Ex-Firefighter races clock to honour the life of his dying mate

By Bray Boland @bolandbray

David Proust has lived an exciting and adventurous career that has seen him turn his powerful storytelling into opportunities to perform poetry and entertain crowds all over Australia, as well as performing in America. 

Beginning as a Plumber, before joining dear friend Ron in the NSW Fire and Rescue, Prousty nurtured his passion projects of writing poetry and performing stand-up comedy on the side – creating beautiful works of Australiana bush poetry, articulating different angles on the Australian country way of life – captivating people with his expressive and likeable demeanour. 

Prousty’s poem: The Auction, captures the essence of Prousty’s style with heartfelt Australian stories. Source: @ThereseProust/Youtube

“He and I are good mates and have been good mates for a long time. Both of us had a side-line when we were firefighters. I’ve been a musician most of my life and he was a bush poet slash comedian, and about 20 years ago he and I started writing poetry together which was always fun,” said Ron.

Ron Sinclair’s mateship with Prousty spans over 40 years. They have been through it all together: working in the NSW Fire and Rescue, making music and poetry and even travelling Australia to showcase new caravans on Channel Ten’s ‘What’s Up Down Under’ TV show. 

“The first time he ever wrote an original poem he was entered into the bush poetry competition for the Tamworth country music festival, and he went up with one poem and won it. He ended up winning it half a dozen times over the years and he became one of their most successful bush poets.” 

“He also travelled across to America at one stage and went in their national poetry competitions called the Cowboy Poetry competition and won that… – so he’s pretty outstanding in his field,” said Ron. 

Prousty takes his act international and performs in the Cowboy Poetry Competition all the way in Heber City, Utah. Source: @Prousty/YouTube

During Ron and Prousty’s careers as firefighters, they were exposed to carcinogenic materials, which may have caused them both to develop cancer in recent years. 

One suspected carcinogen used frequently: Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF). A fire retardant that was used to extinguish fires, which much like asbestos, was lurking as an undetected threat long before it was controlled. 

“They realised eventually, that it was carcinogenic, and we spend many training sessions, covered in it and you’d spray it all over the place it was a bit of fun, I was white, like you were covered in snow,” said Ron. 

Last year Ron was diagnosed with prostate cancer which resulted in his prostate being removed, and in May 2018, Prousty was diagnosed with a stage 4 Glioblastoma brain cancer that he named ‘Daryl’.

“When he was diagnosed initially, he was given 6 to 12 months to live, because it was a very severe and aggressive cancer. And then over time, his treatment that he was having seemed to be going very well. They always said this would kill him, but they were trying to buy him some quality time, which seemed to work because he’s now been going for 3 years,” said Ron. 

In 2018, Prousty went to NSW Parliament to share his cancer story in the hopes that it could help with securing retired firefighters compensation should they develop cancer from carcinogenic exposures while working. 

Prousty sits with Gosford MP Liesl Tiech (centre) and Member for Fairfield Guy Zangari (far left) in 2018 after sharing his story at NSW Parliament. Source: @LieslTiechMP/Facebook

Prousty’s storytelling captivated the attention of all and brought tears to the eyes of some, resulting in the Workers Compensation Legislation Amendment (Firefighters) Bill 2018. This amendment protects firefighters destabilised by cancer by providing the support and compensation they need in the future. 

The sad reality of the amendment’s necessity never far away in the firefighting community. 

“One of Prousty’s colleagues here at Bateau Bay, a younger fella, has just been diagnosed with brain cancer as well – and he’s just in his 50s,” says Ron. 

Despite having invasive surgery and chemotherapy for ‘Daryl’ the brain cancer, Prousty still wanted to perform one last time and raise money for the Mark Hughes Foundation to help those impacted by brain cancer.

The show was booked for the 23 June 2021 at Wamberal Country Club on the Central Coast, titled: ‘Prousty’s last hurrah,’ where Dave Proust was set to perform his poetry and stand-up comedy with friend Ron Sinclair as a guest star. 

On the day of the show, covid restrictions came into effect, forcing the postponement of the show until further notice – devastating Prousty and his family and friends. 

“The day of those restrictions being announced was the day when he was supposed to be performing a gig called: ‘Prousty’s Last Hurrah.’ It was booked in at the Breakers Country Club and was sold out, we actually had a second show that was sold out as well, and he was going to perform a few of his poems and some of his routines that he hadn’t actually recorded before,” said Ron.

‘Prousty’s Last Hurrah’ advertisement poster after the unfortunate news of postponement. Source: @Prousty/Facebook

Since the postponement of Prousty’s last show, his condition has worsened leaving him having frequent mood swings and difficulty articulating what he wants to say, which is leaving him feeling down considering his proclivity to entertain. 

“Today I took my laptop and I actually read him some of the stories today just to make sure I had it straight and he really brightened up, and even his wife said to me, look that was great, he’s been so depressed, but he was almost like his old self today. So that’s good, and he does appreciate what I’m doing, and his wife does too.”

“He’s deteriorating at the moment, as we speak,” said Ron. 

With time passing, Ron feels the urgency to complete his book, ‘A Man of many words’ to lift Prousty’s spirits when he needs support, and to let the world and his family know what a full life he has lived by setting his legacy in stone. 

“I’m at the stage now where I’m sort of still getting the odd thing done, but I’m at the point where I’m going to get someone to look at it and edit it. But I’m up to about 80,000 words with it so far and there will probably be a bit more to come but it’s going pretty well,” said Ron. 

“It’s called ‘A Man of Many Words’ because he’s not a man of few words, he’s a man of many words.”

“In a simplified form you could say he’s my best mate.” 

If you are touched by this story, please feel free to donate to the Mark Hughes Foundation to help families impacted by brain

Featured image: Good mates Ron Sinclair (left) and Dave Proust (right) Photo: Supplied

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