Inner Best: Danny Lim

Full-time activist and Strathfield local, Danny Lim, is prepared to take his case for free speech all the way to the High Court.

Arriving in Summer Hill as a Malaysian immigrant in 1963, Danny’s first experience of the Inner West came straight from Powell’s classic Aussie film They’re A Weird Mob. He entered a bar and was shouted a drink by a friendly stranger. “I’m not shouting at you,” was Danny’s bemused response.

It was in that bar that Danny’s lifelong love of Aussie ‘mateship’ was born. “It moves me,” he says. “‘Fair go, fair dinkum’ and ‘It’ll be all right mate.’ And eventually it was home. Australia is home.”

His activist career began when he was approached by a local politician for help with their campaign. Danny had a few demands: tarred roads, streetlights, garbage bins and tidied car park. “They did it within two weeks.” This experience defied the usual objection expressed about getting involved politics. Something had actually changed.

Since then, Danny has become a fixture of Inner West life. Everyone seems to know him. As we talk, he responds to the frequent hails of pedestrians, railway workers and drivers alike with a familiar greeting: “Hello, brother!”

He is famous for his provocative pun-heavy signs appealing to us all to engage in political debate. These have landed Danny in some hot water: he has been fined for indecent language over one sign saying “Tony… you c*n’t”.

But Danny isn’t worried. He plans to appeal the decision all the way to the High Court if necessary. His defence? The word implied does not constitute foul language. “It’s in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it’s in Shakespeare, it’s in the dictionary, right? And in the end it’s 2016. It’s still a man’s world. How could they treat women like that?”

You will catch Danny and his dog Smarty wandering the streets of Strathfield and Newtown spreading their message of peace, love and activism. You’ll also see him on your voting ballots: he is standing for the Senate. He’s not in it for the power or the fame, he tells me. That has never been the 72-year-old’s motivation. It is simply the empathy that has always driven him.

“I just want people to care.”

Words by Hannah Craft