Quality of life

Jeff Richardson founded the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University almost three decades ago. Now he’s semi-retired and living in a renovated office building in the CBD.

The building on the corner of Elizabeth and Collins streets, sometimes called “Cashmere on Collins”, is heritage listed. Jeff and his wife bought what was an office space and renovated it into an apartment.

“We’ve been living in the CBD for about two years, before that we were in Fitzroy for almost 28 years and before that in the suburbs of Sydney,” he said.

“We were attracted to Melbourne by several job offers initially, but the attraction became what it would be like living close to a major city centre.”

“Fitzroy was terrific and then we thought well let’s see if we can do the same thing but right in the city.”

Jeff compared going to the theatre from his different homes. He and his wife once forgot about their tickets to the Melbourne Theatre Company until 15 minutes before the show. They walked to the theatre from their apartment with two minutes to spare.

From the suburbs in Sydney it was an hour drive to the nearest theatre.

“We’ve started going to the Australian Ballet regularly and they are just astonishingly good,” he said.

His career in academia has taken him around the world, and every time a job comes up he attaches a holiday to the trip.

“We’ve just come back from a trip which included St Petersburg and Moscow and we saw Swan Lake performed by the Bolshoi Ballet.”

“It wasn’t the full Bolshoi Ballet, it was their number three, but the Australian Ballet would dance circles around them.”

The move into the city, at the same time as semi-retirement, has enabled an even further hobby-filled life.

Jeff takes University for the Third Age classes on poetry, recently studying Under Milkwood by Dylan Thomas.

But he said one of the best developments was his discovery of the Melbourne Welsh Male Choir just down the road from his apartment.

“I’ve been in choirs on and off for a long time, one of my chief joys in life is singing, and only five weeks ago I found out about it and joined,” he said.

“They have a huge repertoire and some of it is in Welsh, which is an unbelievably complicated language, but it’s been a pleasure meeting the singers and getting used to it.”

Jeff now only works at Monash one day a week. He said the centre he founded was now probably the biggest health economics centre in the Southern Hemisphere.

Although he had a lengthy critique of Australia’s healthcare system and said the private healthcare system was used to perpetuate inequalities, Jeff said that his health economics took a turn into a different section of research.

“It initially meant looking at Medicare and Medibank, but after that I switched over to economic evaluation of health and health technologies,” he said.

“To do that you have to measure people’s quality of life, so for a long time I’ve been looking at how you actually do measure that.”

He had to downsize significantly when moving into his apartment, shedding mountains of art and belongings collected over years of travelling.

But that meant the pieces that survived – and now sit in a glass cabinet together – were chosen carefully.

“We have a print Arabian Nights that’s 300 years old that we bought in Istanbul,” Jeff said.

“Or a ballerina that my wife dropped and shattered into 50 pieces that I spent two weeks carefully gluing back together.”

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