone and society, at first fought back through the likes of violent arrests at anti-war demonstrations or singling out the colourful ones as homosexual or rebels and secret police files on agitators, but eventually looked to change the old practises across the world.

I was a conscience objector to the Vietnam War at 20 so had firsthand experience to all these practices ( I would have been jailed had I not proven I was a pacifist ), but I know now that we laid the foundations for a more liberal society that accepts individuals, encourages differences as being normal to society and allows most of us to live as free thinkers. I am particularly proud of the way we accepted gender equality as a priority and, in the main, treated our partners as equals which was not the case with previous generations to ours.

The children of today are far more vocal, knowledgeable, and motivated on a global scale but probably not as resourceful as we were, but technology has changed the goal posts for them. They will still kick many goals no doubt as they adjust to modern demands of them.

Could you tell us what BONZA is and how it came to its formation?

In 1997 I first became aware of the phenomenon that is ageing Australia. There wasn't much written then about it- no Intergenerational Reports then and few with the vision to realise that we Boomers would become the problem we are today and will be in the future.

I was drawn to an advertisement in the Gold Coast Bulletin that wanted interested people to help develop what was being called the Grey Army. As soon as my wife showed me the advertisement the vision was there in my mind, and I was drawn to it like a magnet.

I had been looking for work myself and at 46 years of age was having trouble getting any replies to my applications for work vacancies.

I joined the Grey Army that day and formed the first franchise at Kirra on the southern end of the Gold Coast and thus began the first of thousands of discussions with my age group about the difficulties they too were having finding work due to age discrimination. No one had any idea why this was happening and what would be the eventual repercussions.

I accepted the challenge of developing systems to assist and support the Boomers and went to NZ initially for 3 years and founded Grey Skills returning to the Gold Coast in 2001 and establishing BONZA with my good mate Keith Blake and we decided that a website would be the best way to inform Boomers as information is the key to change. We called it BONZA due to my NZ links but more that it means things are good in Australian slang.

Over the last 20 years we have researched, developed, and presented my 'Moving Forward' PowerPoint to thousands of our generation at TAFE’s, Expos, seminars, workplace sites and staff rooms and lobbied politicians and political parties on behalf of my generation.

BONZA has:

taken the many parts of the jig saw that is Ageing Australia (inadequate superannuation, intergenerational issues, skills shortages, training, mature age policies, over 50s experience, fitness, health, aged care, community expectations, employer attitudes and many other parts) and simplified it so everyone understands the big picture that the jigsaw parts presents.

warned Boomers not to think retirement but concentrate on their timeline of life and realise they need finances for around 30 years after turning 50 so this is a new time of life with many opportunities.

  • suggested policies that employers might embrace to retain their valued mature age employees in the face of a severe looming skill shortage

  • developed as an information site for our generation.

  • dutifully edited a monthly newsletter to keep a focus on our generation with people from all parts of society with the final edition sent out in August 2011.

  • kept the media informed of our needs and spoke to many outlets over the years.

  • communicated with Prime Ministers, Ministers of Government, Qld Premiers and many politicians about Boomer issues and challenges with the annual BONZA Report.

  • facilitated many workshops, expos, and community groups with my PowerPoint presentation ‘Moving Forward’ that has changed the lives of thousands of Boomers.

  • wrote a motivational book for Boomers- Self Propelled- Moving Forward for Boomers

  • published story of BONZA - A BONZA Life - The story of a Baby Boomer (published by Aurora House Publishing Australia) in all good bookstores and on Amazon

  • complied submission to the World Health Society on ageism in 2020

  • produced A Guide to developing a Mature Age Policy in 2021

Author Brian Murphy protests in front of Parliament
Author Brian Murphy protests in front of Parliament

Let's talk about the problem of the baby boom generation nowadays. Would you please tell me more about age discrimination in the workplace?

BONZA (Baby Boomers of NZ and Australia) believe that ageism is common in the workplace and that compulsory mature age policy would be an option to stop it.

The BONZA Report is on the Baby Boomer website and this annual report contains suggestions by Boomers that would make their life in Ageing Australia, much more tolerable.

It has outlined a list of valuable senior’s needs and wants for government, community leaders and business for evaluation and perhaps introduction.

We have also developed a Guide to developing a MAP (Mature Age Policy) in all workplaces in 2021 which has been distributed widely. It is also available on the website.

This is a severe problem, and I think if the younger generations get to know it closely, they could help the baby boom generation and themselves when they reach that age. What are the most critical aspects that society needs to work on to avoid this problem in the future?

Education of younger staff should focus on allaying concerns younger workers may have

about working with, or perhaps managing workers significantly older than themselves. Focus on skills and abilities of the candidate and ensure that any mature age candidate interviewed is aware that they will (if that is the case) be working with younger staff and may have a supervisor/s much younger than them.

Mature age workers often have the willingness, knowledge, and expertise to mentor less experienced workers. This helps pass on ‘tricks of the trade’ and should be encouraged. If correctly monitored, it can generate early acceptance of the older employee and quickly break down any age-related barriers.

It should be remembered that the completed MAP is a working document and can be upgraded or changed at any time by management after consulting with the working party if any parts prove contentious or unworkable.

If anyone is in this situation, what would you advise?

Perhaps forward a copy of A Guide to developing a Mature Age Policy to their HR section at your workplace or distribute it amongst work colleagues and point out that it is a worthwhile exercise for all workers to plan as we all inevitably age.

I once walked out of the surf with some surfing mates and an old man was shuffling past. Someone made a comment about his slow pace, and he turned to us and said, “ You will be here one day”.

In fact, "BONZA Life" is not your first book, nor your last. In 2020, the book "Self-Propelled: Moving Forward in Life" was published. Could you tell us more about it?

This book is your ‘little Boomer book’, full of ‘ok boomer’ advice that the young gens love us for. It will assist you identify what is missing from your true self and teach you skills on how to re-invent yourself and move forward to where you want to be.

My aim in writing the book was to provide people with an easy-to-follow process to change their minds about life, especially my generation as we age but for all generations, as it outlines the skills needed to self-evaluate then identifying missing links in our skills and then how to learn those skills to move on with an individual plan for social and economic participation in society.

It focuses on self-image (man in the mirror) and replacement on what is missing in our makeup by teaching us relevant life skills that we may have not learnt or to remind us of practices we need to follow to deal with the modern world but have forgotten due to our busy daily life.

And what to expect in the future? Are you working on your next book, and what will it be about if it's not a secret?

"We wake up each day with problems and

it is how we face those problems that makes our life".

​~ "The Meaning of Life" by Viktor Frankl

How very true and each age group faces their own problems. BONZA will continue to advocate for a better life for Boomers and educate other generations about our generation.

My next book will analyse some part of my journey in more detail. ‘Special Boomers I have met’ perhaps.

What message would you like to leave to your readers in your book "BONZA Life: The Story of a Baby Boomer"?

I was never comfortable with retirement and did so with some anxiety as the retirees of my youth had quickly disappeared into God’s waiting room and were never seen again in my eyes. But times have changed, and I did retiree with trepidation a few years ago but have found that there are many opportunities for our generation to be actively involved for as long as we choose to.

Be thankful for the life we were blessed with and what it offered at the time as we may be the only generation so far or in the future who lived such a simple and rewarding lifestyle.

By liberating society as we did back in the day, we have inadvertently enabled ourselves to be more useful as we age. So many volunteer jobs, so many mentoring roles and yes, you don’t need to retire until you want to. Superannuation has given us financial freedom; good health habits will allow us to live much longer than our parents and society will treat us well even if we must demand it. Look forward to a future for us all Boomers.

Thank you for being a guest on the blog. I leave links under our conversation where readers can find the BONZA website, as well as an excerpt from your books on Amazon.

It has been enlightening to answer your questions Donika as it made me reflect on my motives for writing. I found the exercise in doing so very rewarding.

I will be eternally grateful for your wonderful cover as it allows the reader the opportunity to judge the book by its cover and, as we know, this is not always possible, but you have succeed to tell my story in artform.

* * *

Read an excerp form the book BONZA Life: The Story of a Baby Boomer by Brian Murphy

View the book Self-Propelled: Moving Forward in Life on Amazon

Find more about BONZA (Baby Boomers of N.Z. and Australia)


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