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 24, 2013

'Trains Not Toll Roads' at Parliament & 'Time of Our Lives' Shoot?

Right on!

It was another freezing day on Tuesday, but at least the rain held off. But nothing would have dampened the ardour of the 300 or so Trains Not Toll Roads protestors who assembled on Parliament steps. We were determined to make our intentions absolutely clear to the State Ministers returning from their winter break.
And there were Ministers in our ranks. Daniel Andrews, the leader of the Opposition was poised to present our 10,000 strong petition to Parliament later that day. Richard Wynne, MLA Member for Richmond and Shadow Minister for Public Transport, spoke in support, as of course did Greg Barber, MLC Leader of the Greens. And our wonderful Greens Federal Minister, Adam Bandt, stood modestly in the background.
Jackie Fristacky, Yarra's committed Mayor was welcomed by that national treasure, comedian Rod Quantock, the rally's Master of Ceremonies.

Tony Morton, President of Public Transport Users Association

But the speech that I found most moving was by Tony Morton. Tony suggested that it should have been the passionate advocate and stalwart of the Public Transport Users Association, Paul Mees, at the podium. But tragically Paul died in June, after a long illness. Tony went on to give an utterly rousing address, one that Paul undoubtedly would have applauded. Personally, I have a particular soft spot for the PTUA since they used a photo of mine on their flyer launched at the Fitzroy Town Hall extravaganza. But even without that soft spot, I still think Tony's address stole the show.

Stepping up to Parliament

Tuesday's was a fabulous rally. Many community groups, across the whole spectrum of progressive thinking, were represented. At one point a fellow protestor asked me who I was affiliated with. Taken aback, I initially replied feebly: 'I'm an individual,' until I noticed my yoga teacher, Andrew walking in our direction shaking a tin. Grabbing his arm, I said with relief: 'I'm affiliated with Andrew. I do yoga with him every Saturday morning.' Perhaps it wasn't quite what my interlocutor had in mind.
Another reason I found the rally fabulous was because my suggestion to Yarra Council has been taken up. I'm sure I was only one of many with the same idea, but our meeting point for the early Friday morning protests now boasts a huge and permanent Trains Not Toll Roads hoarding. And the council has decided that the Friday protests will not finish at the end of the month as originally planned, but continue on for as long as necessary. Hearing that announcement at the rally, I must confess I felt a little bit influential. But not for long...
Next day, I was walking towards the Fitzroy Star pub, when what should I notice outside but a film crew obviously taking a temporary break. Fitzroy these days is often like one big film set. It reminds me of my days working in the Bath Child and Family Guidance Clinic.  Because the clinic happened to be located in a Georgian mansion in the centre of town, we were very popular with the film industry.
Often producers would knock on our door, offering us chocolates and even occasionally champagne, to hide our faces and ask our clients to enter by the back lane, while Jane Austen classics were filmed outside our front door. Sometimes we used to peep out the upstairs windows in the hope that we would be immortalised as illegal extras in the next BBC period drama.
But getting back to last Wednesday outside the Fitroy Star, noticing the actor/comedian Stephen Curry, who plays Herb in the ABC's current favourite Time of Our Lives, I whipped out my mobile phone to take some pics. I only managed to take this one of the support cast...

Time of Our Lives shoot?

- on second thought, an SAS-style police presence seems an unlikely addition to the feel-good story line - before a polite but firm producer suggested I 'move along please, Madam.' I tried smiling winningly, but that was one representative of officialdom on whom I made zero impact.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Werribee Park and more on 'Trains not Toll Roads'

Sun-worshipping harvester in Werribee Park

I love Werribee Park. We often meet our friend, Alison, there for lunch.
The park features an Italianate squatters' mansion built in the 1870s, beautiful rose and formal gardens, a heritage orchard, sculptures like the one above and an area replanted with vegetation familiar to the Kurung Jang Balluk people who used to live by the Werribee river. But the great thing is that the entire space, managed by Parks Victoria, is open to the public. And it doesn't cost a cent to picnic under its ancient trees, to wander through its gardens, to bird watch or simply to relax and ruminate.

Old urn gracing formal garden bed

Ruminating was exactly what I found myself doing after lunch there yesterday. Watching families, tourists, lovers and racing kids enjoying different aspects of the park, I was struck all over again by just how blessed we are to have such public lands and spaces. And how we must protect them at all costs.
This thought inevitably led back to the Trains not Toll Roads protest. One of the many things we are fighting for there is the protection of public lands. Royal Park, Travancore and Moonee Ponds Creek will all be bulldozed if the East-West Link goes ahead. We can't let that happen.
I was so apprehensive about that prospect last week that I took what for me is a bold step and contacted Yarra Council with a suggestion. Instead of ceasing the Friday morning protests at the end of August as the Council has proposed, I suggested we keep them going indefinitely until we win the battle. Because as Gandhi put it: 'First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.' We can but hope. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the Council sees it my way.
One good thing, if they agree with my proposal, is that the mornings are beginning to get lighter and there are even signs of spring in the air. Walking to the protest last Friday morning, this glorious magnolia tree, gracing the 'Offspring' family home nearby, was just one of many that made my day.

'Offspring' front garden 

It seems to me a pity not to capitalise on the the momentum that is obviously building at the Friday morning protests. People are showing up in increasing numbers, and even representatives of  the youngest generation are beginning to make their feelings known.

Committed Primary Schoolers

And some protestors are really getting into the spirit of things by customising their banners.

Barry Humphries - eat your heart out. Andrew with his 'gladdies'

Unfortunately, I can't make it this Friday, but tomorrow is a different story.
Tomorrow, Tuesday 20 August, is a big day for the campaign. Parliamentarians will be returning to work after their winter break, and one of the key items on their agenda is a debate on an Amendment designed to fast track the East-West Link . 
Protestors will be meeting on the Parliament steps (in Spring Street) at 12.45pm. The indominable Rod Quantock, a champion of Public Lands, will be the MC. 

I'm going to jump on the tram and head down town in my lunch break. I hope you can make it too!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Protesting: The finale of Melbourne International Film Festival 2013, Joan Baez & Trains Not Toll Roads

Roman maiden in Forum cinema farewelling MIFF 2013 

Sob! It's over for another full year. I've been variously charmed and inspired, frightened and puzzled by my travels in Turkey, Iran, Hong Kong, Russia, Chile, Sweden, Poland, the USA, the UK, Turkey and Western Australia. But it's all over now.
No more will I be rugging up for the icy tram trip down town, to spend days nestled up against strangers in the gorgeous old Forum theatre. The Forum is a true 'Palace of Dreams', as picture theatres were so aptly named in times past.

Dreaming in Melbourne's ancient Rome

MIFF uses several cinemas as venues for its films. One in particular is state-of-the-art and super comfy. But I don't care about that. Give me the Forum's battered, cramped seats any time. After all, who would trade the chance to sit dreaming in ancient Rome for mere comfort?

The ultimate Palace of Dreams - lights playing over the Forum earlier this year during White Night Melbourne

This has been a week of dreaming of times past. Joan Baez hadn't returned to Australia in 39 years, but she made it back here last week. At Hamer Hall, the iconic '70s protest singer's voice trilled and thrilled as it has always done. And it was very heartening to see that, at 73-years-old, she still looks gorgeous.
There were two very special moments for me during the concert. The first was when Baez sang 'Gracias por la vida' (Thanks for life), a Latin American anthem that we have learned to love in Spanish class this year. The second was when she sang 'From Little Things Big Things Grow', Paul Kelly's tribute to Vincent Lingiari, the celebrated Aboriginal activist, who managed to wrest his peoples' land back from the British beef baron, Lord Vestey. It was very touching hearing a person of Baez's stature covering 'our' song. And a reminder that the struggle against big business and the protection of public lands is a never-ending story.
In fact one chapter continues to unfold on our very own doorstep - every Friday at 7am throughout August at the Eastern Freeway exit on the corner of Hoddle Street and Alexandra Parade, Clifton Hill.
Last Friday morning, as I listened to the rain lashing the roof and the wind whistling outside the bedroom window, I only just managed to throw back that doona by convincing myself that the number of protestors would undoubtedly be down, so that the protest would be a wash-out in every sense. But I needn't have worried. Despite the hideous conditions, lots of us turned up. And as you can see, even a chicken joined in, although I thought a duck might have been more appropriate.

Rain or shine

At one point I stood near the corner, holding on with all my strength to my sign as it flapped violently in the wind. I imagined that any moment it might take off skywards with me dangling, Mary Poppins-like, beneath.
There seemed to be even more tooting from passing vehicles this time than the previous week. Maybe drivers watching us from the warmth of their cars were impressed by our sheer doggedness (or our lunacy!). Another group observing us from the comfort of their car were the police - I'm not sure how impressed they were.
But there was one familiar face that I spotted, not snug inside, but out in the elements:-

Yoga teacher extraordinaire

Andrew, my yoga teacher, stood at his station - a small cement outcrop amidst the streaming cars - for ages. If you didn't already know he was a yoga aficionado, those beautifully straight, tireless arms would have given him away.
As you can see from the photo above, the dark, windy, wet conditions made it almost impossible to take pictures, especially as I had to struggle to keep the camera dry beneath an umbrella that kept turning inside out. But I figure it's all good practice. And there were so many inspiring images that I wanted to capture.
The valiant souls below stayed put at their exposed post and even managed to have some fun while doing so.

Tooting and laughing

Join us next Friday?  As you can see, we can always guarantee a beautiful sunny morning.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Toot for Trains

Sunrise over Hoddle Street this morning

Those of you who didn't climb out from under that doona to join the stalwarts at Yarra's inaugural 'Toot for Trains' protest this morning can see the wages of your sins above. You missed a glorious sunrise. And as you can see, it provided a stunning backdrop to trains whizzing into the city, while streams of cars (already by 7am) languished beneath.

And that's exactly what many drivers did

It was great to hear how many drivers exiting the Eastern Freeway responded to the invitation and honked their horns in favour of public transport. I felt like I was in Rome or Saigon, there was so much tooting going on. And despite the freezing conditions and early hour, numerous warmly-clad locals turned up to demonstrate their support for the 'Trains Not Tollroads' initiative.

Faces behind 'Toot for Trains'

And it wasn't only the humans who voted with their feet.

Committed canine

In fact a lovely black and white kelpie snuggled up to me at one point as I stood still taking pictures. I was thrilled with this affectionate behaviour from a strange dog, until I realised his possible ulterior motive. He was probably as frozen as I was. But mere cold was no dampener, especially as more and more people realise how much they stand to lose should the proposed East-West link go ahead. People like the young couple below, whose house is under threat, pictured with Yarra's mayor, Jackie Fristacky.

Mayor leading the way

Ms Fristacky has an appointment scheduled with the Victorian Premier next week. I asked her where it would be held. Not surprisingly, the Premier wants it on his own turf. But I have an alternative venue in mind. I suspect, if he joined the protestor below at his post for a single hour, the Premier's opposition to the rail-line to Doncaster might well evaporate.

Perfect venue for meeting?

The protest had a very good vibe. There is obviously growing support for the idea of improved public transport. Probably there is nothing quite like driving bumper to bumper to work on the Eastern Freeway to make a good public transport system look very appealing. So perhaps it's not surprising that as well as tooting, some drivers waved and shouted encouragement to protestors.

Waving back to tooting motorists

We'll all be at the corner of Hoddle Street and Alexandra Parade again next Friday at 7am - in fact on every Friday throughout August. So do join us. The sense of virtue in rolling out from under that doona is its own reward. And if that's not enough, just think of the sunrise.

See you next Friday?