Wednesday 5 March 2008

Angry Mayor rejects History of Cairns

Cairns Historian, Dr Timothy Bottoms, has written to all candidates in the Cairns Regional Council election, to seek support for the publication of his work: A History of Cairns – City of the South Pacific (1770-1995).

Dr Bottoms completed the massive work in 2002 on behalf of the Cairns City Council, following a public tender.

The Cairns City Council commissioned him to write the work, but subsequently declined to publish, despite spending $30,000 itself and gaining an additional $42,000 from the Centenary of Federation Queensland grant which was awarded to the Council to complete the project.

The work was originally tendered and contracted under the Tom Pyne-led Council. After Kevin Byrne took office in 2000, there appeared less interest in seeing the project through to publication.

There were some delays in the author meeting an agreed timetable, however Council in 2003 voted against any further involvement to publish the work. This was in spite of several critical reviews from renowned historian Henry Reynolds and other academic reviewers that the work was a substantial contribution to far north Queensland's history.

"This is a most comprehensive work, and is complete and ready to go to the publisher," says Dr Bottoms.

"The history of our city and region is accurate and it has been widely reviewed. The content is written to be highly accessible to a range of readers," he says.

Bottoms has approached new candidates to gain support, with the hope the new Council will back the publication. "It can be demonstrated that if the Cairns City Council were involved then there would not be an imposition on ratepayers as the Council would recoup their money on the sales of the first print run," says Tim Bottoms.

Council manager of media relations Gary Schofield, said in today's Cairns Post that Council never agreed to publish the work, even though they tendered, commissioned and paid Bottoms to undertake the writing.

"Let me tell you this, this Council does not renege on it's deals," said Mayor Byrne.

It is worth asking, following this statement from Mayor Byrne, why did the Council agree to apply and accept funding from the Centenary of Federation Queensland, to complete writing the work, if they had no intention of publishing it? The Centenary of Federation would surely not have granted money for the completion of the work, had it not been implicit in the Council's application that the work would be made available for the people of Cairns.

"I feel that this work would be of great benefit to our community. There are no comprehensive histories of our district currently available, even Townsville doesn’t have a comprehensive work of this nature," Dr Bottoms says.
Dr Bottoms has a website that outlines the publication.

"I would be only too happy to discuss any aspect of the project with Council candidates. I am seeking these people to support the new Council’s funding of the publication of this unique work."

He says that any investment would be returned on the first print run.

At last week's meet the candidates' forum on the northern beaches, Mayor Kevin Byrne got into an angry exchange after Dr Bottoms asked why his Council has ceased backing the publication.

The heated exchange at a mayoral forum appeared to catch the Mayor off guard.

"You signed something with a previous Council," Mayor Byrne said.

Byrne dismissed the publication and the surrounding issues. "You left us with a can of worms."

The Mayor believed it had nothing to do with the community meeting he was addressing. He clearly didn't want to discuss the issue publicly.

"It wasn't my decision," Kevin Byrne shouted.

The Mayor’s lack of support for the project steams from delays in the completion of the massive 500 page text, which took 5 years to complete.

An interesting comparision is in regards to Council's own words about 'dates not being met', the Esplanade Lagoon and foreshore "was originally due for completion in time for Australia’s Centenary of Federation in 2001," Council's Cairns Esplanade website states:

  • "As is the norm with many public works, this date has been stretched dramatically. A revised completion date was set for September of 2002, but this was again been pushed back to March 2003."

In 1512, Michelangelo took more than four years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, after many reported delays.

Dr Bottoms is hopeful that a change of Council will bring forward a more enlightened group of representatives.

Prior to the 2004 Council Election, Val Schier supported the publication of the work. "I know Tim's skills and we will look at publishing the history," she has said recently.

Dr Bottoms is a published author and has extensive pre-colonial history knowledge of the greater Cairns area.

The following candidates have so far supported the publication of Bottoms work, A History of Cairns:

UNITY: Denis Keffee, Linda Cooper
CAIRNS 1st: Val Schier, Kirsten Lesina, Richie Bates, Janine Aitken, Mark Buttrose, Dianne Forsyth, Jeff Martinuzzi, Paul Matthews
INDEPENDENT: Robert Pyne, Julia Leu, Norman Miller, Rod Davis, Selwyn Johnston.

Councillors Alan Blake and Margaret Cochrane said they supported a review of the original decision with a view to publishing the work. Both Councillors, whilst expressing some concerns about the history of the project, agree that the important issue now is publication of the book.

You can contact Dr Timothy Bottoms on 07 4053 1065, 0431 226 235, or visit the History of Cairns website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Timothy Bottoms small book entitled Djabugay Country has already given one small part of this region a serious historical account of itself.

Dr Bottoms book about Kuranda’s rainforest people, the invasion of their land and subsequent settler history was published ten years ago by Allen and Unwin. It is controversial. Doubtless it has flaws, as any trail-blazing work must. Yet it has given the Kuranda community something substantial to start with when considering our past. At least we have a basis for debate and further research.

The Cairns region as a whole still awaits the senior partner of that book. Dr Bottoms wrote it several years ago. I’ve been privileged to a preview. It’s a compelling and awe inspiring major work.

This book has been praised by leading Australians such as Professor Henry Reynolds and Noel Pearson. For a small additional investment, the book can be published for all to read.

I believe the new Cairns Regional Council should end the penny pinching and re-fund this important work to bring it to the bookshops.

If I'm elected to the Tablelands Regional Council, I’ll support a modest contribution from that body too.

Tim Bottom’s history is for all FNQ.