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.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Disgustation, Dancing with Death & IMARC



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Yarra Promenade South Wharf was the glorious setting last night for an XR double bill. The aim was to draw attention to the nefarious International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) which - in case you have been on the moon - has been on in Melbourne this week.  

At the Discobedience event climate activists, by dancing with death, (above) highlighted the terrifying future that awaits us if agendas like those of the conference are not thwarted: 'We will be dancing with death to draw attention to the deaths of the Indigenous people across the world and the ongoing death of our planet due to the actions of these mining companies.'

As IMARC delegates sat down to their banquet in Palladium at Crown Casino another group of elegantly-attired diners nearby were looking forward to experiencing an al fresco Disgustation.
 

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The Degustation organisers were able to obtain advance copies of the Palladium menu, so the al fresco diners were treated to a sneak peak at what the IMARC diners had to look forward to. Passers-by, to whom the menus were distributed by waitstaff (below), found them full of gastronomical surprises.


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The Starter was 'a platter of rare Great Barrier Reef fish with twists of bleached coral and a crown-of- thorns starfish glaze'. The main courses included 'high-grade black coal garnished with sun-dried bees'. And for greedy delegates there was a delicious concoction of heat-stressed berries on a bed of exotic weeds available for dessert.

In solidarity with their IMARC neighbors, the Disgustation diners agreed to sup on a dish featuring steel wool. I don't think Audrey (below) looked too happy at the prospect.


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Meanwhile further along the Promenade the Discobedience was well underway.
The dancers' evening attire, covered with blood and signage, might have seen better days and they were sometimes encumbered with weighty accessories, but nothing could undermine the enthusiasm of swing fans dancing to challenge death. 


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Passers by and restaurant customers certainly appreciated the show and the contact with roving activists too.


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There was also a 'die-in' at Discobedience. Greta Thunberg's recorded message sounded particularly portentous in the waning river light.


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Here are the Discobedience crew back on their feet (or at least most of them are):


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What a night it was.
I was particularly stuck by the contribution of the outriggers. Those opting to mingle with the crowds and missing out on the dancing at the Discobedience, and the others, encased in Disgustation sandwich boards, spending their evening handing out menus and missing the meal. (Wise move!) Rosie (below) is one such person, who concluded her time was well spent when a conference delegate from India stopped to talk and seemed receptive to her views. 


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 Here are more of those sandwich boards (complete with seagulls). Perhaps they are waiting for you?:


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Thursday, October 10, 2019

XR Spring Rebellion: Blockade IMARC 'Dress Rehearsal'

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I have a confession to make. I was a no show at the XR protest outside the BP building in the Melbourne CBD this morning.  Despite my good intentions.

I was hanging out to go, to help convey to Australia's biggest coal producer that its days are numbered. And via today's dress rehearsal to put BP on notice that the blockade planned for the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) in Melbourne (28 -31 October) is going to be a whopper.

I knew there was a 7.30 start this morning, but as the protest was scheduled to finish around noon I reckoned a 9.30 arrival was safe. Wrong! This was the scene that greeted me on arrival at the BHP building:

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Luca (left) had miscalculated too. The security guard was helpful, explaining that we had missed the protest, which had only just ended. But he had no idea where the activists were heading next. Disconsolate, we wandered down to the intersection, where we ran into 2 other latecomers:


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After a  few turns around the intersection, and no luck finding the protestors, we decided to make our way to base camp at Carlton Gardens. And this proved a very good move.

Luca, who is new to XR, got to meet Jane Morton, a spokesperson for XR, who plays a primary role liaising with the media:


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I got to soak up the atmosphere of the camp, home to so many activists and their families this very big week. It was great to get to talk with some of them. There has been some rain, and the weather has been changeable, so camping out hasn't always been easy, especially at the end of long sessions of protesting or blockading. But peoples' spirits seemed high, the setting is glorious, and the services are in place for those needing medical or emotional support.

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The XR Spring Rebellion has a further two full days to run, so if you haven't done so yet, get on down. I can recommend Carlton Gardens as a good place to start.

And one thing I know for sure is that at the IMARC Blockade later this month, I will be first to arrive!


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.