Neil Cole (politician)

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Neil Cole
Member of the Victorian Parliament
for Melbourne
In office
1 October 1988 – 24 August 1999
Preceded byKeith Remington
Succeeded byBronwyn Pike
Personal details
Born (1957-05-25) 25 May 1957 (age 61)
Millicent, South Australia
Political partyLabor Party
OccupationPlaywright and researcher

Neil Donald Cole (born 25 May 1957) is an Australian playwright, researcher and former politician.

Early life[edit]

Cole was born in Millicent, South Australia, and spent his early years in Malaysia where his father was a military police officer in the Royal Australian Corps of Military Police stationed at RAAF Butterworth in Penang. When his father was reassigned to Point Cook, the family moved into the housing commission high-rise flats in North Melbourne where Cole attended Flemington High School,[1] and Kyneton High School in 1974. In 1980, he graduated with a law degree from the University of Melbourne, and in the same year, founded the Flemington Community Legal Service where he worked as a community lawyer for seven years.[2]

Political career[edit]

Cole first entered politics at a local level, serving on the Melbourne City Council for three years in the 1980s.

In 1988, Cole decided to run for the safe Labor seat of Melbourne in the Victorian Parliament. Preselection for Melbourne was considered "unwinnable", given that the candidacy for the seat was already earmarked for ALP state secretary Jenny Beacham. Aware that he was "supposed" to lose by nine votes, Cole worked the numbers and managed to win preselection, subsequently winning the seat at the 1988 state election. In 1992, he was promoted to Joan Kirner's shadow cabinet as Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs and Shadow Attorney-General.

Early in his political career, Cole had suffered a number of mental breakdowns. In 1993, he was diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder. In 1995, Cole's condition became public knowledge as it was leaked to the media by his political enemies,[3] and he publicly declared that he suffered from mental illness, stood down as Shadow Attorney-General, and was admitted to The Melbourne Clinic shortly afterwards.[4] Following the revelation of his illness, Cole was re-elected as MLA for Melbourne in the 1996 election, a win he described as the "most gratifying thing" in his parliamentary career.[3] His political career ended in 1999, when he lost preselection for Melbourne in the 1999 election to Bronwyn Pike, who was subsequently elected.

Writing career[edit]

Since leaving politics, Cole has written over twelve plays, most of them performed by La Mama Theatre.[4] His first play, Alive at Williamstown Pier, won the Griffin Award for New Australian Playwriting in 1999.[5] In 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and literature.[6]

Cole's debut novel, Colonel Surry's Insanity, was published in 2010. The novel, about a fictional soldier (John Surry) who pleads not guilty to a charge of theft on the grounds of insanity, was based on interviews with twenty sufferers of manic depression, as well as his own perspective.[7]

Academic career[edit]

Cole is an Associate Professor at the Monash University School of Medicine, and is also a member of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health established in 2008.[8]


  1. ^ Munro, Ian: Change in mind, The Age, 17 October 2009.
  2. ^ "Cole, Neil Donald". People in Parliament. Parliament of Victoria. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b Bunworth, Mick: Gallop's honesty applauded, The 7.30 Report (ABC TV), 17 January 2006.
  4. ^ a b Mangan, John: Odd bedfellows – the MP and the anxious gangster, The Age, 10 October 2010.
  5. ^ Cole, Neil, AustLit: The Australian Literature Resource, 4 May 2010.
  6. ^ COLE, Neil Donald, It's an Honour, 1 January 2001.
  7. ^ Dropulich, Silvia: Reviews and Previews: Colonel Surry’s insanity Archived 12 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine, VOICE (University of Melbourne), Volume 6 Number 10, 11 October – 7 November 2010.
  8. ^ National Advisory Council on Mental Health, Department of Health and Ageing. Retrieved 18 November 2010.

External links[edit]

Victorian Legislative Assembly
Preceded by
Keith Remington
Member for Melbourne
Succeeded by
Bronwyn Pike