I first met Michael Caton when I was about 10 years old. He was renting a room for $10/week at my Bush Mum’s three story terrace building in Jersey Rd. Sydney. Jack Thompson and his twin girlfriends at the time also rented a room as did many other artists, actors and bohemians. Sheila and her partner Dennis had one of the rooms which was occupied by a massive bed that always open to visitors and any dogs that might be in need of a comfy place to rest. It was a love in, much more inviting than the strict household my father presided over around the corner, and I spent many happy hours in its embrace.
Fast forward forty years to the Mint in Macquarie Street and the launch of my first environmental campaign – Our land, Our Water, Our Future. I was the mistress of ceremonies and Michael came up to me and asked if he could speak. Of course the iconic Caton could do whatever he pleased and so he took to the microphone and told us all how he used to sell Comet windmills in Central Queensland before becoming an actor. He reiterated what we’d been saying about coal seam gas fracking posing an unacceptable risk to our precious water resource, in particular, the Great Artesian Basin.
For the next few years he and I regularly travelled out to communities in NSW and Queensland that were battling to save their farms from big coal and gas companies. This year we took a road trip out to the Pilliga to see what was at risk from Santos’s plans to roll out 850 gas wells across this forested area as part of their Stage 1 plan for extraction.
The ABC’s Australian Story came with us to document this part of Michael’s life – lending his good name and considerable celebrity (not to mention knowledge of underground aquifers) to farmers in need. His motto is; “Do As Much Good As You Can While You Can”