I have lived in Sydney’s Inner West for most of my life – and it’s where I’ve done most of my politics. This is where I met the key influences of my political life (including Tony Harris who died last year  and after whom this blog is named, Tony having named his blog Watermelon Harris. Tony added this explanation: Watermelon is a political blog: an assertion of a leftist perspective within and alongside Green politics. And the colours are not just red and green, but also black – the seeds of libertarianism throughout. That will do me.)
My own story is pretty representative of my generation. As a student at Sydney University I was on the Freedom Ride in 1965 which highlighted racial segregation and discrimination against Aborigines in NSW country towns. The riders also encountered and encouraged the first stirrings of indigenous self-organisation and independent campaigning. I edited the student newspaper and was in Australia’s anti-Vietnam War movement.
In this period too I encountered the thought of Michel Raptis (Pablo) and his vision of an authentically democratic or self-managed socialism. It appeared then – and still does – as an ideal worth striving for.
In the 1970s I was the chief organiser for Nick Origlass and Issy Wyner, the legendary Balmain councillors and working-class heroes who pioneered participatory democracy and public participation in planning. These simultaneously old-time and modern revolutionaries inspired (among others) Ted Mack, who became one of the most outstanding figures in Australian politics in the late 20th century.
In the 1980s I was among the founders of The Greens.
My own chief environmental achievements as a community organiser and advocate have been to:
- Achieve the bicentennial park on the shores of Rozelle Bay in 1988 – I was coordinator of the Save Rozelle Bay campaign
- Save Callan Park – 61 hectares of beautiful heritage grounds, the largest park in Grayndler – I have been either secretary or president since the group was founded in 1998
On both occasions the battle was with state Labor governments who wanted to flog off land for developers.
I am still involved in Callan Park, lobbying to have mental health services and accommodation restored to Callan Park. People with a mental illness are some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Callan Park can be a place where they can go to recover, obtain training and take up work opportunities. After all, Callan Park was purchased in 1873 for the benefit of people suffering from mental illness.
i am now part of the campaign to stop WestConnex, the ill-conceived $15bn motorway project. Motorways are such old thinking. We need to be investing in public transport, rather than ruining neighbourhoods with motorways and high-rise over-development.
I worked as a sub-editor (picking up two Walkleys) and feature writer for The Bulletin for ten years and more recently was the editor of The Week, a weekly news digest. I’ve always believed that journalists’ first and paramount loyalty is to their audience – to present them with as much information as possible and to hide nothing, even if it is uncomfortable to one’s friends or prejudices.
For the past two years I have been convenor of the Greens in New South Wales.