Saturday, August 2, 2014

In Conversation with Bob Brown

One of the highlights of the Byron Bay Writers Festival was to hear Bob Brown speak.  The tent was filling up but we had got there early and managed to get some good seats up the front.  Bob is famous for many things but we know him best for leading the 1982 blockade of dam works on the Franklin River, an area of pristine beauty that was later recognised by a World Heritage listing.  He is both loved and hated by the Australian public depending on where they sit on the political spectrum.  It isn’t often you find a man who lives by his beliefs, who has been jailed, shot at and also founded the first Greens party in the world! 

He makes a few jokes at the expense of the Liberal Party and the audience warms up.  He remarks that he can’t actually find anybody who voted for Tony Abbott although he met somebody the other day who had a friend who might have... 

There is much laughter from the largely left of centre audience.  He remarks that capitalism has become the religion of this world with growth at the heart of it.  He says that occasionally we need a Tony Abbot to remind us that we must turn back.  The audience applauds.

The conversation then turns to his experiences as a gay man during a time when being gay was banned.  He publicly declared his homosexuality in 1976 to help other people through their struggles and recounts some of his horrific experiences including subjecting himself to electric shock treatment in an attempt to be ‘cured’.  After considering suicide he learns to accept who he is and came out at a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Tasmania! 

The influence the Greens have on Australian politics has grown from strength to strength.  His campaign for the Franklin River is quite legendary and the party has been able to make great strides in convincing the Australian population to consider their message seriously.  I think many people do not realise that it is possible for us to both maintain our standard of living but use fewer and more sustainable resources.  Sadly, our heavy reliance on oil and those that benefit from it prevent any alternative ideas being discussed in Australia.

Bob Brown ends his speech with a anthem he has written to the planet.  The tent was overflowing and he got a standing ovation from the crowd but then of course he was preaching to the converted. We felt inspired and optimistic about the future and happy we had this experience.

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