Bill’s cam­paign fi­nally fin­ishes

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - REAL ESTATE - Shane Ni­chols

AU­THOR Bill Wilkie has spent more of his life in the story of the Dain­tree Blockade than any­one who was there at the time.

Think­ing about the story, and then work­ing on it, all up for nearly a decade, has coloured a sub­stan­tial part of his life, and his fam­ily’s.

“You’re al­ways think­ing about it, you can’t stop,” said Bill, whose book about the blockade goes on sale this week.

“I’ve been in it a lot longer than any of the protesters were. It was a year for them. The ac­tual protests were three weeks in De­cem­ber 1983 and three weeks in Au­gust 1984. For some oth­ers it was a fiveyear cam­paign for World Her­itage list­ing.”

The story of the book started 11 years ago when Bill and his young fam­ily moved here and he be­gan to hear the story of the blockade.

“It was this kind of mythol­ogy of the shire but there wasn’t a whole lot of de­tail on it,” he said.

“One small book, Tri­als of Tribu­la­tion, in 1983, but that only cov­ered the first half of the story.

“At the li­brary where I was work­ing I came across an ar­chive with lots of news­pa­per clip­pings and other ma­te­rial. I be­gan to get more and more in­ter­ested in it.

I had started writ­ing more than a decade ear­lier, so I was think­ing like a writer. “I was look­ing for a story.” Bill spoke to a cou­ple of peo­ple who had been in­volved in the blockade and then dis­cov­ered that more ma­te­rial was stored at James Cook Uni­ver­sity, in­clud­ing ma­te­rial from the Wilder­ness Ac­tion Group and CAFNEC.

“I dis­cov­ered box af­ter box about the blockade and the broader cam­paign to have the Wet Trop­ics listed as World Her­itage. And no­body had put it out there. And I thought that I’m a li­brar­ian, I’m hav­ing a lot of work to dig this stuff out, the gen­eral pub­lic has no chance.

“Once I had spo­ken to a few peo­ple I thought, ‘there’s a book here, there’s a big story here, and there’s a lot of in­for­ma­tion that peo­ple don’t know — a re­ally big story that hasn’t been told.

“It’s a big story not just about pol­i­tics in Queens­land, it was hot on the heels of the Franklin cam­paign in Tas­ma­nia, and the en­vi­ron­ment was be­com­ing a hot is­sue around the coun­try.”

There was two or three years of think­ing there might be a book there, “and I was in­ter­ested in Dain­tree as a place, and in the course of two or three years I nar­rowed my fo­cus to the blockade and then I de­cided if I’m se­ri­ous I need to ap­ply for a RADF grant, which I got in 2010”.

Or­gan­is­ing the for­mat of the book was a key prob­lem to be solved, par­tic­u­larly the use of the pho­tos, so cen­tral to the sto­ry­telling.

Bill used a pro­fes­sional book de­signer in NSW and backed that up with high grade coated pa­per stock which means the clean white pages make the pho­tos and art­work look their ab­so­lute best.

It’s a very high qual­ity pro­duc­tion that does jus­tice to a wor­thy sub­ject, and frankly, is sorely un­der­priced at $39.95.

The text and pho­tos are an in­sight into lo­cal life more broadly than the blockade – more than any­thing, peo­ple.

Some have died, some are still here, and some have gone back down south to places like Nim­bin.

It’s a book about the peo­ple, their colour­ful and fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries, the peo­ple in all those mar­vel­lous pho­tos.

Pic­ture: SHANE NI­CHOLS

Au­thor Bill Wilkie with his new book on the Dain­tree Blockade

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