Leif never saw the truck. The truck never saw him.
He was riding his bike west across the Nullarbor and was about 70 kays past the Caiguna Roadhouse when he was hit. It was just after 9.30 in the morning. He didn’t stand a chance.
A couple of kays back, the 21-year-old had seen a car parked at a rest stop and asked them for water. Leif travelled light. The crew in the car were cyclists who’d actually ridden across the Nullarbor before and were surprised to see this young guy out there alone, but after talking with him they figured he was okay. Leif had an assured way about him. They gave him some water and muesli bars and tooted as they drove off.
An hour earlier he’d stopped and talked with two women cycling east. They were riding from Dirk Hartog to Byron, from Australia’s westernmost point to its eastern. When they asked what he was doing, he explained he was cycling around Australia to convince people to switch their superannuation to ethical and environmental super funds. He told them that outside of riding your bike across Australia it was probably the most effective thing you could do to save the environment. As he rode west Leif was stopping to talk, convincing people to switch as he went. Hundreds had.
Leif Justham came from a big family of conservationists. It was his father, Hugh who’d originally explained how much difference an ethical super fund could make. His aunt was Anna Taylor from down at Elliston, who’d led the campaign against oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight. Growing up, Leif had spent every spare minute down the coast, surfing around Sheringa. In recent time he’d been back down helping his aunt plant trees. He’d made promises to everyone who’d switched their super to plant a tree for them. He was good to his word.
On his way west Leif stopped in and stayed at Elliston for two days. Anna and her family had been on a 10-day sail on their boat when he messaged them to say he was coming. They made the call to come in early to see him. When he left, Anna, her partner Tim and their kids rode their bikes out onto the highway to see him go. The kids couldn’t keep up, so Leif waved and rode on. He stopped at Streaky, Penong and swam at Cactus on his way west before he got to the Nullarbor.
At his eulogy a friend recounted a late night conversation she’d had with Leif. “Would you trade one year of your life for a million dollars?” He replied, “No way, I wouldn’t trade a million dollars for a day.”
“The only thing that makes this easier for us,” says his aunt, Anna, “is that he died doing exactly what he wanted. He would have felt so free out there.” Out on the Nullarbor at the spot he was killed there’s a rock shrine that spells out, “Ride on Leif”.
While he might be gone, his cause rides on. In the weeks since, his family, friends and environmental groups have picked up his cause of ethical super. “We can use our super for positive or negative action,” wrote Streaky Bay’s Heath Joske on Leif’s social media. “Let’s honour his life and use our super for good, not destruction.” If you want to switch, or at least check it out, Market Forces has a comprehensive list of ethical super funds. Leif would be stoked. — SEAN DOHERTY