Tim Winton uses Perth Festival address to speak out against fossil fuel addiction and arts sponsorship

Acclaimed author Tim Winton used a closing speech at the Perth Festival to implore people and governments to wean themselves off dependence on fossil fuel industries, calling the current approach to climate change a “dumpster fire fuming with the status quo”.

Winton was the latest in a string of artists who used their appearances at the event to speak out against the Woodside gas project in Scarborough west of Karratha, as well as the company’s sponsorship of an event by the WA Symphony Orchestra (WASO) and WA Youth Orchestra (WAYO) inspired by climate change.

Stella Donnelly and Pond leader Nick Allbrook were among those who expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the project which is expected to emit millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.

Winton said in an interview with ABC radio host Nadia Mitsopoulos that the fossil fuel industry has a disproportionate influence on society and culture.

The day before, the Cloudstreet author raised concerns about climate change complacency during his closing speech at the annual Perth Festival Writers’ Weekend.

Tim Winton speaks during the Writers’ Weekend closing speech at the Perth Festival. (Provided by: Paul Gamblin)

“We have to recognize it”

He told the ABC he wanted the address to stimulate a “rational and civilized” discussion about arts industries receiving funding from fossil fuel companies.

“We have to recognize it, we have to move on.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume.
Audio playback.  Duration: 8 minutes 58 seconds

Winton laments WA arts industry ties to fossil fuel funding
To download 4.1 MB

Winton has been outspoken in his activism for marine conservation and the protection of Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth.

He believes there is a misperception that fossil fuel companies are “the only store in town” when it comes to sponsoring community groups and arts organizations.

Winton said he recognizes it’s difficult for groups that rely on sponsorship to find support, but urged those groups to look elsewhere for funding.

“Let’s face it — the banks, the supergroups, the investor groups, they’re all divestment from fossil fuels,” Winton said.

Winton said governments should lead action on climate change by providing incentives and helping the public embrace change.

“We have so much access to free sun and wind and we’re terrified of making this move,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that we’re terrified.

“And also our governments, our leaders, are even more terrified than us.”

Festival a platform for perspectives

Perth Festival executive director Nathan Bennett said the festival was proud to have had Winton speak at the end of its Writers’ Weekend.

“The Perth Festival has always been a platform for many art forms, voices and perspectives to be heard,” he said.

He said the corporate sponsorship has helped the non-profit arts organization deliver world-class cultural experiences and deliver “tremendous social, economic and employment benefits to WA”.

An aerial view of Woodside's Pluto LNG project.
The Woodside Scarborough project includes the expansion of Pluto’s current facility on the Burrup Peninsula. (Provided: Woodside)

A Woodside spokesperson said its sponsorship of the Perth Festival’s WASO and WAYO events helps develop local talent and create pathways for gifted and emerging musicians.

“Our 30-year relationship with the Western Australian Youth Orchestras has reached new heights in 2021 with the addition of a new partnership linking WAYO with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

“Through this partnership, WAYO musicians have unique opportunities to learn from the professional state orchestra of Western Australia.”

Nathan Bennett, of the Perth Festival, said the festival had received financial support from a wide range of partners who represented the breadth of WA’s activities.