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The Great Barrier Reef lies off the coast of Queensland: 2000 kilometres of spectacular coral reefs, sand cays and islands, Australia's most precious marine possession. Teeming with life, it covers 350 000 square kilometres.
In the late 1960s the Reef was threatened with limestone mining and oil drilling. A small group of dedicated conservationists in Queensland – John Büsst, Judith Wright, Len Webb and others – battled to save the Ellison Reef from coral-limestone mining and the Swain Reefs from oil exploration. The group later swelled to encompass scientists, trade unionists and politicians throughout Australia, and led in 1976 to the establishment of a guardian body: the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
That it still survives is a legacy of activists, artists, poets, ecologists and students. In 1967 they were branded as 'cranks'; now they should be recognised as 'visionaries'.
"Where is the fire in their belly?" Judith Wright asked me of the millions who claim to be environmentalists but do nothing or, worse still, vote for the wreckers. Her Coral Battleground is a call to action from last century to save the Great Barrier Reef from ending up as a barren ruin this century. This book is a classic of ecological literature."
- Bob Brown, Environmentalist and former Parliamentary Leader of the Australian Greens
"It will come as a surprise to most people that so many of the issues confronted in the 1960s by the doughty campaigners against drilling for oil on the barrier reef are still alive. We will have to be as determined and as persistent as they if we are to protect what is now a World Heritage Site from pollution, dredging, dumping, coral bleaching and pest species."
- Germaine Greer, author of White Beech
"Just as Rachel Carson's Silent Spring inspired a generation to protect the natural environment from destructive practice, so another generation in Australia was galvanised by the first major conservation campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef. Judith Wright, one of the key participants in the battle, comprehensively documents this campaign in The Coral Battleground.
- Suzie Smith, Secretary, Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland Cassowary Coast – Hinchinbrook branch
"In offering a new edition of The Coral Battleground, publishers Susan Hawthorne and Renate Klein explain the relevance of Wright's book for our world today. Along with Margaret Thorsborne, they note current threats to the reef, such as the establishment of super ports along the Queensland coast, increased ship traffic over the reef, and runoff from mainland agriculture and industry."
- Me, You. and Books
"The Reef's fate is a microcosm of the new battle within ourselves. So this is not just a story of one campaign. The human attitudes, the social and industrial forces, and the people who in one way or other take their part in the campaign, represent a much wider field, and one in which the future of the human race may finally be decided."
- ABC Environment Online
"This edition of Judith Wright's lucid and compelling account of the fight to save 'the reef' comes with added value – a publisher's preface, a new foreword [by Margaret Thorsborne AO] and Judith Wright's own prophetic warning that such victories are never really won. Today's campaigners will find inspiration in Judith Wright's persistent vision in the face of great odds."
- Margaret Moorhouse, Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook Inc.
"The Coral Battleground, first published in 1977, records the successful struggles of Judith Wright and others to preserve the Great Barrier Reef from exploratory drilling for oil and limestone mining. Today, with UNESCO on the point of declaring the Reef 'world heritage in danger', Wright's work remains an essential and inspiring call to arms in the new battles against pollution and over-development."
- Professor Emerita Elizabeth Webby AM
"Political intrigue, shifting allegiances, dirty deeds, and more, Judith Wright records the environmental struggles of the 1970s, and the people's movement to preserve the Great Barrier Reef – for a time. Today, as the reef faces new threats, her book provides inspiration, and a how-to guide for a new generation of activists, for whom the beauty of the reef matters most deeply."
- Rosaleen Love, author of Reefscape
"Wonderful and timely to see this lovely new edition of a classic book that every Australian should own. In it Judith tells the inspiring David and Goliath story of how she and a group of friends took on massive forces of greed and destruction that threatened the existence of the the Great Barrier Reef and won. Australia urgently needs this new call to arms."
- Iain McCalman, author of The Reef: A Passionate History
"Judith Wright's recount of the heroic early battles for the reef exemplifies the incredible achievements of a passionate few, who with vision and determination were able to succeed against the odds. This book is the stuff of legends and is a must read for all those who consider themselves environmental custodians. An extraordinary story in itself, The Coral Battleground now takes on an even more pertinent meaning as the Great Barrier Reef faces its biggest threat since the oil rigs of the 70s. May Judith's story inspire a new generation to fight for the reef!"
- Bob Irwin, Bob Irwin Wildlife & Conservation Foundation Inc.