At his funeral, Bernie Banton was held up as a hero of the trade union movement. “It was a Labor occasion,” wrote Elizabeth Sexton in The SMH.

However, there was another group of mourners less noted by the press, and less known for their trade union ties: a large contingent of boys from one of Australia’s most elite schools.

In the procession, 80 King’s School boys lined the aisles; in the recession, the Guard of Honour was provided by the trade union movement. Headmaster Dr Timothy Hawkes acknowledges the irony that the school that has “typically over the last 12 years taken the brunt of federal Labor antipathy to independent schooling” joined with the left to mourn Banton. The reason is simple: Bernie Banton was a King’s parent.

It was typical of Banton that he was “able to bring together the left and the right: Australia’s oldest independent school and the trade union movement”, says Hawkes.

Banton’s funeral symbolised “bringing Australians together” and the importance of having “an informed social conscience”. In fact, perhaps it marks a “new beginning”, says Hawkes, who was putting the finishing touches on his speech night address when Crikey called: “a shift in societal thinking” that is in part reflected in the recent change of government.

And that is, political extremism is out, the political centre is in. We all need to be “moral and ethical human beings” thinking about issues like “sustainability, Kyoto, our impact on this mortal coil”, no matter which side you’re on politically.

Banton’s stepson Dean attended King’s and, like many other parents, Banton was an active and involved member of the school community. “What was remarkable”, says Hawkes, “was that he was similarly committed even though he was battling ill health”.

“Possessed of a generous heart”, Banton supported “many voluntary projects in school … including the building appeal.”