Do you remember the days when people in Queensland were not allowed to gather in groups of more than three? Or the early days of radio station 4ZZZ? Do you remember when Russ Hinze was Minister for Racing and Joh Bjelke Peterson ruled the state with an iron fist. These are the years I grew up in for Joh was in power from when I was four in 1968 to 1987 the year I got married.
Author, editor, lecturer and yoga teacher Edwina Shaw had an idea for an anthology and asked writers from around the state to send her stories of their experiences under Joh’s leadership. She expected a handful of stories. She received a flood! She had to wade through the masses of contributions to find the funny stories, the shocking stories and the stories of corruption and deprivation of civil liberties.
In all, 45 writers are included in this book, telling of the Joh years from their own perspectives. Some are authors you know, like Nick Earls, one of Queensland’s best known authors. He describes an encounter with larger than life politician, Russ Hinze. Others were students, interns, children, lawyers and activists, all keen to share their memories. Some pieces were heart wrenching, like the story told by Angelina Hurley, who shared her experiences as an Aboriginal woman during these fraught times. Angelina is now a filmmaker and writer of Aboriginal TV comedies. The hilarious Nicky Peelgrane (writer, actor and drama teacher) shares a funny story from her childhood called Sleeping With Joh.
Gap Local, Ann Jones worked at 4ZZZ and played bass in a punk band called The Toesuckers. The last gig for the band was played at Baroona Hall where police, many who were undercover wearing Hawaiian shirts raided the gig and as Ann says, “Then it was on!“ The papers of the day claimed that the concert goers had been rioting. Ann says, “ It was an awful time for anyone who did not conform to the Country Party views. There’s a reason the punk movement started in London, New York and Brisbane.” Warren Ward was a young man who worked as a casual inserter for the newspaper. He witnessed police brutality when selling papers late at night. His story is one part comedy and one part tragedy.
Bjelke Blues was launched in front of a large crowd at Kurilpa Hall in West End. Writers shared readings from their stories and reminded us of our shared history. I was wishing I’d brought my boys along to listen to these tales from our recent past. Bjelke Blues is a timely reminder of how our lives can be changed so easily by a leader and their beliefs. You can also join Bjelke Blues editor Edwina Shaw in conversation with Mandy Nolan, Nicky Peelgrane and Paul Richards this Sunday at the Brisbane Writers Festival. Their discussion will be as hilarious as it is funny. Bjelke Blues is available now.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).