Australia 'streets ahead' of anywhere else on Earth
LIFE on the road as a storyteller, journalist, movie-maker and humanitarian has afforded Iain Finlay rare insight into the world in all its glory and confusion.
Such insight has led him to one definite conclusion: Australia is "streets ahead" of anywhere else on Earth.
Mr Finlay, who many will remember as host of long-running television program This Day Tonight, as well as the ground- breaking science and technology series Beyond 2000, will deliver the main address at next week's Tweed Australia Day event after he was named the shire's ambassador for the day.
"They want me to talk about what Australia means to me, what it was like when I was a kid, what it is like now and what it will be like in the future," he said.
"I am pro-Australia Day but one still has to recognise the fact that for indigenous people it is not all clear, it is a day they don't necessarily want to celebrate."
While recognising that fact, Mr Finlay said it was crucial to remember where we had come from in order to look forward.
"We don't have to look outside for leadership, we need leadership from within," he said.
"We need somehow or other to have serious visionary projects that bring Australia into the 21st century, that carry us forward.
"The Snowy Mountain Scheme, for example. It was a visionary project we had from 1949 to 1974 - 25 years - and in that time Australia was transformed.
"This was the birth of multicultural Australia. We need that sort of thinking, we need people to think big, really big - and our politicians more than anybody."
Born in Canberra in 1935, the self-confessed "army brat" attended school in most of Australia's capital cities before he was bitten by the travel bug.
At the age of 18 he took off on his first backpacking trip to Europe, before hitch-hiking from Casablanca to Cairo and heading south to Cape Town.
By the age of 21, Mr Finlay had travelled to 37 countries, working as everything from a mine hand in Northern Rhodesia (courtesy of a job offer from Bryce Courtenay) to a lifeguard on a Durban beach during the height of apartheid.
He eventually made his way back to Australia, where he cleverly talked the editors of United Press into giving him a job as a roving reporter at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956.
Being in the right place at the right time, Mr Finlay managed to score an international scoop, photographing the protest action of Hungarian athletes at the start of that nation's revolution - and the rest, as they say, is history.
After the Olympics, he went on to work for the wire service in Sydney before moving to Hong Kong, where he met fellow journalist and life partner Trish Clark while working in radio.
The couple, along with their children Zara and Sean, set out on a life of adventure, living and working around the globe on various projects ranging from books to documentaries and more.
They eventually settled on the Tweed 15 years ago, drawn by the amazing mix of rainforest and ocean, and today live on a small acreage lot at North Tumbulgum, enjoying a swim in Cudgen Creek every morning.
They are dedicated to their humanitarian work, raising money and helping deliver improved quality of life for villagers in remote areas of northern Laos.
"I don't miss Sydney at all, it's a great city but I wouldn't want to live there anymore," Mr Finlay said.
"I've been to well over 100 countries - I know what life is like in other countries. It is all very nice and interesting, with wonderful places to see and things to do, but Australia still shapes up as streets ahead of anything.
"The concept of a fair go may be a cliche but it is nonetheless true, and that is something that is starting to diminish as we follow the trend of the US and other places, where the gap between rich and poor is growing.
"We don't want that to happen."
* Mr Finlay will deliver the Australia Day address on January 26 at Twin Towns in Tweed Heads, where 50 new citizens from 16 countries will be welcomed.
Australia Day events will also be held at Tyalgum, Crabbes Creek, Tumbulgum, Burringbar, Kingscliff, Cabarita and Pottsville.