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Canberra Today 16°/18° | Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Passionate local arts identity dies in Melbourne

Bill Tully… a poet, author, publisher, editor, broadcaster and social agitator who was as well-known to young creators around Civic. Photo: Stephen Holt

Vale William (Bill) Tully, September 10, 1937 to October 12, 2021.

THE Canberra arts scene has lost one of its most passionate advocates with the passing of William “Bill” Tully, who died in Melbourne on October 12 . He was 84.

The writer Humphrey McQueen, who was a great friend of Bill Tully’s, says: “His family found him a residential place here before taking him to Melbourne.”

An unrepentant political radical whose life, his family says, was spent crusading for a social utopia, Tully was a poet, author, publisher, editor, broadcaster and social agitator who was as well-known to young creators around Civic and especially at Gus’ Café, as he was to veteran artists, supporting anything  new, including rap music.

An active member of the Canberra Recorded Music Society, for many years he manned a record exchange shop in the Griffin Centre, often  venturing into nearby Garema Place to read poetry.

Tully came to Canberra from Melbourne in 1968 to take up a position at the National Library of Australia, where he remained as a senior librarian until 2002.

He presented Writers Workshop (later “Soundprint”) on the Canberra public radio station 2XX from 1983, was the co-founder with Ann Nugent of “Blast” magazine and the editor of “Voice,” a small magazine produced by Ginninderra Press.

Tully’s book “Canberra & Beyond”

He was secretary of the ACT Branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Secretary of Writers Against Nuclear Arms and a member of the Australian Independence Movement from 1975-1985.

For eight years Tully he sold the AIM magazine on Fridays and Saturdays from a makeshift stall in Petrie Plaza,  also selling Eureka Flags, Aboriginal land rights’ badges, Blinky Bill T-shirts, and “No Uranium” stickers, while telling tall Australian tales to kids and their mothers and becoming in the process a Civic identity.

In 1976, he became involved in a local newspaper, “Canberra Community News,” then from 1978 and 1980, he was part of the republican paper, “Southern Cross”. In 1981, he helped establish the community paper, “Canberra Monaro Searchlight”.

Tully was an author for the “Australian Dictionary of Biography” and a prolific poet whose anthology, “Canberra & Beyond” was published by Ginninderra Press in 2011.

He once describes his zest as emanating from a fondness for “The Word” and the transmission of ideas, for the society around us, and the preservation of democratic values.

His personal records of his political interests are held at the Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University and the ACT Heritage Library holds a selection of reel-to-reel broadcast tapes from his time at 2XX.

He is survived by his brother Andrew and sister-in-law Laurel.

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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12 Responses to Passionate local arts identity dies in Melbourne

ron thomson says: 13 October 2021 at 7:02 pm

I managed to Griffin Centre for 4 years, I fondly remember our many agreements and disagreements over the management of the centre. I also spend quite a few free movie nights viewing movies when he had his movie review segment on the Community radio station with my son Rowan

Bill Rowlings, CEO, CLA says: 14 October 2021 at 10:33 am

Bill Tully was also a stalwart of civil liberties in Canberra, under its various names, for half a century or more. He was a member of Civl Liberties Australia (CLA) in recent years, and frequently interviewed people on 2XX about human rights and civil liberties matters. We’ve lost a man who asked for very little but gave an enormous amount to other people and to Canberra.

john rodriguez says: 14 October 2021 at 11:01 am

I remember very fondly our (Bill, Pauline and self) short conversations in front of the National Library after they had finished their days work and I was picking up Pauline. A fantastic fountain of wisdom and encouragement.

Ann says: 14 October 2021 at 11:23 am

I have been thinking about Bill over the last few days and wondering where and how he was. Now this sad news. He was a reassuring presence at our various demonstrations and such good company. He did so much of value. I’ll miss him.

Steven Bailey says: 15 October 2021 at 4:22 pm

An important article for Canberra and the surrounding regions. Thanks Helen and to The City News for publishing this. Bill was a lovely man and an ardent supporter of any young person who had something to say. I had my first radio interview with Bill nearly 25 years ago after writing my first script and score. He was interesting and interested, a great conversationalist, a mentor, and a friend who lived an authentic life that he generously shared with others – sometimes to his own detriment, yet always for the benefit of all. Cheers, Steven Bailey

Karna ODea says: 16 October 2021 at 10:59 pm

He was a very good family history librarian at the National Library and was unfailingly kind to family history researchers. Some of those he helped could be hard work yet he was always polite and kind

George David Brelsford says: 17 October 2021 at 10:23 am

I knew Bill from the Canberra Recorded Music Society. He was one of nature’s gentlemen. A lovely man. R.I.P. Bill. You will be missed.

c21styork says: 17 October 2021 at 10:57 am

RIP Bill. We met in the late 1970s, I think, and kept in touch for a few decades via political interests and just to have a chat. He was an avid reader and a most knowledgable individual.

Peter Robinson says: 19 October 2021 at 1:32 pm

Vale, Bill …. when and where is your wake? The most sociable Canberra activist should not escape unsung!

plgarfoot says: 20 October 2021 at 5:42 pm

I remember Bill fondly. I first met him over 40 years ago when I joined the National Library as a new graduate and was placed in the same team as Bill. I learnt so much from him – he was unfailingly generous with his knowledge and, despite his political leanings (many of which I supported too) was always kind and courteous. RIP Bill!


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