back to top

This Blind, 95-Year-Old Kokoda Veteran Is Daring Police To Arrest Him

But it's not just for shits and giggles. He has a point to make.

Posted on

Blind 95-year-old Kokoda veteran Bill Ryan can't read the news any more, but that doesn't mean he's not angry about it.

Ryan dared police to arrest him on Monday as he protested against Indian mining giant Adani's proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. It would be the largest coal mine in Australia and produce 60 million tonnes of coal a year at its peak.

He was part of a group of people from the Galilee Blockade group that visited sites owned by Downer, the company that has been contracted to build the mine project that activists say will cause untold damage to the environment.

The group visited several Downer sites across Australia on Monday, locking the gates shut and calling on the company to end its association with the Adani project.

It's part of an ongoing "direct action" campaign against companies associated with the project in Queensland's Galilee Basin.

"I felt I had to do my little bit to show our complete opposition to what effect it will have on our reef and what massive damage it will do to the environment through global warming," Ryan told BuzzFeed News.

Ryan, who keeps up with the the latest developments on Adani using a computer program that reads the news aloud to him, says his campaign against Adani is about the future of his grandchildren.

"I’m really concerned also about the younger generation," he said. "We didn’t even know what the word 'environment' was [when I was young], but it’s on our lips all the time today because we’re in a dire situation if we don’t change over to renewables like solar and wind."

Ryan first became aware of the threat posed by climate change around the time of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009.

He reserves a special animosity for the major parties that both accept donations from coal companies, and former ministers Martin Ferguson (Labor) and former deputy prime minister Mark Vaile (Coalition), who took jobs in the resources industry after leaving parliament.

"I’m willing to risk the consequences of being arrested and being jailed on this particular issue," he said. "I think it’s that urgent. I’ve been arrested about six times for similar actions. I’ve joined large groups who are trying to draw attention and make the government change its policy."

Bill says that while he doesn't want to be arrested, he's willing to take the risk if it means drawing attention to his cause.

“I’m not looking out for any records, I’m more concerned about the future of Australia. It’s a wonderful country and we want to make sure it’s habitable in the future for our children and grandchildren.”

Update: Ryan would be one of the oldest people arrested in Australia, not the oldest. A 97-year-old man was arrested in the NSW Hunter region last week.


Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Rob Stott at rob.stott@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.