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Dr Maximilian Brandle OAM: champion of a multi-cultural Australia

  • March 10th, 2019
  • Posted by EU Australia

A standard bearer for multiculturalism and civilised values Dr Maximilian Brandle died from a heart condition at the end of February in Brisbane, Australia.

A Swiss-born linguist who migrated to Australia to teach languages, he was described this week by the Swiss Consulate General as “respected throughout his life at both ends of the Earth”. He was “forward-looking with a great capacity to reflect on the human condition”.

Always recognised as a multi-lingual, cultured and erudite identity, Dr Brandle was an Associate Professor and the second full-time Director of the Institute of Modern Languages at Queensland University, from 1970 to 1998. He directly taught five out of 30 languages offered by the institute, and commenced the university’s teaching of English to International Students, and courses for teachers of English.


He then moved fully into a different incarnation as a principal chronicler of the migrant experience in Australia, and of the changing ethnic composition and cultural make-up of society.

With these interests he flourished as an historian with abundant subjects to choose from, focused on his adopted home city Brisbane and the State of Queensland — ending with a familiar and ready recall on the background of 140 communities.

His work included biographies on outstanding individuals, such as the second- generation Romanian-Australia Ted Theodore, a Premier of Queensland in the 1920s, or the stories of whole communities, inevitably including the Swiss in Queensland, many other communities who stayed on in numbers, or ones who did not, like the Swedes– “because it was too hot and there were too many mosquitoes”, he said.

He was pleased in particular with one major book, Multicultural Queensland : the people and communities of Queensland, co-authored with Steve A Karas, an official publication for the 1988 Australian Bicentenary which went to four editions.

There were several publications which fed into innumerable entertaining short talks that he delivered in many settings.


In what amounted to a weighty academic contribution, both in his initial field and then the history of migration, he had books on pre-war migrants (1991) and refugees in Queensland (1992), a text on the life of “14 remarkable migrants”, an edited collection of letters home from a Swiss identity, Henri Targent, translated from French, books on adult language learning (1993), bilingual issues and translation (in three bi-lingual Swiss towns) (1995), and languages in society (2004).

Wherever members of a community were assembled or overseas guests were being received, Dr Brandle was most likely to be called upon to give a sketch on the life of that community in Queensland – always an original treatment, factual and telling.

Over a long period Max Brandle’s diary included close encounters with leaders at any level – here pictured with Alexander Dubcek hero of the “Prague Spring”, and its long-awaited sequel the “Velvet revolution”.


He had many connections, sometimes being billed as an “activist” for his engagement with ethnic community organisations or international agencies, for example as President of the Migrant Welcome Association in Queensland for eight years, and as a member of the Australian Council for Europe (ACE).

In 2003 he received the Medal of the Order of Australia for distinguished commitment to the promotion of multiculturalism.

In an archive video he reflected that voluntary work on migrant services was crucial through to the 1990s, until professional agencies and personnel were brought into the field, and recalled some exchanges over financial support with the long-serving Premier, of Danish ancestry, Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen.


Even more strongly, the impact of the man was in his urbane personality, which presented as a match of presence and warmth, noted this week by Mrs Elfi Massey-Vallazza, President of the ACE:

“He had an enormous capacity for making people feel at ease. He was a world citizen and an example to all of us”.

While always known as “Max”, Dr Brandle said he considered the abbreviation a suitable name for a family dog, but as “Max” he made a last visit to Europe not long before his death, with some of his five adult children, re-visiting old familiar places and favourite art galleries.

The family tributes filled out the picture of a “caring and reliable father who always wanted the best for his children”: It was a life “all about risks and adventure, culture and history. He was a walking talking encyclopaedia who loved to enlighten you whenever the opportunity arose. He loved to travel and enjoy cultures and new people. When he wasn’t being brilliant he was a lovable friend. He liked chocolate and would debate the merits of the Belgian or Swiss varieties.”

A memorial service for Maximilian Brandle in Brisbane on 8 March heard of a prospective book he had been working on, a listing of 24 most favoured paintings and his relationship with them.

Said a Swiss compatriot delivering eulogies: “He was hard-headed and knowledgeable, with a multi-cultural message, to keep us all together. He was a gentle soul who entertained us with many interesting stories.”


Dr Maximilian Brandle OAM

25.7.1937 – 28.2.2019