Residents welcome Winton
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.