The Buick

Added on by David Watson.

En route back to Sydney in 1989 after years of working in the UK, Denise and I purchased a fabulous black 1965 Buick Riviera for $2000 from Virginia Gaunt, a Hollywood TV-producer’s widow, in LA. Petrol was a dollar a gallon, and we were off to Mexico! 

After the restraint and subtle greys of London, the ‘black man’s Cadillac’ embodied all the delicious freedoms of the new world – small town yearnings, restless road movies, bad bars, neon and billboards – with a hint of European styling.[1] Yet, according to Virginia, the two-door Buick coupe with its 401-cubic-inch engine was ‘a lady’s car’, which she’d used primarily for shopping.[2] Because I loved its seductive lines and its history and because it toured so effortlessly I shipped the Riviera home, had the steering switched from LH drive, and drove it in Sydney for many years.

However as those devil-may-care late-20th-century days slowly evaporated, our ‘dream’ car became something of a nightmare and, as if in testament to spiralling oil prices, emerging environmental sensitivities and middle-east unrest, the dear old eight-cylinder, eight-mile-per-gallon dinosaur languished mute, dust-laden and unloved in our garage for 15 years.

A Dinosaur in the Garage, 2006


After a few false starts and substantial hand-wringing (it’s surprising how attached a mechanical klutz can become to a piece of metal) – earlier this year I finally decided to let go.

Rozelle Riviera on January 2015


Ian from Adelaide was quick out of the blocks and a few days later was on our doorstep with a plastic bag full of cash, which, he assured me, his father had helped him count. He planned to strip the car back to bare metal and to restore its original factory paint – to white. In coming years it’ll doubtless be worth a small fortune.

Buick Divestment Day, 4 February 2015


Nowadays, with only an occasional teary glance in the rear-view mirror, I travel largely by bicycle. Funny ol’ world… 


[1] The Buick was No. 2 in the General Motors’ stable. The Riviera was designed originally for Ferrari.

[2] 401 cubic inches is approximately 6.6 litres.

Bulga v Rio Tinto

Added on by David Watson.

David Watson - presentation to Planning Assessment Commission (Bulga vs Rio Tinto) @ Singleton Diggers Club, 1 July 2015

Good afternoon. I’m David Watson… environmentally alarmed human being, concerned father… visual artist. I grew up in suburban Sydney with a pet wombat named Binya and Neville Cayley’s What Bird Is That? by my bed. Perversely, my amateur-ornithologist father Ken ran a heavy-earth-moving-equipment franchise in Silverwater, selling graders, scrapers and front-end loaders to councils and cockies around the state. With ‘progress’ in full swing across the western world, coal was for a time arguably good for humanity. But that was 50 years ago.

In 1970 the prescient Australian author and conservationist Vincent Serventy published Dryandra, a quietly observant Walden-like paen to place, to the seasons and webs of life across a dry, seemingly non-descript forest region south of Perth, which he loved. As the toll of progress began to bite on ecosystems nationwide, Serventy was hailed as ‘spearheading the attack against the folly, greed and ignorance of Man, the destroyer of Nature'.

David Watson, Welcome Mat, 2012


How Vincent (who died in 2007) would mourn Australia’s current blind obsession with ‘growth’, our blithe destruction of habitat and community in pursuit of yet more ruinous fossil fuel. I can feel him rolling now in his grave – witness to this country’s greedy coal-rush, to our despicably dumb short-term business-as-usual approach, as we proceed, ignoring all dispassionate expert scientific advice with regard global warming – to feather our own nest, at the expense of others. 

David Watson, Climate Warrior George Nacewa from Fiji with a message for the current Australian government,
Pacific Climate Warriors blockade of Newcastle Harbour, October 2014



Over the past few years I have worked with a collective of environmentally perturbed contemporary artists to help draw attention to climate change. Engaging with local citizens and grass roots activist organisations in the Bylong Valley, at The Drip and in Gloucester, we’ve created exhibitions and agit-prop publications. Last year we undertook non-violent direct action training up at Maules Ck and paddled out with the Pacific Climate Warriors on Newcastle Harbour protesting coal’s role in raising sea levels; in April we mounted Instruments of Democracy, a performance inspired by the brave citizens from all walks of life locking-on across this state against new coal and CSG.

David Watson, Australian Navigators: Pocock & Laird, Brown, 2015
Masquerading as a page from a booklet of Australian postage stamps celebrating our '21st-century navigators' my imagery derives from activist images shot by Front Line Action on Coal in late 2014. Locking-on (l. to r.) in protest against Whitehaven Coal's Maules Ck mine in north-western NSW are former Australian Rugby Union captain David Pocock, fifth-generation local farmer Rick Laird, and 23-yr-old student Chantelle Brown from Wauchope. Australia Post's original Australian Navigators series (1963) featured Cook, Tasman, Flinders etc.


Canadian activist author Naomi Klein’s recently published This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate alerts us to the absolute imperative of global climate action. New coal mines and mine expansions are simply on the wrong side of history. Against the alarming backdrop of our now-universally acknowledged changed circumstances, it is clear to me that Warkworth Mining [Rio Tinto]’s mine expansion application should be rejected out of hand.

David Watson (with Denise Corrigan), Ransom Note, 2013
An entreaty featuring typography sampled from the logos of leading
global warmers (including Rio Tinto) active in NSW


We live on the sunniest, windiest continent on the planet. Why on earth are we not transitioning immediately to renewable energy – to a clean economy offering new jobs – and a future, for your children, and mine?

In July last year then Environment Minister Rob Stokes told the Sydney Morning Herald that New South Wales would be ‘Australia’s answer to California’ on renewables.[1]

How about we get on with that, Rob?

Thank you.


Images in this presentation were created for recent anti-fossil fuel exhibitions by the Williams River Valley Artists’ Project, the collective of contemporary artists with whom I have collaborated since 2009. I have copies of our recent publications here for the panel, and for members of the audience who would like to know more about our work.

Further information:  


[1]  Peter Hannam, ‘Renewable energy: NSW to be Australia's answer to California’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 July 2014.

The Big Australian(s)

Added on by David Watson.

In January we camped up the coast en famille, just like we have every year for the past decade, with lace monitors, spangled drongos, swifts and a motley throng of (largely city-dwelling) human beings. The ‘kids’ - now taller than me - still mercifully enjoy an unspoilt beach, a wild headland, and a game of Scrabble. As usual the weather was hot, the refrigeration poor, the swell fluky and the Macksville op-shops fecund. But something wasn’t right, something new was afoot. A strapping young family from Bulli in a flash black SUV had set up their new tent, tarp, chairs, stretchers, fishing rods and totem tennis on Site H, next door. A metre or so from our camp, emblazoned upon their esky, were the words ‘BHP Billiton – Resourcing the Future’. Did Adam work for the mines, or had he merely borrowed the esky, I wondered? Had their children been told yet about global warming? Cognisant that such conflicted issues lie at the heart of contemporary Australia, and not wishing to spoil anyone’s holiday via direct confrontation, one languid afternoon I snapped my 17-year-old son in his favourite new t-shirt, in a modest attempt to counter the spin, the all-pervasive corporate invasion.

BHP, once dubbed ‘The Big Australian’, is today one of this country’s big-four coal extractors/global warmers. In its amalgamated form the company is now 76% foreign-owned. is an international movement dedicated to solving the climate crisis. ‘350’ refers to the safe level (350 parts/million) of CO2 in our atmosphere, a level we are already dangerously exceeding.

We Are Caretakers - Not Taking Care

Added on by Lisa Reidy.

Last weekend my family and I drove up the New England Highway to Maules Creek - a 1000 km return trip from Rozelle - to witness how mining for coal (an ancient, now discredited fuel) is wrecking this land, how burning it is destroying our planet, and how thousands of Australians of all ages and complexions are taking to non-violent direct action to stop it. With 150 others, including several of my Williams River Valley Artists' Project (WRVAP) confreres, we camped on Cliff Wallace's 'Wando' property north-west of Boggabri to learn more about the remarkable work of Front Line Action on Coal and the Leard Forest Alliance

We gathered cross-legged on the floor and on camping chairs in Cliff's tractor shed to hear from a Gomeroi elder, local farmers and savvy young activists, and swapped notes with a teacher, an ecologist, a wool-classer, and a wiry Sydney cyclist who'd pedalled the last 200 km from Scone. Looking and listening intently for two days, we learnt about aquifers and species extinction, about koalas, bats and burrowing frogs, about the destruction of white box-gum woodland in the Leard State Forest, about tools and tactics: 'locking on', 'scrubbing', 'wallabies', 'bunnies', 'tripods', 'possums', police liaison and social media. 

We sat around the fire with a Kokoda veteran, seasoned environmentalists, babes in arms and fellow artists. On Saturday evening a self-funded retiree, an academic, a tree-changer, a city professional and a muso chipped in to cook and clean for two hundred curious and committed human beings. Even a sceptical 17-year-old (our son) was won over by the urgency, the energy. On Sunday afternoon, Greens leader Christine Milne dropped in to Camp Wando to deliver an inspirational off-the-cuff half-hour exhortation. Later, 300 arms were raised and crossed – NO DEAL – in solidarity against Whitehaven's plans for Australia's biggest new coal mine.

Early next morning, in a series of carefully orchestrated actions, all four of Whitehaven's existing coal mines in the Gunnedah Basin were shut down. Several upstanding citizens who'd locked-on to gates and barrels of concrete to delay the unfolding environmental travesty were arrested (bringing the total now to nearly 300). As one banner proclaimed, THIS IS REAL DIRECT ACTION!

A line in the sand – like no other in the history of this country – is being drawn. 

Get up there if you can - everyone's invited. Support these impressive, well-informed and well-organised souls, who are putting their lives on hold, their bodies on the line, for OUR future. Swell their ranks, bolster their resolve, to keep speaking the truth. 

PS  Great recent piece in New Matilda + look out for Black Hole, a strident new documentary film nearing completion: