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Karkar exploder temporarily laid low

Bill Wilson once told me the story of a thirsty Catholic priest on Karkar Island who experienced profound disappointment upon recovering from a protracted binge to find he’d consumed the church's entire supply of altar wine. The situation was saved by the local doctor ("a mad, mad Irishman," recalled Bill), who creatively developed a substitute using fruit cordial and surgical spirit, not an unknown act of pharmacology on outstations where the good stuff had been too greedily consumed.

At the time, Bill was working on Karkar with a tuberculosis control team. "The white population was mainly young, single, male and thirsty," he recollects. "A favourite Sunday pursuit was roaring around the island on motor bikes blowing up dunnies. I was introduced to the pastime and given the honour of carrying explosives and detonators while riding pillion behind a plantation assistant on a big AJC bike.”

As a medical assistant [liklik dokta], Bill spent time training to be a teacher at ASOPA only to find that his greater love was health and health education. Upon returning to Australia to live and work in Canberra, he dedicated himself to improving indigenous health as an officer of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands Commission.

Earlier this year, Bill – who is the longest serving member of the Australian Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs – was honoured by becoming a life member of that organisation.

Now Bill’s wife, Anita, informs me that our brother is in hospital having had a triple bypass yesterday. He was in good spirits before surgery, says Anita. “We have been to see him in ICU and all is well so far… There’s a challenging road ahead with lots of physio/cardiac rehab but everyone at the hospital has been great and very caring.”

I encourage you to send a message to Bill through Anita by emailing her here.


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