A rememberance, by Jennie HillPip Starr was born in Mildura in 1967, the fourth child of Helen and John Hill, and was named Stuart. He attended St. Paul's Primary School and then Mildura High School, graduating in 1985. During his years there, he was active in the local theatre scene both at school and in the community. When Stuart was 15 years old, his father died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage.
On finishing school Stuart spent three years training as a nurse at Mildura Base Hospital. He moved to Melbourne in early 1989 to train as an actor at Victorian College of the Arts, before deciding in the early 1990's that he wanted to document injustice and make a difference to the world.
After volunteering in community television for several years, in 1995 Stuart and a colleague, Bill Runting, set up a film production company, Rockhopper Productions. The first major project was to film at the Jabiluka Uranium Blockade in Kakadu in 1998, and as a result of Stuart spending 6 months there they produced a 60-minute film called Fight for Country. This eventually premiered in August 2001 to much acclaim. It won the filmmaker award at the Wild Spaces Film Festival that year.
In 2002, Stuart travelled to Woomera Detention Centre to document a protest action. He captured dramatic images there under difficult conditions. According to noted documentary filmmaker David Bradbury "his footage of the breakout at Woomera refugee camp was the most dramatic and well shot footage under pressure I ever saw in that shameful chapter of Australia's history. It brought home to anyone who saw it the inhumanity of the Howard government's policy on refugees and their imprisonment."
From the footage, the short film Through the Wire was made, which was honoured with a screening at the Human Rights Watch Festival in New York in 2004, and subsequently had a short cinema run in New York.
Also in 2002 Stuart and Bill set off around the world to document poverty in the coffee industry. Fair Trade is a means of licensing growers so that they receive a fair price for their beans, minimising slavery and child labour. To highlight this they went to the USA, then Stuart continued to Central and South America, the UK and South Africa. He was overseas for 8 months, and made a short film called The Okapa Connection as a prelude to the main film which was not completed.
Stuart's most recent passion was climate change. He made several trips filming sea levels rising in the Carteret Islands, and was in the process of producing The First Wave, a documentary about the upcoming evacuation of those islands by its peoples.
One of Stuart's hallmarks was that he was single-minded in bringing causes to public attention. For example, while filming for his coffee film in Mexico City he was mugged and had his precious camera gear stolen. Despite being injured and traumatised, he replaced the equipment and kept going. Similarly, while in the Carterets he contracted malaria and was regularly hospitalised for bouts of this disease up until the time of his death.
Stuart also worked for various organisations producing footage for television. He filmed blockades of old-growth logging in East Gippsland, government summits and protests, and was commissioned by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to produce film of environmental or human rights issues.
Since his death, his family, his partner and the wider activist community have been sent messages from people who cannot believe that Stuart is gone. His impact on all of these people was profound. Representatives from groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Nuclear News, Film Victoria and the Wilderness Society emailed and came to his funeral to express how much Stuart meant to them and how important his work was. He was seen as a thoroughly humble man but one of those few who genuinely made a difference, and who truly left this planet a better place than he found it.
In addition, Stuart's family were privileged to be asked to attend a memorial service held shortly after his funeral at the Alfred Hospital where he worked for fifteen years part-time as a nurse. At this event, many of the hospital staff spoke of Stuart's fine qualities as a nurse, but also of his sense of humour, compassion, friendliness, work ethic, and kind, gentle nature. He truly made an impact on his nursing colleagues, as he did in other areas of his life, and his death stunned and shocked them.
Like many highly driven and talented people, Stuart had personal demons that he often found hard to control. On January 22 he took an overdose of anesthetic drugs and went peacefully to sleep. Although he had much more to give the world, he is now at peace.
Some of Stuart's films and other information about his life and work can be seen on his website - http://www.starr.tv/. He has left behind his partner Gurney, mother Helen, siblings Karen, Jennie and Martin, and nine much-loved nephews and nieces.
Jennie Hill, 2008