One of 4ZZZ’s original journalists Jon Baird passed away quietly mid December 2018.
Jon Baird helped establish Locked In (then called Inside Information). His coverage of the Boggo Road Jail Riots won national awards. 4ZZZ broke the story and was able to provide exclusive coverage due to inside information accessible because of Jon’s sources inside the notorious prison. The mainstream media used Jon as a source during the infamous uprising.
Among other demands of the inmates was the right to listen to 4ZZZ, a vital lifeline to the outside world for those inside (then and now). While many of the changes which occurred as a result of the riots have since been eroded, the right to listen to 4ZZZ still stands and if you listen to the station from 6-8pm Monday the show Jon helped establish is still on-air.
When Jon travelled to England his voice could still be heard on a series of reports named London Line.
Back Australia in the 90’s Jon rejoined the newsroom. The programs Brisbane and Beyond, and Brisbane Line were enriched by his journalistic talent and passion for social justice. When he left Australia again to teach English in Taiwan and then China he still appeared on the station giving intermittent reports for the Anarchy Show – Subversión #1312).
He wanted his reports from China called Behind the Bamboo Curtain, a reference to the 4ZZZ 25th anniversary compilation Behind the Banana Curtain which he helped curate.
Always ready for a party and some mischief Jon was a great supporter of Brisbane music and venues. And even in Chengdu, where he taught at a university he enjoyed huge punk gigs some of which were broken up by police.
Jon had a gift for story telling and comedy. Now’s the time for us to remember him by telling stories about him, no holes barred, as he would have done to us.
On Tuesday December 17 a special sedition of the Anarchy Show was dedicated to Jon. Joining Linda in the studio were Jon’s brother Jamie, nephew Joshua, and life long friend Ben.
The following memorial by John Tracey was read during the show.
Remembering Jon Baird
I first met Jon in the early 1980s at the pickets outside Boggo Road in support of the prisoners rioting inside. He and Mike Kennedy had recently been released after serving sentences in Boggo Rd and on their release began campaigning in support of the prisoners. They formed the Prisoners Action Group with Geoff Arro Farulla and other people whose names I can’t remember. Most prisoners want nothing to do with prison politics when they are released, they try to put all that behind them but Jon and Mike were different, they took up the prisoners’ struggle on the outside
As a direct result of Jon, one of the demands of the rioting prisoners was the right to listen to 4ZZZ. During the riots, prisoners and even some screws would contact Jon and Mike who would then broadcast what was going on in the prison, including when the shit was hitting the fan. 4ZZZ was providing communication within the prison as well as broadcasting the prisoners perspective to the outside world. 4ZZZ became the contact point for the mainstream media to report what was going on during the riots – with Jon Baird and Mike Kennedy being the main news sources.
The Prisoners Action Group ended up having a great impact on the Kennedy inquiry into prisons and the very significant reforms of the Queensland prison system that came from it. The reforms lasted about a decade before they were undone or ignored and the prison system returned to its default mode of total dehumanisation. The brief period of change and the relaxation of pressure in the prison system that did occur, including the right to listen to 4ZZZ which still exists today, could not and would not have happened if it were not for Jon. It would all have been swept under the carpet like all the previous riots if it were not for ZZZ.
I have already read people’s comments about how good a journalist Jon was, and he certainly was that. But his advocacy for prisoners’ rights went way beyond journalism. Jon was a trouble maker and an operator. He was a political networker and he used 4ZZZ to enable and empower the network. Journalism was just one of Jon’s talents.
Those who knew Jon cannot help but remember him, he was an unforgettable kind of guy. But those who did not know him should also remember him because he is a historic hero in the overlapping stories of 4ZZZ and the struggle of Queensland prisoners. John Tracey (Prisoners’ Show 1989 – 2000)
When Jon travelled to Brisbane to visit his family and friends he was always eager to join me on air. I have manged to find two programs he appeared on in February 2017.
Audio can be downloaded here.
A memorial for Jon was held in Brisbane on January 11. David Lennon streamed a live video on Facebook.
The speaker in the first is the fabulous Jane Grigg, the text was mostly written by the equally fabulous Liz Willis with contributions from Amanda Collinge, Harley Stumm, Stephen Stockwell, Louise Butt, Heather Anderson and especially Mike Kennedy.
Josh Baird Jon’s nephew made this montage.