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: http://williamsrivervalley.blogspot.com.au/  


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