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Tully, William (Bill) (1937–2021)

by Helen Musa

The Canberra arts scene has lost one of its most passionate advocates with the passing of William “Bill” Tully, who died yesterday, October 12 at Canberra Aged Care, aged 84

An unrepentant political radical whose life, his family says, was spent crusading for a social utopia, Tully was a poet, author, publisher, editor, broadcaster and social agitator who was as well-known to young creators around Civic and especially at Gus’ Café, as he was to veteran artists, supporting anything new, including rap music.

An active member of the Canberra Recorded Music Society, for many years he manned a record exchange shop in the Griffin Centre, often venturing into nearby Garema Place to read poetry.

Tully came to Canberra from Melbourne in 1968 to take up a position at the National Library of Australia, where he remained as a senior librarian until 2002.

He presented Writers Workshop (later “Soundprint”) on the Canberra public radio station 2XX from 1983, was the co-founder with Ann Nugent of “Blast” magazine and the editor of “Voice,” a small magazine produced by Ginninderra Press.

He was secretary of the ACT Branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers, Secretary of Writers Against Nuclear Arms and a member of the Australian Independence Movement from 1975-1985.

For eight years Tully he sold the AIM magazine on Fridays and Saturdays from a makeshift stall in Petrie Plaza,  also selling Eureka Flags, Aboriginal land rights’ badges, Blinky Bill T-shirts, and “No Uranium” stickers, while telling tall Australian tales to kids and their mothers and becoming in the process a Civic identity.

In 1976, he became involved in a local newspaper, “Canberra Community News,” then from 1978 and 1980, he was part of the republican paper, “Southern Cross”. In 1981, he helped establish the community paper, “Canberra Monaro Searchlight”.

Tully was an author for the “Australian Dictionary of Biography” and a prolific poet whose anthology, “Canberra & Beyond” was published by Ginninderra Press in 2011.

He once describes his zest as emanating from a fondness for “The Word” and the transmission of ideas, for the society around us, and the preservation of democratic values.

His personal records of his political interests are held at the Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University and the ACT Heritage Library holds a selection of reel-to-reel broadcast tapes from his time at 2XX.

He is survived by his brother Andrew and sister-in-law Laurel.

Original publication

View the list of ADB articles written by William (Bill) Tully

Citation details

Helen Musa, 'Tully, William (Bill) (1937–2021)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 27 June 2022.

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