John Madigan is being remembered as a skilled blacksmith who sold replicas of Ned Kelly's famous armour, a politician who made his presence felt in the Australian Senate, and a "rough-as-guts gentleman" who always fought for the underdog.
Mr Madigan died on Tuesday morning aged 53, following a lengthy battle with cancer - he died peacefully while in palliative care, with his wife Teresa and children Lucy and Jack by his side.
In a statement, his family said he was a generous and compassionate man, "who gave his life to the greater good and had great faith in the people of Australia".
Mr Madigan famously worked as a blacksmith in Hepburn Springs, crafting metal items from his own engineering workshop.
He served in the Senate after winning the final Victorian seat in the 2010 federal election, until the double-dissolution election in 2016.
Initially elected as part of the Democratic Labour Party, he resigned from the party in 2014, serving as an independent and starting his own party, John Madigan's Manufacturing and Farming Party, before becoming a member of the Australian Country Party.
This clearly spoke to his priorities - standing up for the worker, and protecting Australian industry, particularly in the regions.
His family stated he considered his time in parliament "a privilege".
"He sought always to discharge his duty to all Victorians, regardless of their political persuasion and found the ability to give the voiceless a voice an honour," they said.
"Right until the very end John was determined to make the most of his life and ensured that his family would face to hardship after his death.
"He dedicated his time in Parliament to fighting for the unheard and neglected. He strongly believed in the sanctity of life and fought hard for it. His unwavering empathy and vulnerability made him a person who many Australians could trust. One of the most creditable aspects of John in the eyes of almost all to whom he spoke, was his honesty and his sincerity, which gave people confidence that he was truly listening and he had truly heard their voice.
"He will be dearly missed."
FROM 2013: A profile of Senator John Madigan
His Senate colleague and friend Nick Xenophon said Mr Madigan was an "antidote to all that is wrong about politics today".
"For John, it was always about the jobs and building our capacity and resilience," he said.
"He was a salt of the earth, completely genuine, passionate - it's a great loss, he was just incredibly decent."
As well as pushing for Australian manufacturing and jobs, his politics were not without some controversy - he was a strongly conservative Catholic, and invited a noted climate change skeptic to speak in Ballarat.
He was well-known for his charitable acts, including donating his pay rise in 2013 to Daylesford Secondary College, and supporting Wendouree's Exodus House.
His former colleagues - both at the DLP and afterwards - had nothing but praise for Mr Madigan.
His former chief of staff, the DLP's Steve Campbell, said he spoke with Mr Madigan just a couple of weeks ago.
Mr Madigan and the party reconciled following his resignation this year, and he was offered honorary membership.
"Having a chance to speak to him for the first time in a long time a few weeks ago, he did feel there was so much left undone, but he knew he tried his best," he said.
"He'd done so many wonderful things in parliament, and doing the right thing is more important than who you're with."
READ MORE: Senator John Madigan's greatest hits
Mr Campbell said Mr Madigan was a "rough-as-guts gentleman", and remembered him as always being respectful of his staffers.
"He often thought he was the wrong person for the job, sitting there with lawyers, doctors, career politicians, great public speakers - here was this humble blacksmith sitting there, trying to do his best for the little bloke," he said.
"He made enemies, but he made so many friends, and there were a lot of people who admired him because he wouldn't give up - if it was something that affected one person in the country, he'd care about it."
Another former colleague, Clara Geoghegan, said he was a "principled man".
"I think at his heart was the wellbeing of the average Australian," she said.
"Throughout his time in the parliament, and prior and after, he was a champion of the working man."
She added he was also across issues other politicians tended to neglect.
"He'd speak to us in the Senate adjournment debates on oppression of the Falun Gong, and oppressed African minorities, a heart-wrenching speech on refugees from Sri Lanka - he was across a lot of issues that other parliamentarians disregard for political expediency," she said.
Darren Cooper, a former Australian Country Party secretary, said Mr Madigan was "an honest, up-front fella".
"He was a conservative champion for Australian manufacturing and small businesses," he said.
"I'm very shocked to hear (the news), the world needs more people like John Madigan, especially in the country."
Current and former members of parliament have also paid tribute to Mr Madigan, including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
John Madigan was a fine representative of a worthy political tradition. The DLP sought to be the Labor Party at its best: strong on Australian values and determined to get working men and women a fair go.— Tony Abbott (@HonTonyAbbott) June 16, 2020
"He was a very decent man with an old-fashioned sense of courtesy and respect for others," Mr Abbott posted on Twitter.
Federal Ballarat MP Catherine King offered her condolences as well.
"Whilst we did not always agree politically, I respect that John was a man of conviction and his work with Exodus showed enormous compassion," she said in a statement.
"He was always prepared to stand up and live his beliefs."
Speaking to The Courier in 2013, Mr Madigan said he never imagined becoming a politician.
"Sometimes you make mistakes but you pick yourself up and have another go," he said.
"At the end of the day, try to leave it a bit better than you found it."
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.