Richard Tonkin was a school student in Melbourne on 4 October 1957. That night, he and fellow students climbed The Shrine War Memorial hill and watched in awe as that silver ball moved across the sky. Richard was hooked. His teachers and fellow students did not understand, but when he went to university he found like minded souls and it was that group that came together and built Australis.
Although he was a law student, Richard threw himself enthusiastically into the project. His main roles were liasing with the American group who were trying to arrange the launch, encouraging the media to publicise the satellite, which helped when approaching manufacturers for free components, and keeping up the spirits of the science and engineering students who were building Australis, with the hope that it would eventually fly in space.
After Australis was safely in orbit, Richard returned to his long neglected law course, eventually graduating, and he went on to a successful career with a Melbourne suburban law firm. He married, had 3 children and 2 grandchildren, got interested in classic cars but maintained his enthusiasm for space research. He occasionally looks up at the sky at 9.30 at night, when Australis passes overhead, and thinks 'We kids really achieved something'.