SUE JACKSON Therapist | Writer | Photographer | Activist

An avid blogger for the last fifteen years, I believe in the power of the word to change the world. I have participated in, and reported on, a range of protests during this period, including the successful East-West Link campaign and, more recently, our wonderful, home-grown Extinction Rebellion (XR). If you believe, like I do, that it is time for ordinary people to rise up in defence of the planet, I encourage you to explore this blog, share it with your networks, and – of course – take action.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

XR Ride-in to Die-in Moreland

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Yesterday, members of Extinction Rebellion Moreland staged their first ever action - in Sydney Road Brunswick. The Rebels met at nearby Moreland Station before walking, biking and skating along the famous shopping street - destination Brunswick Town Hall, site of their Die-in for Climate Action.

The timing couldn't have been better as the neighbourhood was buzzing with Saturday morning shoppers, many of whom were intrigued by the whole event. I know because I did a lot of standing on the edge of the crowd with my camera, and was regularly approached by passers-by curious to hear what was going on. Of course I was more than happy to oblige.


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XR Moreland's rationale for organising this action couldn't be clearer: 

'To save ourselves, it's going to take everything we've got. We have to build upon the success peaceful civil disobedience has had and continues to have in the ongoing struggle for civil rights, women's rights and LGBTIQ rights. We have to join together and act now, uniting in rebellion to protect each other and all life on earth.' 

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This unity with struggles in other parts of the world was exemplified by the presence of some unique instruments at the march. Huge drums from Bali, decorated with XR motifs, were carried by teams of musicians. The unfamiliar and sombre beat of the drums as we walked along added gravitas, anticipating the Die-in to come.

And waiting to welcome the marchers at the junction outside Brunswick Town Hall was a red sight:


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I had seen images of XR's Red Rebels before, but yesterday was the first time I had ever seen them in the flesh. With their chalk-white faces, red lips and matching costumes, these other-worldly figures moved and swayed and mimed their way through the crowd. The originator of the troupe, Doug Francisco, suggested of their aim: 'We wanted people to almost empathically feel and understand our message, which is the power of art.' It certainly worked for me. I can't stop thinking about them. 

When the time came, with the Red Rebels signing, the large crowd laid down on the road, simulating the fate that awaits us all if we don't change course dramatically - and quickly.


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Luckily, the roads were not saturated as they had been for days. In fact the sun was shining and it was almost pleasant on the bitumen, doubly so when an inspiring speech by Greta Thunberg was played over the loud speakers. The short speech (above, 2 minutes) isn't the exact one, but it does give the flavour of what it was like to lie on the road, with no worries about traffic - diverted by a squad of police for the duration - listening to her inspiring words.  In her speech (above) Greta suggests we should all panic, because we need to propel ourselves to step out of our comfort zones and take action. And of course that was exactly what the rebels at yesterday's Die-in were doing.


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And when she suggested further that to change the course of history, we all need to stand up, with encouragement from the Red Rebels, that is exactly what the large crowd did.  As we stood in unison, shouting 'Stand up!', I'm sure I wasn't the only one fighting tears.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

XR's Umbrella Unit at Gertrude Street Projection Festival

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In the 12 years Fitzroy's beloved Gertrude Street Projection Festival (GSPF) has been running it has attracted some unusual revellers. Of course everyone comes to see the shifting lights over the unique streetscape, the art works and the live performances. But some of last night's guests were there for something extra. The famous light festival proved irresistible as the inaugural outing for Extinction Rebellion's Umbrella Unit. They visited to strut their stuff while mingling with the crowd to spread the XR message. Here they are getting ready:

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Last night was the perfect inaugural venue for the Umbrella Unit, as the festival's aims and those of XR are so aligned. As the GSPF program suggests the theme of this year's event is: 'Resist. Persist. Shift'.  Artists explore themes of desire, disruption and subversion, and urge us to seek to forge alliances and encourage us to persist.'

Last night was a night of questions for the 'Jolly Brolliers', like 'What exactly is Extinction Rebellion'? Many people have heard of XR by now, but lots have misapprehensions or don't know what it is.

The answer is: Extinction Rebellion is an international apolitical network using non-violent direct action to persuade governments to act on the Climate and Ecological Emergency. And non-violent direct action was exactly what was on offer last night.

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Another question on some peoples' lips was: 'Why do we need Extinction Rebellion now?' No offence Jolly Brolliers, but nobody answers that key question as eloquently as the eminent Swedish school striker Greta Thunberg. (2.42 minutes):




As I watched the Umbrella Unit hand our pamphlets and engage with the crowds I felt my own hopefulness grow. Especially when I recalled that it is estimated by the renowned American political scientist, Erica Chenoweth, (author of Why civil resistance works), that a mere 3.5% of the population engaging in non-violent resistance can triumph, even in the face of what appears to be impossible odds.

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Last night the aims of the Umbrella Unit's action were 3-fold. The activists wanted to promote the positive look and feel of XR.  They hoped to encourage others to join their ranks. And they wanted to have fun themselves. They obviously did brilliantly on all counts.





Thursday, April 18, 2019

'Stop Adani Convoy': Pit Stop Melbourne


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I'm not really a petrol head, but even I was impressed by this beauty - Tesla's electric car. I was also impressed, though not really surprised, that the Stop Adani Convoy features lots of electric cars.
The convoy, with its initial 80 vehicles (to be joined en route by many others), started out from Hobart on Wednesday. And even on Day 1 it was attracting attention, with THE AUSTRALIAN's predictable negative headline trumpeting: 'Bob Brown compares coal miners to heroin dealers as convoy begins'.

 
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Bob Brown is leading the convoy. With the Federal election only weeks away, he and his team have hit the road to argue the anti-Adani case in a range of venues, focusing particularly on the key states of Queensland and New South Wales. The route is Hobart - Devonport - Melbourne - Albury - Sydney - Coffs Harbour - Mullumbimby- Brisbane - Airlie Beach - Galilee Basin - Canberra. And at each of these venues there will be a rally just like yesterday's at Birrarung Marr, with enlightening speakers, entertainment and of course banners galore.


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A highlight of the trip will no doubt be the protest at the proposed site of the Adani mine in the Galilee Basin. After that the convoy will move on to Canberra, where it will stage its final rally outside Parliament House on the 5th May, less than 2 weeks before the election.

Bob has taken this break from his beloved bird-watching and post-politics tranquility to step back into the political limelight because he feels the stakes couldn't be higher: 'The proposed mine is an assault on the right of every young Australian who looks forward to a secure future. This outrageous, job-killing economy-wrecking mine in Queensland is the wrong way for this nation to be going.' Luckily, he is not alone in his concern. Nor his generosity.

At last count almost 2,000 people had enquired about joining the convoy. And this requires no small commitment. All these convoy members are suspending their ordinary lives. Instead in 'an epic act of community defiance for the future of our planet' they have signed on for a 3-week-long, self-funded, extensive and likely arduous road trip. I have no doubt the rewards will be great and that I was not the only person in the audience wishing they were going too. I salute them! Below are photos of a few of them - and their vehicles:

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All the speakers, including Bob Brown himself, Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Dave Wandin, together with representatives from the Australian Conservation Foundation and Tesla shared a positive determined attitude. The organisers of the convoy had decided in advance that a non-partisan approach would maximise their chances of converting listeners to an anti-Adani stance. For that reason, even though there were politicians in the audience, especially Greens, none of them were invited to join the speakers up on the stage. And that is how the rally will proceed. However there will be a single exception to this exclusion clause.


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By trek's end the organisers hope they will be reaching out a hand to help the Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, join them, to stand tall on stage.



Thursday, March 21, 2019

Now! Climate Emergency Declaration Day


Sing for the Climate Belgium

We are in a world-wide climate emergency and we are running out of time to act. What we need is more than hope, we need courage. It's time to move into emergency mode, time to work together to do what is needed. It is time to rebel.

So says extinction rebellion, a burgeoning world-wide movement of ordinary people utilizing nonviolent resistance to avert total climate breakdown.


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It was extinction rebellion that posted the Belgium anthem (above) on Fb. They were also the organisers of today's event - Declaration Day - in Melbourne's beautiful but steamy Treasury Gardens.

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extinction rebellion Australia was aiming very high today. The target was no less than the Federal Government: We call on the Australian Government to declare a climate emergency and initiate a transition to zero emissions and beyond at a scale and speed never before seen in peacetime.

To date extension rebellion's demand had been primarily directed at City Councils, an unexpedtedly large number of whom have been receptive. At last count, 392 councils covering 34 million citizens worldwide have signed the declaration that they are now in a state of climate emergency.

The countries involved are Canada, the UK, Switzerland, the USA and Australia. Here at home there are 18 engaged councils across NSW, SA, WA and Vic, where I am delighted to say that 'my' council of Yarra, together with neighbouring Moreland and Darebin, are signatories. And my old home town, Bath UK, is the latest council to embrace the previously taboo 'E word' as an appropriate description of their plight.


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Jane Morton (above), Convenor of Darebin Climate Action Now, explained to me today that the shift to the use of the weighty word 'Emergency' is a game-changer. This change started in Australia in 2016 when it was no longer possible to deny that our beloved Reef is dying.

Now it's time to convince the politicians at the top of what ordinary people have known for 3 years. Our time has come. Undoubtedly that was why today's protestors so enjoyed singing rounds of 'This is what democracy looks like':


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It felt particularly apt to be standing on beautiful grass for such an inspiring grass roots event. Like others, I'm sure, I left the rally elated.


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It was only on the way home on the tram that I realised there was an additional reason for my elation.

Jane Morton is a peer of mine. We live in the same area. Our children even went to the same primary school. Jane is a very modest person. Unless I had asked her directly I'm sure she wouldn't have acknowledged her pivotal role in this amazingly successful, world changing initiative.

Jane  is convenor of the tiny Darebin Climate Action Now team. Due to the team's efforts Darebin was the first city council in the world to declare that their district was in a climate emergency. Jane, an ordinary person like me, is making an extraordinary contribution. I nearly missed my tram stop as I pondered this and Margaret Mead's famous saying: 'Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.' 

Do visit www.rebellion.earth. Or sign up for the Australian branch of extinction rebellion at ausrebellion.earth 


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Thursday, February 28, 2019

'School Strike 4 Climate': Josh Frydenberg's Office



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This morning I joined protesting students outside Josh Frydenberg's office in Camberwell.  You can see some of those students (above) waiting, and waiting, for him to appear. As eventually I had to leave, I am not sure if he ever graced them with his presence. It seemed telling that while these young activists broiled in the heat below, our Deputy Liberal Party Leader and Treasurer sat in air-conditioned comfort in his office above. Perhaps he even has sound proofing, so could effortlessly ignore heartfelt chants like:

'Too much carbon in the atmosphere. Oops it's hot down here.'


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Students from all over Victoria appeared outside the Minister's office. This is why:

'We are striking to ask Josh Frydenberg to protect our future and #StopAdani's mine as the first step towards moving Australia OFF fossil fuels and ON to 100% renewable energy.'

 Many of the protestors arrived by train, including a large cohort from rural Castlemaine.

I was concerned that they might be penalised for skipping school to attend a protest. But I needn't have worried. As the trio below quickly reassured me their teachers are very supportive, and many of yesterdays' lessons at school were focused on how to behave and stay safe at a protest.

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There were not only young students pouring out of Camberwell Station. There were supporters of all ages:

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But, whatever their age, protestors were united in their goal - to make politicians listen. Because as the students put it:
'Coal is the number one cause of devastating climate impacts that are hurting our communities right now. Yet neither of the major parties have committed to stop Adani building the largest coal mine in the Southern Hemisphere.'

That's why, marching to the Minister's office they chanted:
'Coal. Don't dig it. Leave it in the ground. It's time to get with it!' Overdue time, I would say!

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As this student below put it later in the morning:  'I love my education, but my future is more important.' 

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Support the Global Strike on March 15, when students everywhere will be striking from school for a safe climate future.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Invasion Day Melbourne - Wow!


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I felt so proud of Australia's youth today at the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne. There were just so many of them there, determined to help re-write our history and demand justice and respect for Aboriginal people.  It was heartening to think that the younger generation's values are so much better and more grounded than many of their forebears'.

I had thought in advance that, as its title was so unequivocal, the rally might attract few people. But I was completely wrong. I am no good at estimating numbers, but people kept pouring off the trams. And the congestion you can see (below), as we turned around to march down Bourke street, will give you some idea of how packed the junction and surrounds were. 

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Of course the day was not exclusively about the young. The Elders who spoke made a wonderful contribution. And there were other older protesters as well, some of whom are fighting fiercely against the government on a number of different fronts.

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But for me the overall impression from the day was of the joy and energy exuded by these beleaguered young Australians. Even just visually the young, in their rich diversity, look so different from many of the power brokers in our country. Here are a few more photos of the crowd - could these Australians look any more different from the overall homogeneity and conservatism emanating from our Cabinet Ministers?!


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I was delighted to hear that Melbourne was by no means alone in its recognition of Invasion Day.  And I learned(belatedly) that last year over 100,000 people spent Australia Day at an array of Invasion Day events.

Today for Sydney-siders there will be firelighting, ceremonies, concerts and a march. In Brisbane there will be speeches and a march. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra will be hosting music and yarning circles. There is an Invasion day event in Adelaide. In Perth and Fremantle there will be rallies and concerts. Darwin is offering a free lunch at a community event. Hobart has already had a Dawn Service recognising the frontier wars and massacres, and there is also a rally.

Unknown to me until it was too late to attend, here in Melbourne too there is an annual Dawn Service. Amongst others abused and killed,  the service particularly honours the thousands of Aboriginal people whose bodies were taken for science and collecting. 
I will certainly attend next year.

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Funeral for our future. Stop Adani Melbourne



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This morning there was a Funeral for Our Future at Melbourne's Federation Square. This was the organiser's (Stop Adani)  invitation:

It's time to send a strong message to our politicians - our future is in serious jeopardy due to their inaction on climate change. On the #StopAdani National Day of Action, wear black and join us in mourning what we may lose, and demand our politicians take action: they must publicly commit to stopping the Adani coal mine and transitioning away from fossil fuels in order to save our reefs, our farmers, our home, our future. 

The funeral had everything! 

There was a casket, surrounded by carefully arranged displays highlighting the inmate's characteristics.

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There was a celebrant, who was all too aware of the corpse's power for evil. Yet she still encouraged us to persist and to hold on to hope for the future.


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Of course there was a sympathy card. But in a week when the West Australian government has opened the gates to fracking and Adani has announced he will use his corporate billions to build his coal mine (even as catastrophic fires decimate Queensland), it was the guests who needed sympathy at this funeral.


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There were forlorn mourners.


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And those who are determined to point the finger directly at a principle culprit for a harrowing future scenario.


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 As is appropriate at a religious service, some people came with their entreaties.


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Others knew exactly where to address those requests. And given Victorian Labor's recent massive electoral victory, plus the fact that an early action of the original Andrew's Government was to dump the dreaded East-West Link and then make Victoria fracking free, we can only hope they will soon step up and oppose Adani before it is too late. The electoral result should surely embolden them.


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The service had its ritual: a march around the CBD, featuring pallbearers who carried their weighty burden with dignity.


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In true New Orleans fashion, the great Riff Raff Marching Band celebrated the corpse's passing and trumpeted all our hopes for a fossil free future. 


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