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WILLIAMS, William Morgan (1958-2016)

WILLIAMS, Dr William Morgan (1958-2016)

Dr 'Bill' Williams

Dr 'Bill' Williams

The sudden, unexpected death of Dr 'Bill' Williams on 12 September 2016 at the age of 57, saddened many in the local, national and international communities. Tributes to Dr Bill Williams have come from across the world.

In his work since 1999 at the Surf Coast Medical Centre, Torquay, he was known as an understanding and sensitive local doctor with a passion for gardening and surfing. In the National and International arena, his reputation was forged through his dedicated international activism towards abolishing nuclear weapons. Above all however, it was his desire to gain a better understanding of indigenous communities that marked ‘Bill’ as an unusual man of character and spirit.

'Bill' Williams (Prefect 1975)

'Bill' Williams (Prefect 1975)

The third of five sons of Judith and Dr Hugh L Williams, Bill commenced at Geelong College as a day student on 4 June 1963. He continued his education at College until December 1975. That year, he was a member of the 1st Cricket XI and the 1st Football XVIII, Calvert House Captain, School Prefect and School Vice-Captain, and winner of the Dr Gus Kearney Memorial Prize. He left College to study medicine at Melbourne University and at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

‘Bill’ then worked in hospitals in Australia and the UK in general medicine and obstetrics, before moving into general practice. He was the Police Surgeon/Medical Officer in Geelong for several years. ‘Bill’ spent much of his career providing medical services to indigenous communities. For 7 years during the 1990s he worked with the Pintubi Homeland Health Service at Kintore in Australia’s Western Desert. His own words from his book ‘Bleed’ describe some of his experiences with indigenous communities:
‘I worked in Central Australia, as a medical officer for remote, arid zone Aboriginal communities, resuscitating and stabilizing kids with preventable diseases like meningitis, dehydration and pneumonia. Stab-wounds, roll-overs, Flying Doctor retrievals, obstinate patients, roaming the bush on outstation visits, hunting and gathering, working with Ngangkaris, dancing corroboree, hunting turkey, roo and mulyardi spearwood. Learning about old and new, family and individual, western and traditional notions of health and healing, communalism and autonomy.’

Dr 'Bill' Williams, 2007.]Dr Williams first joined the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW) in 1983 out of concern about the nuclear industry, which he saw as the greatest threat to global health. 'As medical professionals, there's no point improving the nation's collective cholesterol level if we poison the earth for our grandchildren.'

‘Bill’ was a past president of the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW), a co-founder and board member of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and served as International Councillor with the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Physicians for the Prevention of War (IPPNW). In 2017, ICAN was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr 'Bill' Williams, 2007.

Dr 'Bill' Williams, 2007.

He produced three books: - 'Men, Sex, Power and Survival’ , co-written with his wife, Gisela Gardener; his novel, ‘Kumanjayi’s Country’ ; and ‘Bleed’ , about his wife Gisela’s brain aneurysm in the desert, far from medical support, and her eventual return to health.

All four of ‘Bill’s brothers; Tim (OGC 1968), Mark (OGC 1970), Nick (OGC 1977), and Tony (OGC 1981) were educated at The Geelong College.

A Scholarship fund known as the 'Bill Williams Tjungurrayi Scholarship' was established in May 2018 to support indigenous students to study at Geelong College.

In October 2017, Bradley Fenner, an Old Collegian (OGC 1972), and friend of Bill Williams wrote the following tribute to Bill's work with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN):

'Bill Williams completed Year 12 at The Geelong College in 1975, when he was school vice-captain and a member of the cricket 1st XI and football 1st XVIII. He subsequently trained as a doctor and became a general practitioner, as his father and grandfather had been before him.

Bill's journey in life was to take him in different directions from many of his peers. Always a man of principle and conviction, Bill’s experiences as a young man travelling and working in developing countries led him to become a social activist. He worked as GP in Torquay, in between pursuing his various campaigns and projects, including, amongst other things, regular stints working in an Aboriginal community in central Australia.

He was involved in, and wrote about, social issues, including gender, domestic violence, environmentalism, aboriginal issues and the campaign against nuclear weapons. Always, Bill's focus was solely on making this world a better place. In this, he retained the principles and ideals of youth, combined with a determination to make changes in the world and an understanding of what was required to do this.

Sadly, Bill died, unexpectedly but peacefully, in his sleep on September 12, 2016. Survived by partner Gisela, daughters Daisy and Lily, his mother, and four brothers who all attended The Geelong College, Bill has left a powerful legacy.

This was acknowledged most recently, when the organisation that Bill helped to found, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. The citation for the award recognised ICAN “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

In outlining the importance of ICAN’s work, Bill wrote:

We need a determined worldwide movement to outlaw and abolish nukes. To get there in this generation, we need to build the wave of public opinion into a mighty crescendo: a massive, surging, irresistible force which carries us all the way to absolutely zero nukes. Without it, even the most inspirational of leaders will falter along the way.

We are all fortunate, and the world is a better place, because throughout his life, Bill Williams was an inspirational leader who did not falter in pursuing his dreams and convictions.'

In recognition of his achievement, Dr William Morgan Williams was inducted into the Old Geelong Collegians' Association (OGCA) Notables Gallery at Geelong College on 27 October 2018.

Sources: Geelong Advertiser 21 September 2016; The Sydney Morning Herald 21 September 2016; The Age (Melb) 24 September 2016 p35; Geelong Advertiser 29 September 2016 p33; accessed 13 Sept 2016; Dr Bill Williams and ICAN by Bradley Fenner - Ad Astra December 2017 p51.
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