I hadn’t considered Bill Leake a hero until being forced to consider the gap he would leave. Who will take the place of such a talented artist and courageous cartoonist?
But hero? You see, I have a Heroes Wall behind my desk – with small images of people who have made a positive impact on the world. Or, more precisely, my world. Musicians like Keith Richards, John Lennon, JS Bach, Mozart, Miles Davis, Billy Holliday and the Gershwin brothers. Sportspeople such as Bradman, David Gower, Viv Richards. World personalities (but few politicians) like Aung San Suu Kyi, Sir Winston Churchill and Nancy Wake; writers and poets including Charles Dickens, Wilfred Owen, Mark Twain and Tim Winton; comedians Peter Cooke, Spike Milligan and Marty Feldman; business people Peter Lehmann, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson; artists including WW Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and Margaret Olley.
In my world, these people have left a place, made a mark that is both irreplaceable and unique. I have admired their contributions and the photographs are a visual reminder of the influence these great people have had on my life.
There are about 60 in all on my Heroes Wall, with some spaces yet to be filled. Bill Leake is just about to fill one of the gaps. There are a few incisive cartoonists and a number of quite brilliant portraitists, but I do not know of any who combined these talents as well as Bill Leake. Moreover, there are even fewer prepared to state his case with razor-sharp insights and stand by his convictions, despite the sometimes, bizarre consequences.
To be the subject of such unfounded hatred – to the point where his family had to relocate to a secret location – in a country where free speech was a foundation stone is unthinkable. And yet, this was the case for Bill Leake.
He was Australian to the core and freedom of speech was a value he defended to the death. Just maybe, it was even a contributing factor? He was (and continues to be) pilloried by people who don’t hold a candle to his values and his preparedness to stand by them. People who value political correctness over common sense and people who have come to this country and now intend to impose their so-called values above those we, as Australians, have held close. He shone a light on the ludicrous and the downright dangerous and now he’s gone.
Who has the talent and the courage to take up the cudgel, because with these enemies within, Australia needs people to do so.