Vale Peter Walker
Born: Lilydale, Tasmania, 24/12/1948
Died: Don, Tasmania, 26/4/2012
Peter trained as a secondary teacher in Tasmania, where he taught for several years. He then took a teaching position in a private school on the Darling Downs in Queensland. After several years travel overseas, Peter moved to Adelaide inspired by Don Dunstan and taught for a year at St Peter’s College. He then joined the Public Service Association in 1977 and worked in its publicity and publications section for 8 years. These years were very important to Peter and opened his eyes to a range of issues such as the women’s movement, stereotyping, and health and safety. He said it gave him the confidence to be the person he wanted to be. He became involved in gay politics. However, “I was born in the backblocks of Tasmania and I am a rural person. I needed to get out of the city.”
I know that I am not alone when I say I loved your humour, your quirky mind, your imagination, your openness to new ideas, your courage, your ability to get the job done, your perseverance, your wicked mind and your wanton ways. I loved being your friend.
Now, “His absence filled the world”.
I hope that the emptiness I feel won’t extend to the arts on Kangaroo Island without you. It is said that no one is indispensable but it will take a large effort by many of us to protect your legacy.
Although you professed to be a mere hobby artist, you probably played as large a role in KI arts development as anyone. You had big ideas and then you carried them through.
Take Kangaroo Island Art Feast 2011, you were the chair of the Art Feast committee, and handled the registrations (hours on the phone and dealing with emails, payments, insurance). You brought artists and venues together to form stunning events and exhibitions.
You co-ordinated the Dudley Writers Group show at Penneshaw Town Hall, and read pieces you’d written in it and on the radio. You helped organise the Australiana exhibition, which displayed your cartoons, and event at the Penneshaw Hotel. You gave a truly memorable Mulga Bill performance, bike and flying ace helmet and all. Who said you had a bad memory? No creeping blur there.
And then there was the lino cut exhibition at Artworks Baudin Beach, your latest genre. As usual you took up a new art form with enthusiasm; you propelled the exhibition and gave a demonstration of your new-found proficiency.
Quite frankly, Art Feast wouldn’t exist without you. You were there from the start, under the auspices of KI Artists’ Collective, of our favourite 10-day festival. You were the driving force and stayed the course until your health meant you had to draw back and then step out. In the lean middle years, you basically did it all. You held it together until more help arrived.
What you did in 2011 is even more remarkable considering the cancer was making its mark on your body, though you did not know why you were not feeling well.
Through the Kangaroo Island Artists’ Collective, of which you were a founding member, you helped restore the Easter Art Exhibition in 1999, the flagship arts event on Kangaroo Island. When other volunteers were burning out, you persevered as organiser and artistic director. This year’s exhibition was a fitting farewell and how wonderful that you were able to see it. Joie de Vie indeed.
At Dudley Writers Group, we so enjoyed your sense of humour. You made the meetings a treat, you always did your homework – and you looked after the lights.
You combined your two loves of art and writing in your naughty stories (that bore no relationship to anyone on Kangaroo Island!) and their accompanying cartoons. You took to digital media even though the computer was not your friend. I think they were your perfect expression.
You had an original and clear mind. Your artworks were always thought-provoking and challenging.
You strongly believed that art is a valuable part of any community and if it is going to happen you have to get in and do the work. And you did.
When you arrived with Malcolm in 1984, you forced an awareness of homosexuality on a community that in large part was not ready to hear it. Again you persevered, changed attitudes and paved the way for other to have a more accepted ride.
Thank you for everything. Rest in peace dear lovely man.