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Mr Andrews then rattled off a list of the reforms Cain pursued – and it was a list as impressive as it was long.

Worker’s rights, women’s rights, tobacco control, gun control, environmental protections, WorkSafe, the Transport Accident Commission, the Victorian Electoral Commission, liquor licensing laws, shop trading hours, Aboriginal land rights, Freedom of Information, and moving the tennis centre from Kooyong to its current location, Melbourne Park.

John Cain, pictured on December 4, 2019 - six days before he suffered a severe stroke.

John Cain, pictured on December 4, 2019 – six days before he suffered a severe stroke. Credit:Barry Jones

“It was a life wholly lived in the service of others,” Mr Andrews said. “Just as he had once modernised our party, John set about modernising our state.”

Hundreds turned out to St Paul’s, packing out the pews of the grand cathedral for the state memorial service for a Premier who led the state from 1982 to 1990, bringing Labor out of the wilderness after 27 years in opposition.

Among those to remember what she termed Cain’s “keen, plainly wrapped intellect” was Mary Crooks, executive director of the Victorian Women’s Trust, who worked with him for decades. The former premier had no bluff and bluster, she said, and lacked an oversized ego. But what he did possess was an impressive grasp of issues.

Mr Cain, she said, was “ethical, fair-minded collegial and hard working”.

“But above all he was deeply respectful,” to his family and to people like her, Ms Crooks said. “For a woman in her late 20s, navigating what was then very much a man’s world, the respect John accorded me was both validating and empowering.”

"Just as he had once modernised our party, John set about modernising our state," Premier Daniel Andrews said at John Cain's memorial service on Monday.

“Just as he had once modernised our party, John set about modernising our state,” Premier Daniel Andrews said at John Cain’s memorial service on Monday. Credit:AAP

Renowned for his love of routine – Mr Cain had not missed a grand final at the MCG since attending his first with his father in 1942 – his son James remembered how profoundly his father was a creature of habit.

“Every morning it was a run, and reading in the papers sitting in a beanbag, followed by breakfast,” James said.

“In the early days of my life that was ‘Weeties’, toast and a soft boiled egg. ‘Weeties’ only, however, served between September and May, and porridge was served in the colder months. Shortly after the egg on toast arrived, it was a cup of tea or a glass of milk, and the serviette which was then carefully rolled and returned secure to the serviette ring, to be ready for dinner.”

And as much as Cain loved routine, James said, he hated technology with equal vigour.

James Cain said his father set a towering example "one that is impossible to live up to all the time".

James Cain said his father set a towering example “one that is impossible to live up to all the time”. Credit:AAP

As Cain’s influence in the public realm and Cain family dwindled, the volume of advice increased exponentially, James joked. “On this basis, I think he’d want to ensure we all have a little bit of advice to try and take with us today: Be honest and don’t cheat the system; read books; don’t trust banks; the internet is full of crap; study hard and go to university because they can never take your education away from you.”

James and brother John both remembered their father’s work ethic as a lawyer and as a politician – a work ethic fulfilled with courtesy, diligence, determination and integrity.

“On his wedding day to Nancye,” John Cain jnr remembered, “he was able to fit in a couple of pleas down at the South Melbourne court before heading off to be married”.

John Cain paid tribute to his late father, who he said had an impeccable work ethic.

John Cain paid tribute to his late father, who he said had an impeccable work ethic. Credit:AAP

Bursts of laughter rippled through the hall as speakers celebrated Mr Cain’s dry humour. “He was very, very funny,” former federal Attorney-General Michael Duffy said. “He had a slightly cynical sense of humour and he could straighten you out in a nice way.”

Premier Daniel Andrews paid tribute to John Cain's legacy as a leader who modernised Victoria and the Labor party.

Premier Daniel Andrews paid tribute to John Cain’s legacy as a leader who modernised Victoria and the Labor party. Credit:AAP

Among the crowd were all the living former Victorian premiers, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese, former secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Bill Kelty, state Liberal leader Michael O’Brien and state Nationals leader Peter Walsh, federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrews, Chief Justice of Victoria Anne Ferguson, Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton, and leading businesswoman and former Cain staffer Elizabeth Proust.

Cain is survived by his wife Nancye and children Joanne Crothers and John and James Cain.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was among the hundreds who turned out to John Cain's state memorial service.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard was among the hundreds who turned out to John Cain’s state memorial service. Credit:AAP

Sumeyya is state political reporter for The Age.

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