Rosemarie’s last photo taken in Melbourne on the 20th of June 2010.
I first heard of Rosemarie Gillespie in 1992 during the height of the Bougainville Civil war. As a young freedom fighter I didn’t get to meet her personally at that time. I saw her several times during that year filming and taking reports of the atrocity and brutality the men in green were committing to my people and the motherland.
In fact that is where my interest in filming rose, when I thought that a native Indigenous person should do this. I went to the neighbouring Solomon Islands in 1994 and settled there. In early 1997 I borrowed a video camera from a Bougainville supporter and went back to my motherland for filming, don’t learned filming but with the term we came up during the height of the civil war “Mekim Na Save” Do it and know it.
Since then the last I heard of Rosemarie was that she was banned from entering Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. In 2003 when I asked a Bougainville supporter in Australia about her, he told me that she was in Iraq as a human shield.
In 2005 I went back to my motherland again filming, I went through South Bougainville and visited the run down hospital, saw that they were in need of medicine. When I went back to Solomon Islands I asked another Bougainville supporter in Australia to give me Rosemarie’s email address.
I sent an email to her asking if she can arrange medicines for the hospital in Buin South Bougainville. This is because in the past she brought in as many boxes of medicine she could bring or could allow to bring into Bougainville which in many cases she wasn’t allowed to.
She replied to me and gave me some contacts but then it never happened as peace was gaining momentum and the news where coming out that Bougainville was alright now.
When the Papua New Guinea Government granted Autonomous Government to Bougainville in 2005, the mining Company Bougainville Copper Limited come out clear and talked about returning back to the Island and re-open the Panguna mine.
I went back to my motherland and filmed and interviewed the rural people of what they think about BCL returning back to re-open the mine. When I was working on the film I again emailed Rosemarie and told her of the project I was working on. She replied and told me that she is interested and would like to work together with me. She funded the sound track of the video “ Panguna Mine Dilemma” I produced.
In 2008 she asked me if I would like to come to Australia to attend a conference and speak at the forums. In the past I used to say no to others who invited me, but this time I said yes, because for the simple reason that Rosemarie had been to Bougainville and she knows and cares about us and our struggle. Finally in 2009 I made it to Australia and when I entered Sydney terminal she was waiting for me. I haven’t sent her my photos but she saw me, a black man and asked me: “Are you Clive?”
After that I worked with her for the campaign to save my motherland and the future generations to say no to mining which destroyed our land and environment. I used to wonder why did she leave her job and comfort in serving the indigenous people of Bougainville and around the world? The answer is I guess: she wants a world where Indigenous people will enjoy their world without outsiders controlling them and save their land for gardening and not mining.
Every time I played a guitar and sang a song about my motherland before we speak she used to tell me that is a lovely song. Finally on the 20th of June, she picked me up from a house in Melbourne and we went to her daughters house, that is the last time I talked with her in regards to our struggle for independence and to say no to mining. She told me and Joanne that we got a big job ahead and we must go on. The forum organized by Paxi Chriten went really well and we enjoyed it very much, not knowing that the next day Rosemarie will leave us. I took her last photo that day and we separated. At 5:53am I got a call from Joanne that Rosemarie had a stroke and the Doctors are saying she will not make it back.
I prayed to my God that she can make it back, but the good Lord took her away from us. Many Indigenous Bougainvilleans will miss her and we have been hoping that after we become an Independent Island Nation she will be invited to Mekamui/Bougainville, unfortunately that will not happen as she left us unexpectedly.
She will be remembered by the future generations of Bougainville when they read her book “Running with Rebels,” which I and Joanne will work hard to donate to the schools on Bougainvlle.
I owe her a lot and she is the champion in my life, she brought me to Australia and introduced me to many good people, without her I wouldn’t have come this far.
She supported me in my music and filmmaking, as most of my songs and video are about our struggle. After Kirrallee, her daughter told me that mum is no longer with us, I felt like a bullet was going through my heart. I will always remember her all my life.
Missing you Rosemarie Waratah.
In her tireless work in May 20th Sydney rally.
On behalf of Mekamui Hardliners and the people of Mekamui/Bougainville who are against mining and for a “Free and Independent Bougainville” I am passing on our condolence to her daughters and the three grand children. We are with you all in this time of sadness.