From pig farmer to preacher: The journey of Dave Sigley, son of Aussie TV icon Ernie Sigley

Dave Sigley might not look the showbiz type, but the South Australian pig-farmer-turned-pastor is the son of Australian TV royalty, Ernie Sigley.

Ernie Sigley was a pioneering presenter on Australian television and radio for more than 50 years.

Known for his larrikin spirit, Sigley had a deep love for the country and would often take his family, including son Dave, on holidays in Mount Gambier, SA.

“He liked down-to-earth people so he loved hanging out with country people,” Dave Sigley said.

“He loved getting out in open spaces … he ended up buying some properties in the country as we grew up.

Ernie Sigley released a number of songs as well as having a successful radio and television career. His duet ‘Hey Paula’ with Denise Drysdale went number one in Australia in 1974.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

While Ernie never moved to regional Australia permanently, Dave relocated the first chance he got.

A young boy dressed in ripped jeans and a flannel shirt lies on a hay floor hugging a small calf, smiling.
When Dave was old enough he started visiting Mount Gambier on his own, helping out as a farm hand.(Supplied: David Sigley)

Growing up in inner Melbourne, Dave knew he wanted to be a farmer and as soon as he turned 18 he left to go jackarooing in Bendigo.

“When I went to the country it was almost like I was on a holiday … I was pinching myself,” Mr Sigley said.

In 2007 he saw a job in that town he loved from his childhood holidays, Mount Gambier, and jumped at it — his wife Tania and their then two children in tow.

His famous dad would later buy a house there to spend more time with the family.

A man in a flannel shirt, beanie and jeans crouches down in a tall field smiling as his golden retriever dog darts away.
Dave Sigley’s kids have the country life he always dreamed of. He lives on a small hobby farm 10 kilometres out of Mount Gambier with his wife Tania and sons Paddy and Lewi.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

‘People feel that they know him’

When Ernie Sigley was growing up the television industry did not even exist yet, but by the time Dave was born, his father was synonymous with the box.

After an early start in radio, in 1957 he scored his TV debut, fronting Teenage Mailbag, which led to hosting a catalogue of shows including Wheel of Fortune, Adelaide Tonight, The Ernie Sigley Show and In Melbourne Today.

A black and white photograph of an older man in a knit sweater sitting next to a small boy inside an airplane.
Dave Sigley remembers flying O’Connor Airlines to Mount Gambier for holidays as a family.(Supplied: David Sigley)

Growing up with a Gold Logie winner, Dave was used to the TV studios, famous friends and excited fans.

A row of male reporters in black suits sit at a low table in a living room questioning The Beatles under a chandelier.
Ernie Sigley is well-remembered for leading one of the best interviews of The Beatles Australian tour in 1964. One of Sigley’s questions sparked an enthusiastic response from John Lennon.(Supplied: Brian Cotter via State Library of South Australia)

“We’d go to restaurants and people would be asking for autographs … I used to get a bit embarrassed.

“Dad loved giving people time, he loved having a chat about the footy, about anything.”

Preaching to different crowds

Dave Sigley found a different way to use his same love for people and conversation, as a minister for the Uniting Church.

“We live in a time where there doesn’t tend to be a lot of hope.”

Large wooden awnings frame a large church hall, lined with colourful glass-stained windows and chairs.
David Sigley preaches each week at Mount Gambier Uniting Church.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

He first learnt about God going to church with his parents.

“To him, God was just that big guy in the sky … he used to call him ‘the Big Fella’.”

Dave Sigley dappled with ‘the Big Fella’ growing up but nothing stuck.

“Faith back then was more something you did, it was more tradition, it wasn’t personal faith,” Mr Sigley said.

A calling to reconnect with faith

When Dave Sigley moved to the country any faith he had was pushed aside.

A young man in a beanie and flannel shirt smiles holding a large fish on a wire in one hand and a rod in the other.
While enjoying his early years of country life, Dave Sigley still felt as though something was missing.(Supplied: David Sigley)

That was until a bad drink-driving accident nearly ended him.

He ditched the bottle for a time but the “strong calling” to reconnect with his faith did not come until 2011.

“I discovered what grace actually means and all that legalism and all that guilt … this image of what God was like dropped at the wayside and I felt so free,” Mr Sigley said.

A man in a flannel shirt and beanie sitting at a table turns the page of a bible.
Dave Sigley, Ernie Sigley’s son, reading the bible on his front porch in Mount Gambier, SA.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

In 2017, his church congregation asked if he would consider filling in as minister.

What was meant to be a six-month stint turned into three years.

He eventually made the tough decision to leave farming.

“If someone dies on the Monday and you’re at the piggery, you can’t wait till Thursday,” Mr Sigley said.

‘Dad gave so many people joy’

After announcing Ernie Sigley’s Alzheimer’s in 2017, his family made the tough decision to put him in full-time care.

An old man in an aqua blazer smiles next to a younger man wearing a beanie and flannel shirt, smiling.
Ernie Sigley with son Dave Sigley in recent years.(Supplied: David Sigley)

“He doesn’t know my name but the love that me and him have will never go. It’s an important thing to remember and hold onto.

“One thing that gives me joy is that he gave so many people joy.”

A man in a checker shirt and brown blazer smiled next to a stained glass window.
Dave Sigley felt a calling from God to leave farming for full-time pastoring in 2018.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

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Ernie Dingo lashes out after alleged racist comment at Perth train station

Acclaimed Australian actor Ernie Dingo says he confronted and “whacked” a man who allegedly racially abused him at Perth’s central train station.

Dingo posted about the incident on Facebook, which was then shared by Ngaarda Media and confirmed by his agent.

The racial slur allegedly came from a man in his 30s about 8:00am at the city’s central train station.

The Yamatji actor said the man had been watching him prior to the incident, before he called Dingo by an offensive and pejorative term referring to Aboriginal people.

“I chased him and scruffs him ‘Say it again’, he is scared now and I whack him on the right side of his head,” Dingo wrote.

Ernie Dingo, left, said he chased the man after he racially abused him.(ABC Far North: Sharnie Kim)

“He slips and falls trying to get away, his foot falls between the platform and the train, I drag his arse away from the edge, as he is laying there.

“I ask again ‘Say it again, give me an excuse to whack you’, he doesn’t.

“If he is gunna say that s*** to me, I’ll have a go at him.

“I’m 63, I don’t take that s*** from anyone.”

‘He should have known better’, Dingo says

Dingo, who appeared in 1980s blockbuster film Crocodile Dundee II and more recently in television series Redfern Now and Mystery Road, said once he boarded the train, a woman asked him if he was alright.

“I told her ‘He should’ve known better’,” he wrote.

“I might make the news tonight, I’m sure it was captured on CCTV.

“If it does, you heard it from me first and I wouldn’t have minded if I caught the next train, rather than not do anything about it and be angry on the train.”

PTA not referring incident to police

A Public Transport Authority spokesperson said CCTV vision would not be released, and that they would not be referring it to police.

“The PTA would not as a matter of course report an incident like this directly to WA Police,” they said.

“We would advise a complainant to formally report an incident to WA Police if they wished to pursue it further.”

WA Police said on Tuesday afternoon they had not received any complaints relating to the train station incident.

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