11 July 2024


john Büsst 

with iain McCalman

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UniSA Video



bohemian artist and saviour of reef and rainforest

Discover the incredible journey of John Büsst, a Melbourne bohemian artist who became one of Australia’s most influential conservationists. Highly respected and award-winning Emeritus Professor of History and the Humanities, Iain McCalman will be in conversation with UniSA’s Standing Acting Vice Chancellor, Distinguished Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington AO. They will discuss the remarkable life of John Büsst, the enigmatic figure known to his adversaries as ‘The Bingil Bay Bastard’.

In the 1960s and early 70s Büsst led campaigns to protect two of Australia’s most important and endangered environments – saving lowland rainforests from destruction and the Great Barrier Reef from reckless resource mining for oil, gas, cement and fertiliser. A plan Büsst likened to ‘bulldozing the Taj Mahal to make road gravel’. Along the way Büsst obtained the active support of five current or future prime ministers – Holt, Whitlam, Gorton, Hawke and Fraser.

Iain McCalman's inspiring biography is a timely reminder that the passionate commitment of ordinary citizens is crucial to achieving truly transformative environmental change.

Don't miss this chance to hear about the life and legacy of John Büsst. Be inspired by the story of one man’s fight to preserve Australia’s natural heritage and the enduring importance of grassroots activism.

Imprints Booksellers will be selling copies of Iain's book, John Büsst, in the Auditorium foyer on the night of the event.

Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre 

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author, historian and social scientist

Iain McCalman AO, FASSA, FAHA, FRSN is a highly respected and award-winning professor of history and the humanities (now emeritus) at the University of Sydney and the Australian National University.

He has published numerous books. The Reef – A Passionate History, from Captain Cook to Climate Change, was published in Australia and the USA. He is a retired founder and co-director of the Sydney Environment Institute.

Iain McCalman, website

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Iain McCalman, Photographer: Lachlan McCalman

Distinguished professor marnie hughes-warrington ao
Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Enterprise 
university of south australia

Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington AO is the strategic and operational leader across research activities at the University of South Australia. Her role is to design and deliver approaches that help staff and research students alike to engage with industry, government and community to deliver novel and transformational solutions to problems, and to change the ways that we think about the world.

A graduate of the Universities of Tasmania and Oxford, Marnie has a strong global profile as a philosopher and as an historian who seeks to explain why histories and historical thinking play an important role in making a good, fair and just world. The impact of her work has been broad: her writing has been translated into five languages, over 26,000 copies of her books have been sold, and her theories are taught across the world.

In 2022, Marnie was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia for 'distinguished service to tertiary education and governance as an administrator, leader and mentor'.

Research Profile

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Presented by
The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre



While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.