Mayor Fiddles On Climate Change As Kangaroo Island Burns. Residents Get Busy Raising Funds To Save Wildlife.



Wise men say only fools rush in… so sung the good residents of Kangaroo Island this afternoon at an impromptu community concert to raise funds for the KI Wildlife Network, a local charity that needs your help now more than ever.

It was a deeply ironic moment, because a local fool – the Mayor of Kangaroo Island – had only days earlier urged tourists to ‘rush in’, even as the island burned, and even as emergency services asked tourists to stay away.

It gets better. Michael Pengilly – a former Liberal Party state politician in South Australia – had made even more headlines this morning after tweeting at Barack Obama overnight to express his disappointment that the former US president had linked the Australian bushfire tragedy to climate change.

In true Liberal Party tradition, Pengilly believes climate change is a load of crap. He’s a loud and proud climate denier, and on Boxing Day – as the KI fires raged out of control – was trolling a young woman on Twitter (the Guardian’s political reporter, Amy Remeikis), and wallowing in his own stupidity.

Pengilly’s denial of science, as you might expect, came up at this afternoon’s community concert, a much-scaled back version of the annual Kangaroo Island Wildlife Carnival, which raises funds to support a region that is known as the ‘world’s largest open plain zoo’.

The festival had been cancelled, for obvious reasons, but determined residents met at Reeves Point near the small town of Kingscote this afternoon to raise funds regardless.

Opening the impromptu concert was Estuary – singer-songwriters Nancy Bates and Aimee Volkofsky – who had been scheduled to play with legendary Aboriginal performer Archie Roach at the Carnival.

Estuary (Barkindji woman Nancy Bates and Broken Hill musician Aimee Volkofsky) performed at a community fundraiser on Kangaroo Island.

Ferry services to the island had been suspended for several days, but Bates and Volkofsky (close friends of this writer), plus several other artists including Jimmybay, managed to make it over. For their final song, Estuary led a community sing-along of Elvis Presley’s ‘I can’t help falling in love with you’.

Bates had earlier been joking about her ‘apparent lesbian appearance’ (“I know you were all looking at my haircut and wondering,” she said), which led to Bates coining a new campaign slogan for the local community – Bring Back The Bush!

Over to Estuary…

Two of the local performers at the concert have lost everything in the fire… and then turned up to help raise money to assist local wildlife.

Kangaroo Island remains on fire tonight, and already a third of the island has been wiped out, with the loss of two lives – renowned outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his son, Adelaide surgeon Clayton Lang, 43. Their bodies were found on the Playford Highway outside Parndana on January.

On Thursday, Scott Morrison visited the island and, true to his current form, managed to remark that “thankfully we’ve had no loss of life”.

“Two. We’ve lost two,” a local responded.

“Two. Yes two, that’s quite right. I was thinking about firefighters firstly,” Morrison replied.

The father and son, of course, were killed while returning from fighting the fires.

You can help the local community by not donating to the Kangaroo Island Mayor’s Bushfire Appeal, instead directing your money here, to the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Network.

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION: WE NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP NEW MATILDA ALIVE. Click here to chip in through Paypal, or you can click here to access our GoFundMe campaign.

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.