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.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Up Against the Wall: the Destructive Potential of the East-West Link

New Trains mural at the Fitzroy Pool

Starting the day as I usually do on a Saturday with Andrew's wonderful yoga class at the Fitzroy pool complex, I stopped to admire the new trains mural adorning the wall. This was particularly apt because I was about to spend the rest of the day examining walls and dreaming of trains.
Keith Fitzgerald, long term Collingwood resident and a stalwart of the Trains Not Tollroads movement, had asked me to take photos of damage to local houses dating back to the building of the Eastern freeway in the '70s. Keith hopes that producing a flyer, with images of what could happen to homes should the Tunnel go ahead, might encourage more home owners and occupiers to join our protests. We started our investigations in Hotham Street, Collingwood.

Open to the skies

Huge road building projects such as the Eastern Freeway have an inevitable impact on the water table, destabilising the earth so that cracks and eventually large fissures appear in peoples' homes.

Bill, long-term Hotham Street resident

After the building of the Eastern Freeway, Vic Roads paid compensation for damages to some residents who submitted a claim within the first eighteen months. But for many people the damage took longer to appear and up to 90% of affected residents received no compensation. Consequently they have had to go it alone paying for repairs. Repairs that in many cases make only a temporary difference.

The never-ending story of the bathroom floor at no 141 Hotham Street

Bianca Merkel of no 141 says that no amount of re-concreting of her bathroom floor works, as the fissure inevitably returns. Bianca loves her home but dreams of a trouble-free house like the one presented to her by a friend yesterday -

One Collingwood home with no cracks

Many of the houses we visited were occupied by students and other young people on limited incomes, who are often particularly undemanding of owners. In those houses damage dating back to the Eastern Freeway construction is painfully obvious:

These are just a few examples of the many pictures I took of the cracks in peoples' houses. Talking to residents, what became even more obvious were the cracks that the construction of the Eastern Freeway had caused in peoples's entire lives and communities. It's no wonder, as Keith put it, that: 'We are not going to cop the chaos of the seventies again. The citizens of Collingwood and Lower Clifton Hill (who are once again in the firing line) will fight the Tunnel all the way.' And the rest of us will be right behind them.

Monday, December 16, 2013

So this is Melbourne: Brunswick Street Tunnel Picket this morning.


Unbelievable but true. This morning inner-city Melbourne felt like a police state, as a large contingent of armed officers rammed East-West protesters, who had linked arms to encircle the drilling rig on Brunswick Street. Amidst cries, and occasional shouts from protestors that 'This is a peaceful protest' and with one young man imploring: 'Don't hurt my mother!' police pushed and dragged protestors from the fence.
Some people were hurt. Many were frightened. Fortunately the Street Medics were in attendance as usual to treat and comfort (and water).

Medic alert

Amidst the scuffles and chants of 'No tunnel. No way. We're going to fight it all the way', feisty Rosie managed to escape notice and scampered up the rig, to which she attached herself with her handbag strap (vinyl of course). From her vantage point she cheerfully resisted the urging of police to come down.

Rosie - woman of the hour

It was great to hear that work on another rig, in Emma Street, was also at a standstill because two of our fellow protestors, Andrew and Gabriella, had taken the initiative and locked on. The Steet Medics and a few other people were there supporting them.

Removing the protestors from around the Brunswick Street fence, the police then stationed themselves in front of it. After a break to compose themselves, the protestors took up new positions in front of the police.


Periodically protestors kept up their chants: 'What do we want?' 'Public Transport.' 'When so we want it?' 'Now.' 'How are we gonna get it?' 'Fight for it.' And they did that even after what I found to be one of the most shocking and upsetting incidents - on orders from a superior, all along the line the police gave protestors an almighty push in the back. Arriving just after dawn, I'd found the image of the assembled police, in their reflective gear particularly scary in the half light, but in the light of day they proved even more frightening.

A scary prospect

The police targeted different protestors, and at one point a young man called Brendan was dragged to the ground, handcuffed and marched off to a police van where he was charged with assaulting a policeman!

Brendan after his ordeal

I had to leave just after 8 to get to work, and by that time the rig workers had still not arrived. But although today was frightening, it smacks to me of the actions of a desperate government. There were far more picketers than usual, the media (even including the ABC) was there. The cast of the popular series 'Offspring', scheduled to film near Brunswick street and Emma street were majorly pissed off that they would have to reschedule, but made a point of expressing their support for our aims.
Perhaps it's no surprise that, despite the distress of the morning, on my way home 'The people, united, will never be defeated' kept spooling through my head.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Napthine's Nemesis at Snap East-West Link Protest outside Parliament Today

Decorating the steps of Parliament

At lunch time today numerous community groups, organisations and individuals responded to the call of the Protectors of Public Lands to meet, in full view of Parliamentarians, on this last day's sitting before the Christmas recess.
Today was chosen because it is D-day for public submissions about the Comprehensive Impact Statement on the East-West Link. It also represented the final opportunity to give Government Ministers something piquant to chew over with their turkey, namely the groundswell of public opinion opposing the 'dud' Tunnel.

Tony Morton of Public Transport Users' Association with MC, Rod Quantock, and tram in background

That the East-West Link is a dud is something that Tony Morton believes the people of Victoria now know. One of the many heartening things about today's protest was the increasing sense of confidence from speakers that the tide is turning. Greg Barber, State Greens MP, went as far as to say that: 'We have won the argument.' (Adding: 'Now we have to win the fight.')

Greg Barber says 'Halt' to Tunnel planning

With the increasing numbers and diversity of supporters at every event, their commitment and their creativity, I'm inclined to agree with him that we have indeed won the argument.

Arresting placards of the Green Wedges group

I had never spotted the Green Wedges group before, nor representatives of the 'sand belt', who expressed support at the open microphone.
Newly-formed CALM (Citizens for a Liveable Melbourne), a small band of local friends determined to 'do something', has devised an ingenious idea. The group has transformed Daniel O'Brien's beautiful photos of bird-life at Trin Warren Tam-boore (Bellbird Waterhole), a site that lies within the construction boundaries of the Tunnel, into postcards. They intend sending postcards regularly to carefully selected and influential politicians over coming months.

Keith Fitzgerald: Napthine's Nemesis?

But I want to end today's post with some excerpts from the speech of Keith Fitzgerald, Collingwood resident of over 60 years, and one of those facing eviction. Though his own situation is dire, Keith always moves quickly to the potential impact on the wider community.  Here is some of what he had to say:
'We are fighting for our communities because of the catastrophic collateral damage which this project will cause in the districts of Lower Clifton Hill and North Collingwood if it goes ahead. This project is immoral; it encourages monetary greed, unaccountability and injustice to the normal working class people of these communities. We are not going to cop the chaos of the '70s again. We will fight to see that Doncaster, Rowville and Airport Rail are built along with the Metro Rail Tunnel.
We, the people of Victoria, demand a say in a proper and upfront democratic process. This Government has no mandate to build this financial and environmental disaster. It will take the state 20 years to recover from this fiscal nightmare.
We can and we will win this campaign.'

As Rod Quantock suggested, in Keith Premier Napthine might well have met his nemesis.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Santa's Little Helpers - this morning's Eastern Freeway protest

Pretty please, Santa!

This morning at the end of the Eastern Freeway protestors were getting into the Christmas spirit, with Santa hats and streamers galore. The increasing number of toots from passing motorists meant that we didn't need champagne to feel festive. We know that around 74% of Melbournians favour improved public transport over more roads and that is becoming more and more obvious in the enthusiastic reactions to our protest.

This fact speaks for itself

It's amazing when confronted with the streams of cars emerging from the freeway, or more often stuck at the exit, to imagine how the situation would be improved were 800 or 1600 or ... removed from the freeway. All those ex-motorists, who could relax in the comfort of brand new trains, while somebody else did the driving.

Don't we all know it!

The light-heartedness of this ongoing protest and the creativity and playfulness of the sign developers and carriers makes it a fun way to end the week. Rather than feel they are being preached at, many motorists are obviously welcoming the street theatre that awaits them as they leave the grey angry freeway.

A simple and sensible request

Herschel, Alison and Norelle

One of the aspects I enjoy most about the East-West Link protest movement is the camaraderie that is developing amongst us protestors, and the opportunity standing by the road's edge provides for rich conversations with people, who might otherwise never cross your path.
Herschel, from North Caulfield, a self-confessed 'provocateur' is convinced that we are winning the public debate. He believes that the Liberal Government knows they have made a huge blunder with the East-West Link, and need to find a way to exit from this disastrous project without losing face. I am inclined to agree with him and so I ended up feeling very buoyed by our conversation. Maybe a Doncaster train will be in all our Christmas stockings this year!