Vale Bill Ryan, activist.

Vale Bill Ryan, activist, 1922-2019

Vale Bill Ryan, Activist


Search ‘Bill Ryan’ on the internet and, from multiple possibilities, there’s only one ‘Bill Ryan, activist’. What better tribute to a person whose actions over eight decades marked him out as a truly remarkable human being whose loss at the age of 97 is being mourned across the radical and environmental spectrum!

A long-time member of Sutherland Greens, his last formal involvement was to attend the group’s Annual General Meeting less than three weeks ago. As ever, his son Col was with him.

This was not a token appearance. It was simply a statement of his deep-felt commitment to alerting everyone to the dangers of climate change, his indignation at the culpable inaction of governments, and his desire to get us all out on the streets in protest.

For Bill, advancing years was no excuse for apathy or non-engagement. He refused to sit back and let others do the hard work.

Ironically, after chaining himself in September 2018 to a railway line to disrupt coal trains, he was charged with four offences. The result: until his death last night he was on a court-ordered good behaviour bond.
As he said at the time of his arrest, “I will be gone by the time climate change is in full swing, but I am taking action for my grandchildren, great grandchildren and all future generations.”

Bill’s political interests were extensive. A committed union member, he worked for many years at the GPO in Martin Place. In the 1960s and 1970s he was outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam War and to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

As Lee Rhiannon has noted, “He was a veteran of the second world war, Kokoda campaign, which informed a lot of his outlook in terms of why we needed to work for a more just, peaceful world where companies weren’t exploiting people and the environment.”

His death will be felt by activists everywhere, whether it be the Knitting Nanas, Extinction Rebellion, striking school students, or The Greens. Fittingly two months ago, he shared, with Jack Mundey, the inaugural John Kaye Memorial Award for Social Justice and Environmental Protection.

The thoughts and sympathies of all Greens members are with his family and friends at this time.

Sylvia Hale, Rochelle Flood
Greens NSW Co-convenors