Supporters who packed into the Gympie Regional Gallery for the opening of the Art of Protest exhibition showcasing the Mary River dam protest.
Supporters who packed into the Gympie Regional Gallery for the opening of the Art of Protest exhibition showcasing the Mary River dam protest. David Crossley

Dam protest inspires art

THE fight to save the Mary River from the Traveston Crossing dam was recreated at the Gympie Regional Art Gallery’s 12th birthday celebration.

The Art of Protest display, which was opened as part of the festivities, covers the efforts of communities from Brisbane to Hervey Bay banding together to oppose the dam proposal.

The display covers the three-and-a-half year battle against the State Government proposal and is the Gallery’s annual birthday exhibition in The Gympie Times Exhibition Space.

The room was filled to capacity on Saturday as ABC TV’s Gardening Australia Queensland presenter Jerry Coleby-Williams officially opened the exhibition.

He told the assembly the Traveston Crossing anti-campaign had international significance, with Save the Mary Group president Glenda Pickersgill winning a Green Dragon award at the Zaragoza World Expo.

Wearing a Sea Shepherd T-shirt, he spoke of the significance of the artwork in getting message across and the various methods of protest.

Also donning his trademark straw hat so “people will recognise me”, Mr Coleby-Williams produced a T-shirt and water tank-style stubby cooler from his shoulder bag with the slogan ‘No Dam’ printed on them as examples of selling the message.

He said he knew about the lungfish and the Mary River before he actually knew where the river was or saw it.

He recalled living in England as a young boy in 1969 and wanting a lungfish as a pet. That was fine, he said, until his father found out that its pond would have to be heated and the energy costs would be exorbitant.

Another event highlight was the Cooloola Voices choir, which sang beautifully and presented five numbers during the opening – three of the songs bearing a Mary Rivere theme.

The Gympie Times senior journalist Arthur Gorrie also spoke during the opening.

He said the Brisbane anti-dam campaign, led partly by Jerry Coleby-Williams, was particularly important because of the voting power in South-East Queensland and the lack of much significant media support, with the notable exception of the Madonna King talk back show on the ABC.

Despite this they got the message out so well that one survey showed a majority of Brisbane people opposed the dam, even though it was supposed to be for them.

“With that concentration of voting power, we unfortunately have a government which seems to believe that the Earth is flat and if you drive north of Caboolture you will drop off into a void inhabited solely by banjo-playing rednecks,” he said.

“It’s worth looking at the meaning of the word ‘redneck’ because I heard Anna Bligh use it only recently.

“It’s a snobby American expression for people who work hard, outside in the sun – like the people who founded the first Labor Party, in Queensland and a long way north of Caboolture.

“I think they would be horrified if they could see the kind of people who have stolen their political organisation today,” he said as he was interrupted by loud applause.

“But I think they would be proud to know the people of the Mary Valley for proving once again that people can still win.”

Gallery director Joolie Gibbs also marked the day by officially opening Violet Vegh-Jameson’s Focus and Inspiration exhibition.

The Gallery’s 12th birthday cake was cut by Friends of The Gallery patroness Mayoress Dulcie Dyne.

Gympie Times

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