Digby Moran sitting in his sand sculpture for Djurra at City Hall Lismore in 2017. Photo Tree Faerie.
The popular and highly respected artist Albert (Digby) Moran died suddenly this week in Lismore at the age of 71. He is remembered as a humble, spiritual and selfless man, always with a ready smile and words of encouragement for young people.
Digby was born in Ballina in 1948. His mother was a Bundjalung woman and his father Dunghutti.
Young Digby spent his formative years in the mission community of Cabbage Tree Island, in the midst of the Richmond River, between Broadwater and Wardell in northern NSW. Surrounded by a large, supportive family, he remembered his childhood on the river as an idyllic time.
At sixteen he left to work as a cane cutter and then as a boxer with Jimmy Sharman's travelling troupe, following in the footsteps of his father Teddy, who had been a heavyweight champion of the north coast. Digby also played rugby league for Lower Woodburn.
After the relationship with the mother of his children collapsed, alcohol and cigarettes took a great toll on Digby's health. It was only when he managed to give up both substances that he started painting seriously.
His first step was an art course at Ballina TAFE in 1991, but it was 'too European' so Digby started to create art in his own cultural style.
'Painting gives me great pleasure and brings me peace,' he said. 'It is a way for me to tell the stories that were told to me by my grandparents and elders when I was growing up.'
Digby's work soon brought him acclaim in the Northern Rivers and then beyond.
In 1995 he had his first work selected for inclusion in the Telstra National Aboriginal and Islander Art Awards in Darwin. Digby exhibited in this competition multiple times, winning the People's Choice Award in 2000 for 'Mullet Spawning'.
In 1998 a cabinet made by Evans Head craftsman Kristin Crisp and painted by Digby won the open art section at the Southern Cross Art Award.
Digby exhibited in numerous group exhibitions at Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative in Sydney, Fireworks Art Gallery in Brisbane and Berlin Aboriginal Art Gallery in Germany. In 2002 he showed at the New Media Gallery in Vienna, Austria.
In 2004 his work was part of the exhibition 'Energy of the Earth' at Germany's Museum Hamelyn.
In 2009 Digby temporarily became a 'Living Book' as part of the Human Library project at the Lismore Library. He always enjoyed talking to people and breaking down stereotypes.
A travelling Australia Day ambassador for many years, in 2010 he had a solo show at the NSW Parliament.
Despite his growing fame, Digby Moran remained firmly connected to his own country. 'You’ll never catch me painting things like barramundi or crocodiles,' he said. 'Water is a big part of all Bundjalung Dreaming. I have always been a saltwater man.'
With his studio based in Lismore, Digby was an important contributor to numerous shows in his own region, including at Lismore Regional Gallery and Tweed Regional Gallery. Both galleries acquired his work.
Country was very important to Digby Moran. In a 2013 interview he said 'I love walking around the coast especially at Goanna Headland, Evans Head, just to feel the energy of the place.'
Traditional carved trees and shields from the region informed Digby's art practice, particularly the distinctive interwoven diamond shapes of his ancestors.
In addition to his gallery projects, Digby was an active public artist, with well-known large scale works including 'Someone's Always Watching You' outside Ballina Woolworths, an 85 metre mural inspired by the local natural environment at the Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre, and a major temporary sand sculpture, made in conjunction with Richard Clarke, on the grass outside Lismore's City Hall coinciding with NORPA's production Djurra in 2017.
It was during that year that Digby's home studio was devastated by the Lismore flood, with many of his current and past works destroyed by the mud and swirling waters. Undaunted, he went straight back to painting and transmuted the flood disaster into new art, reflecting on the swimming, camping and fishing of his childhood.
Gallery director Brett Adlington recalls that Digby's 'infectious laughter and smile would erupt under his curls with these memories'.
In 2018 a major solo show of this new work opened at Lismore Regional Gallery. 'Growing Up On The Island' became the most highly attended exhibition in the Gallery's history, apart from the Archibalds, indicating the special place Digby occupied in his community's heart.
But there was more to Digby Moran than his exhibitions.
Guided by what he described as spiritual instruction, Digby devoted a lot of energy to teaching children of all ages about art and creativity, both in Australia and the UK.
He also worked in drug and alcohol rehab at Namatjira Haven in Alstonville, showing others how art can help find a way out of the darkness, as it had done for him.
As news of Digby Moran's death spread, social media was flooded with memories from those who knew and were touched by the artist in different ways.
Mungo MacCallum wrote, 'A huge loss. His work has given us enormous pleasure over the years. We bought a few minor pieces and should have bought many more. In particular, while waiting for treatment for cancer at Lismore Base his great work was a genuine comfort – confirmation that life was worth living. Vale indeed.'
Film-maker Karenza Ebejer, who made a documentary accompanying Digby's final solo show at Lismore, said she was 'so sorry to hear of the passing of a great artist, Uncle Digby, who shared his life spirit with us through his canvas. My life is richer for having met him and hearing his story.'
Digby's partner Kerry Kelly said she was devastated by his loss. 'He is loved by so many people and will be sorely missed. Thank you all for supporting him.'
The Lismore Regional Gallery has opened a special display of work honouring Digby's artistic legacy, including a condolence book which visitors are welcome to use to share memories with his family.
People are also leaving flowers in the metalwork of Digby's Ballina artwork. Digby Moran leaves behind three daughters, a son and many much-loved grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The Northern Rivers community will not be the same without him.
How to sum up this decade of politics in Australia? Numbers-wise, we had six prime ministers (counting Kevin twice), three National Party leaders, ten budgets, seven environment ministers, two apologies, one plebiscite and a Hercules-load of hubris…READ MORE
(and a few apocalyptic summer reading suggestions)
As one of many bushfire refugees in Australia and beyond this year, I was faced with that classic question – what do I take and what can be left behind? A houseful of stuff and a small car are very different sizes, but when time is short, it’s amazing how it sharpens the mind, and the Tetris skills… READ MORE
A while ago my creek stopped running. Well, it’s not really my creek, any more than the inland waterways belong to the cotton irrigators, but it’s hard not to feel a bit proprietorial about a place you visit almost every day, year after year…READ MORE
One of Australia's foremost environmental activists, Bill Ryan, has died in Sydney at the age of 97.
Bill was part of the legendary Kokoda campaign during World War II, in which Australian troops finally stopped the southward advance of the Japanese Imperial Army in appalling, mountainous conditions. Wounded in action in 1942, Bill later returned to fight in New Britain.
After the war he worked for the PMG, and later Telecom Australia (now Telstra). Bill's son Colin also worked there, and both were involved in the struggle to improve workers' rights.
Bill struggled with PTSD and depression for many years following his military experiences. He was painfully aware that the sacrifices of the war did little to improve stark situations of injustice at home and abroad.
A lifelong and active trade unionist, Bill was also involved in successful campaigns against apartheid in South Africa and to end the Vietnam War.
After Bill retired, his beloved wife Joyce died, and his life temporarily lost all meaning. But concern for his grandchildren (and then great-grandchildren) motivated him to become a dedicated environmental activist, undaunted by the fact that he was almost blind and had trouble walking. “What sort of a world are we leaving for them?” he wondered.
Using a specially modified computer, Bill was able to stay on top of the latest science of global warming. He wrote letters and lobbied politicians. When that got nowhere, he joined civil disobedience campaigns to actively do something about the climate emergency, putting his own frail body on the line. His ever-supportive son (and expert sign painter) Colin was frequently arrested alongside him.
Bill was a passionate supporter of non-violent direct action.
When asked how he felt about being arrested, Bill said: “I was willing to put my life on the line in the Second World War, so putting my body on the line for climate action is a small inconvenience.”
Bill came to particular prominence during the struggle to save the Leard Forest from coal mining, but he was also tossed into the Hunter River alongside Josh Fox while supporting the Pacific Climate Warriors, marched with the Knitting Nannas in Narrabri, blocked railway tracks carrying coal trains, went to Parliament House in Canberra to educate politicians, blockaded Adani subsidiary Downer, and took the long train ride into Martin Place week after week to protest the insanity of Santos's Narrabri gas project.
He became a familiar sight on his walker outside the Channel Seven studio, educating Sydney-siders one on one.
I got to know him in the fights to save Gloucester from unconventional gas and coal, and to stop Santos in the Pilliga. But Bill was an integral part of innumerable campaigns, most of which came under the banner of climate change. He couldn't remember how many times he'd been arrested. His concern for environmental and social justice powered all that he did.
His gentle humour, integrity and passion moved all who met him.
As Bill put it: “People who are producing these fossil fuels and having them burned throughout the world, they're the enemy.”
Politically active throughout his life, Bill was a proud member of the NSW Greens. Senior Greens figures paid tribute to Bill Ryan including NSW MP David Shoebridge who said: “Bill led a principled and inspiring life. We are celebrating the example he set throughout his life.”
Former Greens NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon said: “It is an enormous loss. Bill set a high standard for all of us. Just last Friday he was with the Knitting Nannas at a climate protest in Martin Place.”
Climate campaigner and trouble-maker Jono Moylan said Bill “knew that change becomes unstoppable when enough people act together. He knew the power of peaceful civil disobedience.” On social media, Jono paid tribute to his friend, saying: “You taught us to be resilient, you taught us to be generous, you taught us to be courageous and you taught us to be cantankerous when we need to be.
“Bill strongly believed in the power of people to create change. He believed in justice and treated everyone with equal respect. He was a thorn in the side of greed and short-sightedness while never losing his determination or cheeky sense of humour. We owe it all to Bill to carry on fighting until the world has moved on from fossil fuels.”
Fellow activist Annie Kia described Bill as an “inspirational” man with “Heart. Soul. Ethics. Resolve.” “He was a very caring man,” said Bill's son Gary Ryan. “His family are very proud of what he has accomplished, and what an inspiration he has been to so many fellow activists.”
In 2018, Bill won the John Davis Climate Award, which was presented at Parliament House in Sydney, and two months ago he shared the inaugural John Kaye Memorial Award for Social Justice and Environmental Protection, alongside fellow activist legend Jack Mundey.
Bill leaves behind two proud sons, two grand-children and three great-grandchildren. Vale Bill Ryan, a true Australian patriot whose courage and smile will be long-remembered.
The latest national gambling statistics make sobering reading. In spite of horse racing ads on the Opera House, poker machines are by far the biggest contributor, with $12 billion lost across Australia in 2016–17 and almost half ofthat in NSW. Over $200 million of that comes from the northern rivers, makingit one of the worst-affected areas in the state…READ MORE
No matter which way you look at it, the statistics around poker machines are devastating. Every day, money is wasted, homes are gambled away, families are broken and lives are lost. The suicide of a mate in 2001 prompted local filmmaker David Lowe to write about the subject and when the opportunity came up to put an anti-pokies message on the big and small screen, Welcome To The Machine was made…READ MORE
Thinking about going off grid? ‘Do it!’, says local filmmaker David Lowe.
‘Being responsible for your own power (and water, waste, food etc) is a beautiful and life-affirming thing,’ says Lowe. ‘In terms of solar power, I’ve been living this way for over ten years.’ Lowe is just one of a growing number of people who are using the sun to power their lives by living off the grid or using grid-connected solar power…READ MORE
As part of the current exhibition, Protest Songs: Artful Actions at Lismore Regional Gallery and its sister exhibition, Artful Actions at Lismore City Hall, the gallery has commissioned two films by local filmmaker David Lowe which provide two very different portraits of Benny Zable and Greedozer/Fossil Fool, the iconic characters Benny plays in his protest performances.…READ MORE
The great Australian actor, director, teacher and writer, George Whaley, died last week in the Northern Rivers of NSW. I knew George as the Head of Directing at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney in the 1990s, but this was just one of many hats he wore in a long and distinguished career.…READ MORE
Lovers of fine music had a wonderful treat on the weekend with some of the best players in the world in town for the 18th Bangalow Music Festival, presented by Southern Cross Soloists. The program included favourites and less well-known pieces by the masters, including Bach, Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninoff, as well as exciting new works from Australian and international composers, including Joe Chindamo and John Psathas. After opening with young piano prodigy Alex Raineri alone at the Steinway playing Chopin, the festival presented a kaleidoscope of different musical configurations including duos, trios, quartets and even a guitar quintet. Players filled the Bangalow A&I Hall stage to overflowing for the most ambitious works…READ MORE
Determined to share the pain of their recent humiliation with the rest of the country, the Morrison government finished the 2019 parliament with a spate of behaviour that was Grinch-worthy in its awfulness.
With the support of Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie, they demolished the Medevac legislation pushed through by Dr Kerryn Phelps during her brief stint as the member for Wentworth. This means decisions about urgent medical care for refugees in offshore detention will no longer be made by medical professionals, but by functionaries of the ever-growing, Kafka-esque empire of Peter Dutton.…READ MORE
The federal government’s attempt at a big finish to 2019 ended in shambles last week with their union-busting bill defeated by an unlikely coalition of Jacqui Lambie, Greens, ALP and One Nation senators. In a very rare vote against the government, Pauline Hanson said she was motivated by the fallout from the Westpac debacle, in which the bank was found to have broken the law more than 27 million times; facilitating money laundering, terrorism financing and paedophilia amongst other conduct unbecoming a banking behemoth…READ MORE
There are no words to express my sorrow toward all earthlings.
I wasn’t always a vegan. I am happy to admit I was wrong. Not many vegans have been a vegan all their life. Mind you, I have been speaking to some families who have happy healthy teenage children who have never consumed animal products – but, for the majority of us, being a vegan is something we have come to later in life. Like ex-smokers or ex-alcoholics, ex-carnivores can be a little bit ‘militant’ when it comes to their food choices because we’ve seen the light, or maybe, we’ve seen too much of the dark… READ MORE
Barnaby Joyce blamed the stress of worrying about his parents' place burning down for his erratic behaviour last week, but as the emergency worsened, it became clear that his burning pants and those of his leader needed more urgent attention.
The attempt to re-frame the bushfire catastrophe as something caused by dastardly tree-huggers and latte-sippers was spearheaded by Nationals leader Michael McCormack, who said in response to Adam Bandt that people 'don't need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they are trying to save their homes'…READ MORE
Federal parliament isn't sitting at the moment, but lobbyists and spin doctors never sleep, which is why we've all been facing fresh assaults from our 'leaders' and would-be leaders this week.
In what at first appeared to be a scrap of good news, the Morrison government announced $1 billion for new clean energy projects, including extra money for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They also appointed an expert panel to do something about greenhouse emissions. But faster than you could say George Orwell, it was revealed clean energy – in the topsy-turvy world of the amusingly named Minister for Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor – actually meant gas, and the head of the expert panel was to be none other than Grant King, the former CEO of Origin Energy (aka the people who fracked Queensland and created a fiery spa bath in the Condamine River)… READ MORE
When I headed down the Summerland Way last week, days after the Rappville bushfire, there was still a pall of smoke and strange light south of Casino.
The corner of Braemar State Forest remains miraculously unscathed, but then... miles of destruction. You can see where the fire leapt the highway. It’s hard to imagine how the firefighters stopped it. Saved houses are dotted here and there, surrounded by burned trees. In what was to be the site of a major blockade to protect one of the North Coast’s last viable koala populations, the forest has turned orange, black, and silent…READ MORE
Last week a group of NSW ALP figures including the Labor leader Jodi McKay and Federal MP for Richmond, Justine Elliot, launched a petition calling for more police on the Far North Coast, citing rapid population growth and a ‘policing and crime crisis’ along with drugs issues. The online petition reads: ‘The police numbers in our region have been slashed so severely that staffing levels are now in crisis...READ MORE
As I said in last month’s Being Vegan, one of the questions I get asked a lot is: why don’t vegans use eggs and honey?
Again, my personal reason for being a vegan is because I believe all the creatures on this planet are earthlings and as such we all deserve equal rights. When it comes to consuming anything that belongs to another earthling, I ask myself: what was this ‘food’ item intended for? What was it created for?…READ MORE
Back in 2013, at the height of the coal seam gas (CSG) fight in NSW, the state government led by Barry O’Farrell commissioned the Chief Scientist, professor Mary O’Kane, to conduct a comprehensive review of CSG-related activities, focusing on the human health and environmental impacts of unconventional gas. Late in 2014 she delivered her report, which included 16 recommendations to government. Although gas companies and their allies immediately claimed the report gave a green light to their industry, O’Kane herself said that there was still much for government to do, and that ‘implementing the recommendations of the Review involves non-trivial tasks'…READ MORE
At Destination Byron’s recent Sustainability in Tourism event, held at the Byron Community Centre, a large audience listened to representatives from Council and the founder and CEO of EarthCheck, Stewart Moore, explore the possibilities of a sustainable future for tourism in our region, which now has over two million visitors annually.
Moore said there were 25 million travellers around the globe in 1950. Today there are 1.6 billion, and in 2030 there are expected to be 2 billion.Managing so many people without destroying the environments and communities that travellers are visiting is a major challenge.
EarthCheck assists this process by providing certification and advice to destinations as diverse as Iceland, Mexico, the Caribbean and New Zealand…READ MORE
One of the questions I get asked a lot is: Why don’t vegans use eggs and honey? The answer is not complicated, but it does take a bit of explaining, and usually the short answer draws ‘yes, but what about?’ questions…READ MORE
The recent release of region by region statistics from Tourism Research Australia has sparked a flurry of responses from local stakeholders in the industry.
David Jones, President of Destination Byron, welcomes more data and science being added to the discussion. He says there are two very different tourism stories in the Shire, with 1.1 million day visitors and 1.1 million overnight visitors. ‘One thing that most folk in the town don’t comprehend is that 50 per cent of all visitors to our region are not staying overnight. That’s a phenomenal statistic,’ he said. ‘The science shows that people who visit for a day will stay overnight in the future, but realistically Byron has a strong over-reliance on what we call the short stay leisure market, and that’s one of the biggest Achilles heels of this town,’ said Jones…READ MORE