Senator Bob Brown, Leader of the Greens

What were you doing in the 1980s?
At the beginning of the decade I was still doing rare locum general practice work as a doctor but most of my time was spent on the campaign to save Tasmania’s magnificent Franklin River from damming.

Bob Brown on the Franklin River in the 1980s.

Bob Brown on the Franklin River in the 1980s. Image care of Office of Senator Bob Brown.

Along with a group of other dedicated volunteers we managed to bring the Franklin’s fate to the attention of the rest of the country and in 1983 the federal government overrode the Tasmanian Government to stop construction once it got the go-ahead from the High Court.

For a while I camped in empty houses and raided food bins behind restaurants at night and my pensioner mother sent me $20 per month.

In the same year the river was saved I became a member of the Tasmanian Parliament. After being arrested for protesting against the dam I discovered on the day I was released from prison that a recount of the seat of Denison had put me in Parliament.

What historical event of the 1980s has most resonance for you? Why?
Obviously the saving of the Franklin River was a momentous decision that has continued to provide benefits to Tasmania’s tourism industry and opened up the beauty of the state’s wilderness from people across the globe.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was also a great testament to democracy and the power of people to bring about change.

Meanwhile, peaceful opponents of the Argentinian regime were being arrested, drugged and dropped from planes over the Atlantic Ocean.

Any memories of what you were wearing in the 1980s?
During the Franklin River campaign I was often on the move between the blockade at the river and the demands of the media. As a consequence I kept a few suits in wardrobes around the state that I could pull on for a last-minute TV interview. I wore one of these pin-striped suits at the recent 25 year anniversary celebration of the Franklin campaign – and now pin-striped suits are back in fashion!

Senator Bob Brown around 2008

Senator Bob Brown around 2008. Image care of Office of Senator Bob Brown.

What do you think are the main differences between the 80s and how the world and/or your life is today?
There are two billion more people, millions of hectares less forests, scores of fisheries have collapsed and Greenland’s ice cap is melting. But I’m a little wiser. Optimism beats pessimism. Human intelligence can save us from ourselves and so the future beckons in a world in which, unlike the 80s, we are all connected in one global community.

irmah

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  1. Q&A with @SenatorBobBrown re: his 80s activist experiences http://bit.ly/4nAzOd (via @DanielleWarby and @the80sareback)
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