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.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Riding the Rails: Public Transport Not Traffic campaign launch

Leafleting under the Flinders Street Station clocks

Happy Launch Day to the Public Transport Not Traffic campaign!
This morning I walked to Clifton Hill station, took some photos of the Public Transport Not Traffic group (PTNT) doing their thing, jumped on the train to Flinders Street station, took some pics of the leafleters there before boarding another train to return me to Clifton Hill, after which I walked home, where I arrived in time to start work at 9 am. Phew! One major advantage of the opposition to the Tunnel movement I can definitely vouch for is that it gets you moving early. These days a good lie in for me is 7am! But it was well worth it. It was great to see the PTNT group up and at it so early at Clifton Hill.

Clifton Hill team

I'm embarrassed to confess that I was very glad that Mack was staying put at Clifton Hill. Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to visit Flinders Street. What public transport activist leaves home without her Myki card? This one. Thank you, Mack, for the loan.

Mack with enthusiastic commuter

I overheard the lady above saying that she was hearing from so many sources about opposition to the East-West link and pro-Public Transport that she was keen to know where PTNT fits in. Her impression that there is a groundswell of interest is music to the ears.

The Flinders Street station gang

At Flinders street the leafleters were hard at it by the time I arrived. Leaflets were disappearing fast, and even though many of the passers-by just grabbed a leaflet in passing on their way to work, that wasn't always the case.

Stopping to share a laugh

Leafleters were very seasoned by the time I left. They had their shpiels off pat and seemed to be attracting a lot of positive attention.

Disappearing like hot cakes

The leaflets are particularly attractive. The design is clear and colourful, and encourages commuters to go online to have their say about Melbourne's transport future via a brief survey that can be completed between one stop and the next. There is even a prize - of a $50 MYKI card. The designers have made a good job of their market research.

An arresting leaflet

Although I only had time to visit two locations, it was heartening to think that other train stations across Melbourne were also being leafleted. What a great launch for an inventive new community campaign. Welcome Public Transport Not Traffic!

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Where's the Train?" Trains Not Tolls Troupe at Doncaster Mall

Getting the message out there

This morning a group of Public Transport enthusiasts met briefly under the Fitzroy grandstand for our final (only) full dress rehearsal, before heading out in convoy to wow shoppers at the Doncaster mall. We chose Victorian costumes to make the point that a train to Doncaster was first promised in the 1870s. And we are still waiting.

Queuing for the train?

Under the able tutelage of Roderick Poole we had learned strategies to attract attention in a busy mall. We queued in a variety of spots, mingled, walked about decorously as befits Victorian ladies and gentlemen, rode up and down the escalators and read our newspapers. Our aim was to intrigue onlookers and hopefully make them more aware of the need for Doncaster rail and other public transport options. We didn't talk directly with viewers ourselves, but instead directed queries to our main support person, Anne Mullins, who I also have to thank for the great pictures in this post. I couldn't take them myself because I was one of the performers and the camera didn't fit down my bra.

I loved my dress

We all looked fabulous and of course it was the costumes that attracted so much attention. I was bowled over by how ingenious everyone was in acessorizing, one of the men (I think it was Roderick) even locating in an op shop Victorian spectacles, whose prescription suited him fine.  And of course we also have to thank the famous Rose Chong, of Gertrude Street, who generously outfitted us all as her contribution to the East-West Link protest.

Rose and Bella - thank you so much!

While I think of it, there were others to thank, especially Douglas, who organised us all, and Andrew who made the marvellous newspapers, which were a crucial way to get our message across, especially as it is illegal to hand out flyers in a mall.
It was great to see how many people stopped what they were doing to watch us. And several commented that in such a busy noisy atmosphere the sheer silence of our performance made a big impact.

Enjoying the performance

Some of the heartening things Anne reported were that people really appreciated what we were doing and many expressed great enthusiasm for Doncaster rail. I just hope news of our bewildered search for the train in the Doncaster mall gets out there, and those who haven't given the situation much thought to date start thinking.
This was my first experience of street (or rather, mall) theatre and I must say I enjoyed it a lot. And it was such fun dressing up!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Moratorium and the National Day of Climate Action

Melbournians heading to the rally

I'm old enough to remember 1971 well. An image that has always stayed with me from that year is of Jim Cairns, the mastermind of the Moratorium movement against the Vietnam War, marching at the head of 100,000 Melbournians up Collins Street. It was a spectacle I never expected to see again, so this morning as I stepped down from the tram at the corner of Collins St and looked about me to see the street crammed with people dressed in 'hot colours' heading to the National Day of Climate Action rally in the Treasury Gardens, I felt overcome by emotion. I stopped myself from crying because I didn't want to embarrass the family, but only just.
In part my tears were because today evoked that earlier triumph. But they were also because I've been saying to myself for a long time that if a Moratorium-like crowd ever comes to the defence of Mother Earth, I'll know my 'cock-eyed' optimism isn't so cock-eyed after all.

Standing room only

The speakers were great, or at least those I could hear were. The crowd was so dense that it wasn't always possible to get close enough to the stage to hear them and I certainly never caught a glimpse of Mark Butler, the Federal Shadow Minister for the Environment, Tim Flannery, who received an impassioned welcome, or our very own Adam Bandt. There were other speakers too, whom I'm sure were equally eloquent and rousing, but for me the power of the event lay elsewhere.
I just loved being surrounded by such a vast number of people, who, like me, feel Tony Abbott has no mandate to turn back the clock and destroy our environment.

What about their future indeed?

Participants were marvellously inventive and once again the signage was a work of art. This was one of my favourites -

She is indeed!

I had only one disappointment, and I need to say from the outset that I might have got it wrong. I never heard Adam Bandt, who is a stalwart opponent of the East-West Link, mention the Tunnel and its implications for the environment. As I say, he might have done so at some point and I missed it; if that is the case, please excuse this whinge, Adam. East-West protestors were certainly there -

Making our presence felt

It would just seem to me a highly significant wasted opportunity if our Federal Minister didn't put in a plug for the anti-Tunnel battle.
I can hardly wait to see the news tonight.
A lot has changed since 1971. There is no single leader at the head of the cause as there was back them. Instead, there are myriad individuals and interest groups, some of whom got to speak at the microphone, others whose costumes or signage reflected their own special concerns. And this time we are not going in to bat for one beleaguered country but the whole planet.
But what's similar was that there were photographers well-positioned to take some great shots.

 Up amidst the tree tops

Let's hope they manage to capture the thrill and promise of this very special day. If not, I'm sure I won't be the only one for whom it is already emblazoned on the mind's eye.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Peter Lalor got me out of bed this morning - for a wet Lend Lease picket

Enjoying being dry

I have to confess that it was very hard to get out of bed to attend the Lend Lease picket this morning. But I'm an Australian history freak from way back and I just had to remind myself that Australia's iconic revolutionary act, the Eureka Stockade, was nearly a fizzer because of the rain. We couldn't let that happen, so slowly I eased the doona back, thinking all the time that Peter Lalor would be proud of me. Despite the big wet, there was a record number of picketers who met at 7am to enjoy a brief dry spell under cover at the corner of Bourke Street and Harbour Esplanade, before wading down to the Lend Lease building.
Because of the police behaviour last week, some of us were nervous. A group who had been most helpful then, ensuring that people didn't fall on to the road if they were pushed  and monitoring police behaviour in general, was the Street Medics. It was most reassuring to see this red-cross arm-banded group in attendance again this morning -

Welcome presence

The media was also well-represented, and interviewed various protestors.

Tony adroitly avoiding any suggestion that our protest was other than peaceful

By the time I left for work at 9am the fears about violence had dissipated. There was a solid police presence, but the officers kept largely to themselves -

On best behaviour

Despite that, whenever a group of police approached our line, we shuffled up closer and held on more firmly to each other. At one point a passing policeman, observing this, quipped: 'Relax.'
We joked that the only violence we spotted was that done to a rat - that we later concluded, given the weather, was probably a crab - that had been squished on the road nearby.
No Lend Lease personnel had appeared for work by the time I left and the few Fujitsu workers passed seamlessly through the picket at the side door.

Front door picket on TV

The firmness of resolve, the wide representation and the camaraderie of the picketers all combined to make this morning a most inspiring experience. I was very glad I'd gotten out of from under that doona. Thank you, Peter Lalor.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Signs of the Times at Today's East-West Link Protest

I couldn't agree more!

It was drizzling this morning. There had been a succession of different protests, meetings and sundry Anti-Tunnel events in recent weeks. So I fully expected that only a few stalwart souls would be at our regular early Friday morning protest. But I couldn't have been more wrong. There was an all-time record number, including the Yarra Mayor, Jackie Fristacky and Cr Amanda Stone.

Yarra Council reps

Something else very pleasing was that there were quite a few new faces, that I soon learned belonged to representatives of other interest groups from elsewhere in Melbourne. This is a great development. We have all realised for ages that the more we attend each others' protests and cross-fertilize the more indominable we will be.
Another difference I noticed this morning is that more and more motorists are tooting their support. I took a moment out to look over the bridge for a long-term view of the gridlock below.

What sane person would want more of this gridlock?

Something I really enjoyed today was colourful new signage that I have never seen before. Here is one:-

The tunnel would be just a below ground version of the gridlock above

I can't resist showing you 2 more:-

Thinking about the signs and the cleverness and work behind their creation warmed me on my wet walk home. No wonder drivers confronted with this colourful vision at the end of the freeway felt compelled to toot their support. Clearly opposition to the tunnel is gaining ground. Those toots are surely a sign of the times.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Royal Park Bunting for Cup Day Commuters

Thea paws-ing for effect

As befits her name, Thea stretches, in true goddess-fashion, after all her decorating efforts. She was one of the Tunnel protestors, from a range of different groups (and species) who were lucky enough to find ourselves on this glorious morning wandering amidst the trees of Royal Park.

Balm for the soul

We were there for a purpose, to decorate the trees with signage opposing the East-West Link and the destruction it would cause to Royal Park and the Zoo. Cup Day provided a perfect opportunity to raise the consciousness of race-bound commuters and families making the most of the public holiday by visiting the zoo.

Home to many other species which would oppose the tunnel if only they could

We got to work early so that the trees would be ready to welcome them all.

Getting Going

An added bonus for activists, I realised all over again today, is that we get to hang out with people with shared values and passions, who often have fascinating stories to tell. One such person that I met this morning is Tony, whose great-grandfather, Francis Meaker, was one of the initial 3 Keepers at the zoo. This was interesting enough, especially as Francis' wife said "To hell with baking scones" and instead raised lion cubs for the zoo in their home. But as well as that, after hours and for 35 years (from 1870 until 1905), I learned, Francis worked honourarily as Royal Park Ranger and later, Crown Lands Bailiff. I couldn't get over the synchrony of Tony being out there today fighting for the very parklands his great-grandfather had cherished.

How proud his great-grandfather would be of Tony

Within an hour or so of beginning, with the park resplendent with signage, we started packing up. As we did so, one of our group dropped past to report that our signs were already being ripped down - by no other than the Park Ranger.

Signs everywhere

 I'm sure Francis Meaker would have been utterly shocked.

Friday, November 01, 2013

'And they're off!': Derby Day for East-West Link Protestors

Off to the Races - Not!

Dressed to impress in black and white, in keeping with Derby Day tradition, Tunnel protestors from a range of different groups met this morning at the corner of Racecourse Road and Bellair Street, the epicentre of Flemington Racecourse-bound traffic.
As Hummers, limousines, taxis and private cars jostled for position or sat immobile beneath the trains flashing overhead, the case for committing public funds to the expansion and improvement of our public transport system couldn't have been more self-evident.

My Kingdom for a Train

Protestors didn't just restrict the racing motif to their clothing. Many placards were designed with race fans firmly in mind. There was Take Your Blinkers Off, Premier Napthine. And $8 Bn Will Leave Victoria Saddled with Debt. But my personal favourite would have to be:

The perfect touch - a bandaid - just what the Tunnel would turn out to be

It was great to meet new people from other parts of town, equally determined in their opposition to the East-West Link. It's beginning to feel like a ground swell to me. Or perhaps it's a wellspring of hope I'm experiencing...

New friends and allies

Sure, it might be a photo finish. Perhaps we'll only get across the line by a nose. But I know where I'm placing my bet.