Bill’s campaign finally finishes
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.
Author Bill Wilkie with his new book on the Daintree Blockade