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.