Res­i­dents wel­come Win­ton

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

AWARD-WIN­NING Aus­tralian au­thor Tim Win­ton is in awe of the Whit­sun­days but more be­cause of its com­mu­nity than the scenery that draws most vis­i­tors here.

Mr Win­ton is vis­it­ing Air­lie Beach as a guest of the Aus­tralian Marine Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety which is cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary and whose pa­tron he is.

Hav­ing never been to the re­gion be­fore he de­scribed it as “beau­ti­ful”.

“I’ve been read­ing about the Great Bar­rier Reef and this area all of my life and spend­ing my money help­ing to pre­serve it, but I’ve just never re­ally had the chance to get past Noosa be­cause of work,” he said.

Mr Win­ton de­scribed his visit as a “look­ing and lis­ten­ing tour”, fo­cused on meet­ing lo­cal peo­ple and hear­ing about their con­cerns for the reef.

“I don’t re­ally have any­thing pro­found to say ex­cept to ex­press my ad­mi­ra­tion for all you peo­ple here who are fight­ing for the place that you love,” he told the crowd who had gath­ered to hear him talk at the Whit­sun­day Arts and Cul­tural Cen­tre on Mon­day night.

“I’ve been fol­low­ing your strug­gle and it’s just amaz­ing to see a com­mu­nity come to­gether.”

Talk­ing about the achieve­ments of lo­cal tourism op­er­a­tors and en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign­ers in per­suad­ing gov­ern­ments to change dredg­ing and dump­ing laws, Mr Win­ton said he thought it was “im­mense”.

“And it shows what a com­mu­nity can do when peo­ple pull to­gether and when com­mon­sense prevails,” he said.

“I’m full of ad­mi­ra­tion for the peo­ple of this area – the peo­ple who are fight­ing for the reef are he­roes.”

Mr Win­ton also ac­knowl­edged that for many of th­ese peo­ple that fight had not been easy.

“Th­ese peo­ple who are de- fend­ing the reef; they’re putting their jobs on the line, their re­sources on the line, their men­tal health – it’s a very, very stress­ful thing to do and I think they’re real pa­tri­ots,” he said. “It’s one thing to go and fight for your coun­try else­where but to fight for your coun­try at home, that’s what pa­tri­o­tism is about for me.” As a writer who sees sto­ries ev­ery­where Mr Win­ton said he could cer­tainly see a “pretty noble story” in progress through­out Air­lie Beach – although it’s not one he pre­sumes to tell him­self.

“I think it would be pre­sump­tu­ous of me – I’m not fly­ing into Air­lie Beach and tell- ing peo­ple how to live their lives and how they should save their reef – they’re al­ready do­ing that. I’m just here to lis­ten and sup­port and to hon­our what they’re do­ing,” he said.

FOR A CAUSE: Tim Win­ton speak­ing from the heart about his pas­sion for the en­vi­ron­ment and the Great Bar­rier Reef.

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