Leo Ryan had been a counsellor for the major part of his working life. Early in his career he became aware of the number of female clients who were being abused by their husbands/partners/boyfriends and was determined to help.
His book, An Extraordinary Relationship, highlights his conclusions gained from years of counselling, showing it is possible for most people to bring on the changes needed to have a great relationship.
Married for over thirty years, Leo had a son and daughter; his wife, Gunilla, had a daughter; and they had seven grandchildren. Leo gained a social work degree from Flinders University, worked in Adelaide and Canberra, and later in his life, he lived in Sydney.
At SSOA we first came to know Leo Ryan when he submitted his manuscript for An Extraordinary Relationship. It was a remarkable text which addressed the importance of exposing and rejecting violence against women in relationships.
We discovered that there was also a remarkable man behind the text. Over the time he attended writing groups to work on his memoir, Leo revealed his fascinating life story.
Born into a farming family as a younger son, Leo initially chose the church for his career path, and was ordained as a Catholic priest, training for a large part of one year at the Vatican, and working in rural Australia. After leaving the priesthood he became a counsellor.
Leo was a very kind man, gentle and wise in his interactions with fellow writers. But he was not a man who ever let convention prevent him from following his conscience. His exit from the priesthood came after he prioritised the well-being of his parishioners above the orders of the Vatican on matters of doctrine.
Leo also wrote passionately and eloquently on the topic of veganism. He and his wife, Gunilla, both became committed vegans after reading about the cruelty in the meat industry.
He had loyal friendships, evident in the number of his friends who celebrated his success at the launch of his book at Dymocks, Neutral Bay.
Leo’s wife died in 2018 after a long period of dementia, during which time he continued to attend to her needs. He had moved to Canberra to be nearer his children shortly before his death.
We were all very privileged to have known Leo, and to have published his book. We will miss him very much.