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Byron Shire
January 30, 2023

Bob Brown – an inspirational activist and leader

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Paul Thomas, Jan Barham, Tamara Smith and Bob Brown during Tamara’s 2015 election campaign. Photo supplied

Bob Brown is a legend, an inspirational activist who has devoted his life to protecting and preserving our precious environment and defending human rights. He will be in our region soon and I encourage residents to have that rare experience of being in the presence of someone who has proven the difference one person can make by being brave and committed.

Local activists formed the Nightcap Action Group (NAG) and were committed to direct nonviolent action to protect north coast forests. We decided to travel to Tasmania to join the campaign to stop the damming of the Franklin River. We ended up maintaining a camp in the upriver wilderness for many months.

This is when I first met Bob Brown; a young doctor who was leading the campaign. My commitment to a life of activism was encouraged by his support of the radical activist movement that embodied song, theatre and art. His example of grace and calmness in situations of intense violence such as Farmhouse Creek set the culture for nonviolent resistance.

In 1978 Bob Brown was appointed director of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society and led the campaign to prevent the construction of the Franklin Dam. He spent 19 days in prison and on the day of his release in 1983, he became a member of Tasmania’s parliament.

In 1990 he was the founder of the Australian Bush Heritage Fund, now Bush Heritage Australia which has protected hundreds of thousands of hectares of significant environment.

Bob led the Australian Greens from its foundation in 1992 until April 2012 when he resigned as leader and then from the Australian Senate in June.

He had been elected to the Australian Senate in 1996. In his inaugural speech he warned of the dangers of climate change and was ridiculed for being alarmist. From 2002 to 2004, when minor parties held the balance of power in the Senate, he became a well-recognised and respected politician. He was re-elected in 2001 and 2007. Bob Brown was also the first openly gay member of the Parliament of Australia and the first openly gay leader of an Australian political party.

Bob lives with his partner Paul Thomas in Tasmania and travels widely, supporting campaigns.

He has published a number of books including a memoir as well as photography and poetry. He has also won many awards, including recognition from the United Nations.

Criminal protest

Bob and Paul established the Bob Brown Foundation to promote environmental awareness, and these days continue the campaign to preserve Tasmania’s forest despite the laws that criminalise protest. The current focus of governments across the country is to deter people who are willing to take a stand and risk imprisonment. Bob is taking governments to court to protect our constitutional right to protest. The legal actions are made possible by the support of community donations to the Bob Brown Foundation. The legal wins clarify that it’s unconstitutional to disallow peaceful protest.

Bob has made many visits to the north coast. He was first here for a Greens gathering 30 years ago, just after we formed our local group in 1993, the Tweed Byron Greens. He travelled around NSW supporting the 1995 election that resulted in my being elected as the first Greens MP in the NSW Parliament. He has always delighted in our area’s successes, including the election of Australia’s first popularly elected Greens mMayor, Jan Barham in 2004. In 2015, another first, Tamara Smith decisively took the long-held National Party seat of Ballina, on the back of the successful Bentley campaign. She became Australia’s first Green regional local MP.

Now Bob is back to share his stories of the ongoing campaigns; the potential destruction of the Tarkine forests, the dangers to the marine environment from commercial fish production and the risks posed to Antarctica by tourism and the proposed airport.

He has many tales of the value of activism and the success of people showing up to defend what our governments are willing to destroy.

Bob’s here to support our local member, Tamara Smith, in the lead-up to the NSW state election in March for her third defence of our local electorate.

He is speaking at a fundraiser in Lennox Head on Saturday 28 January before he heads off on another campaign.

If you have never had the opportunity to hear Bob speak and be inspired, then don’t miss the event. If you’ve previously been uplifted by Bob, there’s always the joy of being reinvigorated by a legend who invites us all to join him in defending our precious environments.

Bob Brown event – Saturday 28 January 6.30pm, Lennox Cultural Centre. Book at: www.greensforballina.com/bob-brown-event.


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10 COMMENTS

  1. A great life but he has done his best to keep the Tories in power with his purity in policy. Now the greens on the same mission with the voice.

  2. Saint Bob, yes a great environmentalist, hopeless politician, Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison and the Fossil fuel industry owe him so much for giving them a decade more than they deserved and expected to pump out their polluting CO2 emissions unabated; best thing Saint Bob did for Australia was along with Saint Christine to retire from politics and let the real politicians fix up the mess.

    • Pretty spot on there, Keith. And his March to Queensland in 2019 must have made all those on board feel good and noble but gave us Scott Morrison for three years!

      • Here it goes again, blame everyone else except Labor for losing 2019 Fed Election.
        Lizardbreath, here’s a newsflash, it was the voters that gave us Scott Morrison for three years.

        One of the greatest election own goals of all time, Labor’s complete capitulation over the Adani Carmichael Coalmine that ruined any climate credentials that Labor claimed to have.
        But we get it, ‘it all The Bob Brown Foundation led anti-Adani protest fault’.

        No matter how hard the wannabe history re-writers try, it doesn’t change facts.

      • Mr Lizardbreath, judging by the reply from our resident Greenspin expert, it looks like you really scratched that Green nerve once again. When Bob (a living legend) and his faithful band of followers arrived in Clermont, on the eve of the 2019 election, Matt Canavan and his coal fired Qld. LNP, who were looking at loosing seats in Qld, could not believe their good luck, it was like a gift from the Gods. The voters certainly did give Morrison another three years because entire communities were totally pissed off with the Greens and were afraid of loosing their livelihoods. The whole farcical adventure was so successful for the LNP at the election Matt Canavan begged Bob (a National hero) to return for the upcoming Qld election; thank God Bob (a living legend and National hero) must have finally swallowed some reality pills and came to his senses. The farcical adventure also forced the hand of the Qld Premier, who was also up for a difficult re-election, to give Adani final approval. History is only judged by results and facts on the ground not farcical Greenspin and wannabe history re-writers.

  3. Look you might have a point there Joachim with your conclusion about “Labor’s complete capitulation over the Adani Carmichael Coalmine that ruined any climate credentials that Labor claimed to have.” Except for one small thing – as you note, they voted for coal wielding ScoMo and the LNP, despite their worse climate credentials and the unelectable rabble they had become.

    Just a coincidence that the rout took place in Queensland where mining communities did not take to being pontificated to by publicity seeking pollies who appeared little concerned with plans for replacing their livelihoods? The Greens didn’t fare that well out of it.

    The explanation for the 2019 election result is likely multi faceted but complexity and nuance aren’t your strong points.

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