Conservationist, nature lover, rebel, advocate and activist.
We have all been moved by Pat in different ways, whether you knew him from his early childhood, as a teacher, a republican, or during his adventurous travels across the wilderness of this magnificent country, hooking others into its magical spell. Perhaps you knew Pat from his publishing work through Envirobook and the treasures captured throughout the pages of nature-based ‘bibles’; or through sailing, another passion that challenged his time again more recently after joining the Ahimsa Sailing Club.
No matter how you knew Pat, or if you just knew of him, these tributes will speak volumes to you of a life well-lived; of a commitment to a better world, to better outcomes for nature, and people, a better society where we care for others and the precious resources our planet has gifted our way.
Pat left this world on the 11th of March 2020 in the strangest year any of us have experienced to date. A year where isolation replaced connection and mourning had to take second place to hygiene and social distancing. Where people complied and cooperated and changed in ways never seen before, except during war times. Today one year on, we publish this tribute to a man we respected and loved and collaborated with to do the important work necessary for our planet, humanity and a future worth living.
While this may sound a tad dramatic to some, that is precisely what we do at The New Bush Telegraph every day. Until a year ago we did it with Pat, although this past 12 months, we do it with his legacy in mind, following the whispers of his guidance in carrying on the work we came together to do.
The heartfelt tributes that follow are testimony to a man who lived his life well, who used his passion for good and wasn’t afraid to stick his neck out as necessary to protect and save the wonderous wilderness he connected to so completely.
Bonnie, Ingrid and the Bush Tele team
Life and Times of an Inimitable Friend
My first image of Pat was a silhouette in the middle of St George’s Basin. Half a kilometre away on a catamaran I saw a guy sitting in a trimaran, the sail had seen better days, so had the hulls. Coming closer the trimaran skipper could be seen sipping coffee, smoking his pipe, somehow absorbing the wonders of the sea oblivious to other sailors, intent on going as fast as they could.
On shore, Pat displayed the same unhurried, philosophical traits. His quizzical looks 🤭 his apparent garage sale clothes, the deep throated chuckle, were reassuring means of communication which did not need words. “And my comrade stride for stride paces silent at my side” was the poet Housman’s tribute to such inimitable characters.
In his last painful weeks, Pat showed his usual courage and selfless concern for others. I heard of his death just as I boarded a plane to fly from Sydney to Manila. To observe poverty and human rights abuses I knew I’d need the resilience and respect for the dignity of citizens in the Philippines which humanitarian Pat would have shown.
So, as a rehearsal for challenges about to face me in that country, run by a dictator, I reflected on Pat’s life, scribbled this poem about him and prepared to land, albeit without a floppy hat, let alone a pipe and a thermos flask of coffee.
Thanks Pat for your sense of justice and humanitarianism. Here is a poem for and about you.
Pipe smoking, coffee drinking man
Who trekked life’s paths in morning dew
From Sussex Inlet to Vanuatu.
Under dressed larrikin who’d make us laugh
One of who’s gifts was to do nothing by half
Greedy developers he taught his staff
Should be lampooned in the Bush Telegraph
Insightful journo, newspaper man
A satirical wit whom bullies would ban,
Who wanted to punish and did deplore
This Tom Paine-like local the Editor.
This is the Pat who thought no-one inferior
Who wielded his pen as Mother Superior
Taught us all to ne’er go beyond stations
By staying in touch with people First Nations
In searching for justice he’d have spent endless nights
He lived to the rhythm of human rights
His political creed was to never be cowed
Stand for humanity, be subtle not loud
In waters calm or howling gale
He’d trim the main sheet, loved to sail
And when his voice became a whisper
He still found spirit in Ahimsa
He suffered the last months as he had begun
Brave without saying, examples well done
Hanging on through the pain, like lamb to a slaughter
Rewarded at last, a little granddaughter
For her and his family, Pat’s legacies last
In links to the land, the future, the past
The oceans he crossed, the continents seen
Of right or left, his philosophy keen:
Live to be equal, show no pretence
Speak the language of non-violence
In pop song or opera with so many parts,
You, Inimitable friend, will stay in our hearts.
By Stuart Rees
Hyams Beach March 13 2020
A Tribute to My Dad – Patrick Thompson
There are many things I could say about my dad. In the time since Dad died, I’ve had plenty of time to think of memories, and it’s hard to pick just a few. Needless to say, life with Dad was never boring, and certainly never conventional.
He had a passion for nature and particularly the Australian wilderness. From an early age, he took me out in it. Bushwalking and camping in many beautiful spots - experiences I am forever grateful for.
At the age of 12 I walked with him and a group of his friends to the Kowmung River in the Blue Mountains, long a favourite spot of my Dad’s and an amazing experience.
Many of our early trips involved Dad’s van- affectionately termed the ‘mighty van’ by Dad or the ‘not-so-mighty van’ by me. Several trips in the ‘mighty van’ involved breakdowns, including in The Playgrounds in the Victorian Alps with Dad, my mum and a Belgian backpacker named Harry. My dad and Harry ended up needing to hitchhike to the nearest town to organise towing of the van.
At 16 we went for a seven day walk in Nelson Lakes National Park New Zealand. This included one of the most terrifying experiences of my life - walking along the ridges of Mount Cedric in high winds and truly believing I could be blown off the mountain.
His passion for the environment is one of his legacies and has helped shape my view of the world and understanding of our connection and dependence upon the natural world for our survival.
Another of the things I miss most about my dad is the conversations we would have. We loved to talk about politics and the world’s predicaments; something Dad never lost interest in, even at his sickest, and in his last few weeks.
I miss not being able to discuss the world with him. I wonder what he would make of QAnon’s conspiracy theories and Trump’s farcical refusal to accept the American election result.
My dad was a fighter and when he took on a cause, he fought hard. If I had to pick one thing I am most grateful to my dad for it is his determination to fight to make the world a better place and the influence he has had on me to fight for things I care about.
Dad was full of ideas; he was willing to take risks and never motivated by the pursuit of money. In 1997 he founded a newspaper - The Republican - it was during the height of the Republican movement in Australia, but the name was chosen not just because of dad’s support of Australia becoming a Republic, but with my Dad’s vision of new times and a new progressive newspaper for Australia.
At age 11, I became ‘the children’s editor’- I compiled find-a-words and helped send books to children to write reviews.
Dad was advised by many people that starting a new newspaper would be financially risky, and after six months the paper would fold. However, if would come back in another form of briefer quarterly and was not the end of his passion for quality journalism.
On moving to the Shoalhaven, he went on to take over the editorship of the Bush Telegraph and would go on to fight for local issues.
His founding of the Republican Newspaper also led to my dad being asked to run as a delegate on Pat O’Shane’s ticket at the 1998 constitutional convention to discuss whether Australia should become a republic. As third on the ticket, he never expected to be elected and was not, however, it was of great interest to me, and I watched the debate closely.
In 1999, when the referendum was held I helped my dad hand out for what was termed the ‘Yes and more… campaign’. It urged people to vote yes, even if they were not happy with the model on offer, by placing a sticker on their ballot paper with the words ‘and more’ requesting further constitutional change and a vision for a more progressive Australia.
Dad also devoted time to issues affecting my life. He was president of my school P&C, and when I was in year 9 the State Government proposed major changes to multiple Sydney High Schools, including several closures.
While our school was not slated to close, it was proposed that it would become a junior boy’s school, with Balmain a junior girls school and Glebe to become a co-ed senior school for year 11 and 12.
Straight away my dad became involved in this fight, and along with another parent on the P&C and one of the teachers became very active in saving our school. Similar fights went on at other schools and there were many rallies organised by parents, students and teachers alike.
Along with my high school friends and classmates many of us took part in our first school walkout. Overall it was a story of success and people power winning, although we became a junior school, we remained co-ed. Many of the other schools also won their fights demonstrating the power of collective action.
Dad got very sick suddenly.
Late last year I was involved in organising a trip up to camp Binbee in Queensland, the Stop Adani Blockade camp. This was with a group I have been involved in for several years called Health on the Frontline - a group of people with health backgrounds concerned about the climate crisis and involved in taking frontline action.
Just a week before the trip was due to go ahead, Dad was admitted to hospital and was unable to eat or drink without a nasogastric tube. I thought I would have to cancel going, but Dad persuaded me otherwise, he said “You have to go”.
The Blockade camp is around an hour from Bowen in Central QLD, and while there I had limited access to phone and internet. Whenever I did I would ring Dad and check in how he was going.
The first day at camp was our planning day. The second involved travelling several hours inland to camp out in the National Park in preparation for the action the next day at the Adani worker’s camp. Central QLD is vast and remote and the day of the action we left at 3am to drive another two hours to the site of the workers camp.
The action involved blockading access to the mine site from the camp. It was a long day and very hot. At the end of it, on release from Claremont Police Station with my charge sheet and finally with phone reception, the first person I called was my dad. He told me ‘it’s the best news I’ve heard all day”. Later he would tell all the nurses looking after him about the action and to look up Health on the Frontline; he would tell me that they were all very supportive of the action. I often wish that I had inherited some more of my dad’s fearlessness, but I know that I share his values and carry with me his determination to fight for the things that matter.
By Sarah Ellyard, Sydney, November 2020
Vale Patrick James Marius Thompson Conservationist and Publisher
Colong Foundation stalwart, Pat Thompson, died on 11th March 2020 following a six-month struggle with cancer. I will remember him as a charming man who always had a cheerful word for you and was able to land on his feet no matter what life threw at him. He was 72.
I first met Pat back in late 1984 on a trip down the Kowmung River with Milo Dunphy and the then Environment and Planning Minister, Bob Carr. Early on in the trip, Milo said that his friend Pat had work commitments on Saturday and would join us later.
So, at about 9.00 pm that night, with an after-dinner billy on, who should miraculously appear striding down the spur, but Pat. He was unperturbed but ready to share the tale of his adventure down Gingra Range and Brumby Mountain in the dark to our camp at Orange Bluff. Not a big deal for old hands, but at the time it seemed so to me.
Pat knew how to make an entry and it was on that trip that he broached the subject of a NSW Wilderness Act with who is now our Patron, Bob Carr. He needed little convincing really, as the Kowmung had already cast its spell over him.
Pat's engaged conservation causes as a teacher, publisher, environmental advocate and writer, with a primary focus on the protection and sound management of natural areas.
He joined the Colong Committee in 1971, initially to protect the Colong Caves in the southern Blue Mountains from mining. He helped to construct a diorama depicting the impact a limestone mine would have on this now-famous wilderness.
In 1973, Pat gave up a career in teaching at St Leo's, Wahroonga in Sydney to establish Trekaway, conducting group tours in national parks, mainly in Australia and New Zealand. Trekaway was a pioneering business of its kind in Australia which he ran for about twelve years.
During that period the Colong Committee became the Colong Foundation for Wilderness and its members consistently re-elected Patrick to its board from 1982, confirming his on-going sound leadership and support. Patrick Thompson served the Colong board, as honorary chairperson from 1994 to 2007 and as Vice-Chairperson for a further decade. Whilst a director, he also worked as the editor of its newsletter, the Colong Bulletin.
Patrick proposed the Red Index of threatened wilderness areas in 1990. The NSW Red Index became a published record of the efforts of environment groups to protect wilderness areas that now covers over two million hectares.
In 1986, Patrick Thomson compiled the text and illustrations for 'Myles Dunphy – selected writings', a book that describes the work of the first Patron of the Colong Foundation in laying the groundwork for the national park estate in NSW. In 1988 he suggested the Colong Foundation publish its World Heritage proposal for the Blue Mountains and in 2004 assisted with publication and distribution of the Foundation's lavishly illustrated book celebrating the inscription of the Blue Mountains as a World Heritage property.
Patrick Thompson's publishing house, Envirobook is an independent Australian publishing house specialising in natural science, travel, Aboriginal themes and Australiana. It also distributes these and other Australian natural history books by other publishers to non-book trade accounts, such as national park visitor centres, outdoor shops, art galleries and has produced over a hundred titles on a broad range of environmental subjects.
Apart from his small businesses, Trekaway and Envirobook, Patrick's contribution to nature conservation has always been on a voluntary basis.
In 1987 he began publishing and edited the New Bush Telegraph, a Shoalhaven newspaper with a strong interest in environmental and social issues, that he published until his untimely death in March last year. The newspaper is now published on-line and aims to educate and make its readers aware of different points of view, including those of individuals, small business and community organisations.
The New Bush Telegraph was not Pat's only venture into newspaper publishing. In 1997 Pat launched a new national weekly newspaper, The Republican, under the publishing vehicle, The Republican Weekly Limited. Acting as managing director, Patrick ran this independent national paper for about a year, but the paper was unable to gain an adequate market share to secure economic viability.
Patrick was a passionate advocate for nature conservation. His work in publishing, wilderness and nature conservation has ensured an enduring legacy.
By Keith Muir, Sydney, March 2020
The Pat Thompson I Knew
If, as they say, the past is a different country, then the daily governance of ourselves is like a presidential cavalcade touring past fixed points of time.
With the death of certain people, an entire nation can measure its path past something of a Checkpoint Charlie, a significant life that meaningfully stood for something. At the same time, no person who really knew Pat could reasonably consider themselves capable of successfully writing his eulogy; his was a life of mythic proportions, his legacy timeless, not bound to any given era.
At first sight, it appears coincidental that Pat was born on 15 August 1947, though he delighted in telling people he and India shared birthdays. This ‘impossible day’ was the birthdate of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, born in the moment India returned to home rule after 300 years as the crowning jewel of British colonialism. ‘Midnight’s Children’ were a group of people whose actions effectively determined this ‘new’ country’s fate.
As infants, most people learn that every life must deal with its limitations. However, as one of ‘Midnight’s Children’, that thought never appeared to occur to Pat - every limit he encountered was just another opportunity to prove he wouldn’t be held back.
In a 2014 speech, former NSW Premier and Environment Minister Bob Carr credits a conversation with Pat Thompson as the genesis of the Wilderness Act. In his words,
“Striding along the Kowmung River one afternoon with Pat Thompson of the Colong Foundation, Pat burst forth with the suggestion, ‘What we need Minister is a Wilderness Act’.”
“As a keen student of American History,” Carr continued “I was familiar with their 1964 Wilderness Act and the idea seemed a good one. I needed no convincing. After all I was in the heart of the Kanangra wilderness and could hear it calling!”
Personally, I first encountered the legend of Pat Thompson several years before I met the man. It was due to one of his ‘impossible deeds’ and still feels like yesterday but was 1996. I had returned to Sydney from a year pupating overseas and was looking for a meaningful way to spread my adult wings and contribute to society.
A friend told me about an environmental bookshop run by volunteers on Liverpool Street in the heart of the city. That afternoon I’d dropped by to find out more and left as a signed-up volunteer, inspired by the place and swept up by its authentic passion for social justice and environmental action.
I found out that this ‘impossible bookshop’ had come into being through the audacious act of one Pat Thompson. As the publisher of Envirobook, he had established the bookshop as an outlet but was keen for it to be more. To realise this, he donated the bookshop contents and signed over the lease to a group of young activists who then used the proceeds from the sale of books to run the bookshop and environmental resource centre. Many people still active in Australia’s social justice and environmental movement today can trace their early engagement back to this place and Pat’s great act.
I soon learnt how emblematic this sort of act was in Pat’s life, how his social conscience regularly outwitted his good business sense.
The first time I actually met Pat was at Tomerong Hall at an event for the newly established Shoalhaven Greens set to contest the council elections in 2003. Pat had moved down to Sussex Inlet with Rebecca and two-year-old Charlotte and had put his hand up to be a candidate.
It wasn’t until days later it dawned on me that it was the same Pat Thompson from the bookshop, so I sent him a terse (tongue-in-cheek) email. This email informed him that he owed me a substantial sum of money as he was responsible for the cost of my children, house, vehicle, mortgage etc. because it was his bookshop where I’d met my wife Brenda, a fellow volunteer.
He enjoyed the joke and we became friends taking our families out together, on bushwalks, stomping grapes, gardening; and we were comrades – engaging in local politics, discussing topics for the Bush Tele and solving many of the world’s problems over a glass or two of Ol’ Possum wine.
Over those years, I learnt from Pat that greatness isn’t a disease that afflicts a random few. Rather it’s a decision ordinary people make afresh each day by being extraordinarily committed to their passions, which results in the living of exceptional lives.
If the past is a different country, the first anniversary of Pat’s death is a good day to pause and measure the nation we’ve become against the one we’ve been.
Of all the tumultuous events that have reshaped our national identity in the last 12 months, Pat would be inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests and the renewed scrutiny of our misogynistic political culture. However, I believe Pat would find it incomprehensible that, in 2020, our social and political structures facilitated the legal destruction of the 46,000-year-old Juukan Gorge site.
Tomorrow, this reflection on Pat’s Checkpoint Charlie moment will have passed. I will drive on and the daily governance of myself will continue to be powered by the insatiable engine of corporate interests.
While Pat Thompson was in every sense unique, he also represents an era of community-minded people who stood, every day, for the timeless principals of social justice and environmental action.
If I understood him correctly, Pat’s commitment was based on the understanding that generations of people to come could then value these gifts in perpetuity.
As I look to the future, I wonder what it might mean for our nation to have its own ‘impossible day’; to step outside of the luxuriously appointed bubbles we’ve created and instead walk the earth with the ancestors who’ve been looking after this place since time began. It was Pat’s hope, and it’s also mine.
By David Duffy, St Georges Basin, March 2020
I'll miss Pat
I’ll miss Pat. I’ll miss our chats whenever we bumped into each other, always a meaningful conversation, never superficial, which I would walk away from having learnt something important. For several years during which my partner Sandra Lee was editor of the NBT, I was the proof-reader so I know from first-hand experience how much work Pat put into this publication once he took over as editor. I also know that it is easy to find yourself in an editorial bubble, especially when trying to source articles other than your own to ensure that a balanced view could be presented. Pat never seemed to have trouble keeping a broadly open mind, even to the extent of not only publishing but insisting on an article from me on my views on voting. We had had a long talk at Cobargo folk festival (where I will miss him every year from now on – he was always there, sitting on a bench with his pipe, reading a book as often as not) and I was bemoaning the state of democracy in Australia and what could be done about it with an election coming up. I was worried about a backlash on Pat for publishing my view at the time of considering the merit of not voting but Pat was always fearless and took the inevitable flak on the chin and with good humour when it came. That was Pat to me – calm, fearless and committed; inspirational to me in keeping perspective on the small but important influence we all have on each other and the world. Pat left a mighty and positive footprint and we will all miss him.
By Richard Bates
Leb wohl dear Patrick James Marius Thompson; 15th August 1947 - 11th March 2020
So many good words have been said to describe the man you were, the dedication you brought to everything you embarked on. May it be an environmental cause, a human rights cause, a political cause, advocating for change in a world full of injustices and inequalities, supporting public schools, public transport and public health, believing in a job and a fair wage for everyone – a fair go for everyone, not just in Australia but for the world community.
With the recognition of your many important achievements already covered by your comrades I like to add a few words of the personal friendship I enjoyed with you.
Pat was a good friend to me and my boys for about 15 years. It started off as a more casual friendship having first met him and his younger daughter Charlotte at the Duffy’s house. Pat would drop in here and there for a chat over a coffee, Charlotte happily running around the backyard with my two boys who were of similar age. A spontaneous invitation to a picnic at Swan Lake, a bushwalk at Booderee or a day of grape stomping for Pat’s annual wine making are lovely moments to remember him by. Over time our conversations deepened as we shared many interests and passions.
When my live changed dramatically with me moving out of the family home, jobless, single mum, no family support in the country - Patrick came to the rescue, as he had for many other people that had crossed his path while they went through a difficult time in their lives. He offered me a job at Envirobook, perfect for me as it was flexible, part-time, a job that I actually really liked because of the great books that where published and distributed and of course working with the best boss in the world.
We had a shop-front office in Sussex Inlet for a while but then moved into Pat’s backyard shed that had been converted to office and storage space for the business. And from those last five years working in Pat’s backyard come many fond memories of our work and ever-growing friendship.
Coming to work I would walk past Pat’s house, some Opera piece blasting inside while he was getting ready for the day. A few (very few) of the unavoidable plastic bags from shopping would be swinging on the washing line, cleaned and hang out for another use or to take to the recycling bin.
Then Pat would appear, with a smile, his Pat hat, the Pat pipe and some Pat plunger coffee to share while we were talking about work and the world and our children, the environment, bushwalks, politics, inequalities, travel and birds and so much more. For me there was no boring conservation to be had with Pat, unless he talked about Cricket arghhhh; or that other sport big chunky men play with an oval ball, Rugby, Footy, Aussie Rules… I would not know the difference, sorry Pat, I never learned.
We made a great team for the work of Envirobook, Pat’s publishing and book distribution company, established in the late 80s and still going; with me still walking past Pat’s house in the mornings, missing him every single time I’m there.
After a couple of years break Pat suggested we pick up the publishing of The New Bush Telegraph again. A free local newspaper established in 1987 by a local bushwalkers group, growing into an independent and more political paper over the years.
Pat had been involved in the publishing of the Bush Tele previously but took a break while being a busy single dad to Charlotte. When he suggested we pick it up again I said yes, let’s do it and let’s be bold. So now we had another big topic dominating our time and conversations. We made a really good team for the revival and survival of the Bush Tele too. Thanks Pat, I learned a lot about important local issues, publishing, writing, editing, proof-reading, all the basics for a ‘good’ news publication.
A few last words about the many other little elements I discovered over the years of our friendship that made Pat the man he was. He was very funny, always up to a good laugh, making a joke about something quite serious to add a bit of lightness to daily life.
He was a very relaxed person, never upset, never in a rush, hardly ever angry (but when he spent hours on the phone with Telstra sorting out some bill or connection issue, or with the insurance arguing flood cover for Sussex Inlet – a place that is known to flood). We all remember the relaxed pipe smoking coffee sipping man with a book and a newspaper never far from his reach, always a keep-cup and a reusable water bottle in his backpack, never fancy, never in need for any more than the basics. And loyal interesting friendships where definitely one of the basics for Pat, he developed and honoured many of them in his lifetime.
I remember bumping into Pat unexpectedly at a music festival once, and dancing our socks off together. It was such a fun surprise.
My hometown Goettingen in Germany was his favourite stop on the big 2018 trip he did with Charlotte – he knew most of my family over there and loved my hometown – something that brought us even closer.
He often fell asleep in the cinema and was fast asleep at an event honouring Dylan Thomas that I dragged him to at the Entertainment Centre in Nowra a few years back – very funny. He was also a man that was not afraid of showing emotions, love and hurt and pain alike, a deep soul with a big heart - I miss you Pat.
Eine gute Freundin fuer immer.
By Ingrid Leusch, Basin View, 11th March 2021
An Earthly Farewell to a Fellow Adventurer - Pat Thompson.
A wonderful storyteller
A passionate soul
Sensible and controlled
A leader, a gatherer, centred and whole.
Visionary, bold, not afraid to chase dreams
Connected to extremes
Incensed, incited, prepared to take a stand
Courage and wisdom, an ethical band.
Last year you left this human plane
Elevating to a higher existence in the heavenly space
The beauty, the legacy, the vestige
So generously sowed
Will never leave us, entrenched in our souls
Grateful to have known you and all you bestowed.
Empowering others, paving the way
It’s what we try to emulate
Every single day
You helped make us brave, warriors for the cause
It may sound warlike but nature seeks rewards
So Pat Thompson hear our revered verses
As we carry on your work and overcome any curses.
The naysayers and disruptors will always lurk
Hiding in shadows, corruption their quirk
You trained us well, overcame any fears
To fight their efforts without any tears
We connect with others and expand what you started
Passion filled brilliance our favourite classes.
Today we pay tribute to a truly great man
One worthy of a truly great plan
We wish you peace and serenity in your afterlife
And trust humanity can pick up the fight.
Tolerance, compassion, passion and love
For generations to come.
You may have left, but it is not farewell
Your heart and your efforts sit inside us and quell
Rest well as we celebrate
A good life worth living
Your legacy fresh as we continue the giving
And every so often when we look up to the skies
Seeking your guidance, your answers,
We listen and hear as the words whisper clearly
You are doing just fine, keep going, dear sisters.
By Bonnie Cassen, Kiama, March 2021
Introducing the Pat Thompson Foundation
Connecting communities on environmental and social justice issues across the South Coast and beyond. Empowering others and helping to create a more tolerant and compassionate society.
Pat Thompson made a life-long, unique contribution over five decades to environment and conservation, bringing that ethos for commitment, work and community engagement to the Shoalhaven, his chosen home over the last two decades.
His work as editor of the Shoalhaven based New Bush Telegraph [NBT] newspaper and publisher [Envirobooks] has provided opportunities for a wide range of contributors and the broader community to access information, views, alternative perspectives, discussions and debate related to the environment.
Pat's environmental involvement spanned five decades. As a young bushwalker he joined the Colong Foundation for Wilderness  and was a long-standing Board member, was Chairperson 1994-2007 and one-time editor of their bulletin. He self-published his first book in 1986 and then established 'Envirobook' publishing business, which still operates from his Sussex residence producing environment literature of substantial interest and respected quality. He has brought that experience and wisdom to work with the NBT and activism in the Shoalhaven.
Pat was an unassuming person of distinctive personality who impressed all those that knew him with his character and integrity. He was a caring and concerned citizen who embraces not just environmental issues but social and humanitarian matters. He was dedicated to linking with Shoalhaven people, particularly those with the same interests and dedication and enhancing their opportunities to engage and contribute. In that sense he is no 'loner' and cultivated far-reaching connections.
Pat's work and commitment in the company of his network of associations and contributors significantly lifted the level of community engagement and education on the environmental matters he brought attention to through the NBT.
In some part, this reflected his start to working life as a teacher. His eighteen years as editor of NBT has provided an exceptional opportunity under his stewardship for Shoalhaven people and organisations to contribute to a broader, better-balanced view of the Shoalhaven and its potential and challenges.
The NBT has developed a very wide range of personal and community support over the years and encourages people to sit up and take notice of a range of community issues related to the environment. This has been and still is at a time when the imperative for community education on environmental challenges has never been greater. The NBT has been inclusive of Aboriginal people and their particular interests, based on a shared interest of the health of environment and country, providing opportunities for Indigenous perspectives to be heard.
Pat inspired so many people because they appreciate that without his sustained, long term efforts, a highly valuable opportunity for progressive thinking and expression on environment in a dual media format of print and web would simply not exist in the Shoalhaven.
The NBT exemplifies unencumbered free speech and democratic process within the Shoalhaven community for that same community. By providing this opportunity for citizen writers and commentators, without any financial attachment, they are embraced and skilled in a co-operative 'team' context within the NBT. All of this creates a vigilance by the community, necessary for environmental and social health and well-being.
The NBT began in 1987 and the last print edition was in November 2019, after which it became an online newspaper and expanded to cover the south coast areas of NSW. The hope is that the South Coast can sustain a pro-environment and socially intelligent publication online beyond its Shoalhaven roots.
To achieve what Pat has done over such a long period and what the NBT continues to do requires substantial, sustained and investigative research into quite varied issues and topics to ensure the integrity of the NBT. Additionally, this is necessarily paralleled by careful, continuing guidance and support of community contributors. It is mostly the generation of such voices that stands out in the Shoalhaven for all the Shoalhaven and adds such value and balance to the broader, public community voice. The context of this is a highly successful, not-for-profit, community-based venture, which is by so many standards quite unique.
By Chris Grounds, Erowal Bay, 2019
These words, prepared by Chris Grounds, were the basis of Pat's successful nomination for the 2020 Shoalhaven Council Environment Award. As we read the words, it confirmed that the Foundation idea that had been growing had to be put into action. In coming months we will be working to do just that. If you would like to find out more about the Pat Thompson Foundation sign up here.
Feature image: Pat sailing Glen Findlay's boat from the Shoalhaven to the mid-north coast, 2018. Photo supplied.