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, January 31, 2014

Melbourne's Endangered Species: Potential Casualties of the East-West Link

Frolicking father and son 

In last Saturday's Age, Melbourne Zoo staff made an impassioned plea on behalf of their charges. If the East West Link goes ahead, it will pass within 40 metres of the zoo precinct. This means that the animals face the prospect of five or so years of loud noises, dust-filled air and disruption during construction, followed by constant traffic noise afterwards.
It's hard to believe that a zoo, located in a building site, will be quite the same attractive proposition to the numerous Victorian families who currently visit. And for the animals themselves it would be traumatic.
Zoo staff didn't hesitate to name names in the Age article. So last Wednesday I packed my camera and headed off to visit the animals identified as most likely to be affected.
The elephants, who have much better hearing and are hence more receptive to vibrations than us humans, were my first port of call. It was a hot day and the pair above were having a great time gambolling in the pool.
The giraffes, who are highly strung and 'skittish', were my next stop:

Gorgeous giraffe

I spent some time trying to photograph the seals. Along with the crocodiles and pygmy hippos, they are at particular risk because they spend a great deal of time in the water, and vibrations are amplified by water. But with no feeding time in sight, the seals were expert at keeping their distance from photographers and other curious humans. But I did get to admire them from a distance as they rolled and raced underwater.


On such a warm day, the pygmy hippos were immersed in the water too and their pen is especially designed to give them space away from prying human eyes. I only just managed to capture this fellow as he sensibly turned his back on us all and wandered off:

Humans? Who needs them?

I know. I know. Lemurs weren't mentioned in The Age article as being particularly vulnerable, but maybe it was just an oversight. They struck me as highly sensitive little creatures. Or perhaps it was just that, with Valentine's Day imminent, love was in the air. Whatever... here they are:

My Sleepy Valentine

To protect these animals and others like them join Julianne Bell (Protectors of Public Lands) and other volunteers. They will be handing out leaflets outside the zoo until 8 March in the late afternoons on Fridays and Saturdays (weather permitting). This is the time when many families are passing through the gates on their way home, just as other patrons are entering to attend the Zoo Twilight Concerts. And as all these people presumably share a love of animals, they could well prove a rich new source of opposition to the Tunnel. To contact Julianne simply call 0408 022 408.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

'Operation Burrow': Today's Tunnel Picket (Friday)

Locked on at Operation Burrow

Protestors were amused earlier this week to learn that the police code name for the tunnel protest is Operation Burrow. We had some fun coming up with ideas about what that might mean. One suggestion I particularly liked was that it is so called because the government's business plan has been burrowed away, never to see the light of day.
My own association was with 'bunnies', an old Aussie slang word my Dad used about people who were inept or easily made fools of. I wondered if, as the Tunnel fiasco unfolds, being bunnies just about sums up the police experience.

Jill's bunnies

The artist, Jill Anderson, was there today compiling a pictorial record, as she often does, of her experience. Jill uses books with the word 'black' in their title, and creates in black pen a new story over the old. Watch out for her upcoming exhibition!
I started getting carried away with my bunnies analogy, thinking how ferrets are more than a match for your typical bunny, and that 'ferrets' sounds very close to the 'ferals' that according to some of the press populate our ranks.
The three protestors had outfoxed police - I'll have to stop this! - arriving at the drill site at the intersection of Queens and Alexandra Parades early. By the time we arrived they were settled in on the rig, with one person locked on.

The Early Birds

It was great to think that the occupation of the drill site was slowing down the start of business. Also yesterday the drillers struck problems - literally - as a large rock made it impossible to proceed. At this stage, the drillers too are looking very like bunnies.
News today from Anthony was that new drilling sites have been proposed for Royal Park, even though Linking Melbourne had promised that they would desist there. We are no longer surprised by broken promises, but absolutely committed to resisting further drilling in 'Melbourne's lungs'.
The signage was great today. I was particularly happy to see the old faithful below, formerly at the end of the Eastern freeway, with a clever enhancement:

Beautified old favourite

Another old sign, thought to be lost, also turned up and was proudly displayed:

Crowd pleaser

I had to leave early as usual to get to work. But I learned via twitter that, after my departure, the lockers-on were removed and Sean Bedlam, after being briefly arrested, was released. Police moved in, in force, to enable a works truck to drive into the cage. Protestors sat strong, with the result that work did not commence until after 11am. This is just further evidence that we ferrets are unstoppable.

Monday, January 27, 2014

'Get Back to Work!': The Tide Turns at the Tunnel Picket

'Bacon and Eggs, please'

I was amused to hear today from somebody who should know that there is now solid evidence that the tide of public opinion is turning in our direction.
Though I must admit we picketers still get the occasional: 'Get a job' yelled from passing cars, increasing numbers of motorists are shifting the focus of their ire to another group entirely. Apparently the breakfasting police on the neighbouring median strip are now regularly having their bacon and eggs peppered with vehement cries of 'Get Back to Work!'
Perhaps the recognition of Paul Mees, the wonderful public transport advocate, who received an OAM in the Australia Day awards, is yet another portent. Paul spoke via video link from hospital for the last time in June last year at the launch of the Trains Not Tollroads campaign at the Fitzroy Town Hall. His death the following week was a huge loss to his family, friends, admirers and our campaign. I think we can best honour the memory of the 'professional provocateur' by following his lead in refusing to entertain the possibility of defeat.

6am briefing by Anthony

As Anthony pointed out, there are other positive signs as well. Due to our involvement, the drillers are running well behind schedule. A spin-off of this is that the final shameful act in the Compulsory Acquisitions process might also be delayed.
There are murmurings too that some Labor Ministers are wavering in their resolution to 'honour' contracts if signed by the Liberals.
And at the start of this new week it was heartening to see new protestors joining our ranks.

Carolyn - new today and hitting the ground running

Carolyn instantly volunteered to distribute the Another Toll of the East West Link? leaflet in her neighbourhood.


Justin, whom I meet regularly at our local Food Swap, is a veteran activist, who felt the time is just right to join the Tunnel Picket.
Let Victoria Vote, a group determined to make spending on improved public transport the electorate issue, were also well-represented today. The group has a large and increasing influence, especially via twitter.

Tanya, Keith and Becks: 3 stalwarts

Walking home, I imagined what Paul Mees would make of our picket. I have no doubt he would be impressed with the commitment, creativity and diversity of the group. And he would be even more adamant that we can win.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

R-est, R-elaxation and R-ain at today's tunnel picket (Friday)

Centre Court Tunnel Picket

We started the day at the Alexandra Parade and Wellington Street junction picket with leisure activities uppermost in our minds. With Emergency Services Minister, Kim Wells, spending the day at the tennis last week while Victoria burned, Bill suggested that maybe we are going about things the wrong way. Perhaps to attract State parliamentarians to our cause we need to stage some tennis matches. I wondered if we could try some other enticements as well. After all tennis is not the only thing we have to offer:

There is juggling

And great conversation

 But whatever it takes, we are determined to get our message across:

Out of the mouths of babes

This junior picketer left passing motorists in no doubt of her convictions. In fact she is so passionate in her opposition to the Tunnel that she has convinced a worker at her Holiday Programme to join the protest. Here she is advising Antony:

Hearing from the younger generation

As the drilling was already underway at the site, there was little we could do today to actively oppose it. So we grabbed the opportunity to rest and relax:

Protestors, and police, letting down their guard

And also to talk a bit about Picketer Self Care:

Preethi with satisfied customer, Rosie

Preethi, a young osteopath, inducted into the street medics today, suggested: 'When you are standing stationary for long periods in the picket line, don't sway from side to side to relieve your back or legs. Instead, stand with your legs apart and feet grounded. Then simply bend both knees simultaneously for a while before straightening up. Repeat this action regularly.'
Self care advice is just one of the many services provided by our wonderful group of Street Medics.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

'Get a job, you freaks!': Tunnel Picket (Wednesday)


This morning there were lots of toots of encouragement from drivers exiting the Eastern Freeway to pass us at the latest drilling site on the corner of Wellington Street and Alexandra Parade. Of course there was also abuse, the most regular unboubtedly being the oh so original: 'Get a job!' often shouted with venom. But the placard holders stationed at the edge of the freeway exit are a particularly robust crew. They are expert in responding, some waving cheerfully, others going so far as to taunt abusers with: 'Have a nice day.'

Cool Cats

This morning's change of site from Bud Street was a surprise. Police arrived earlier than us - at 5am - and once again had informed none of the local residents of their intentions. Apparently though, they had marked out the site the previous day to ensure the drill avoided utilities and, overnight, residents removed all their markings. So this morning they had to start all over again. We were prepared for the police to try to move the trucks parked on the verge into the cage, but it never happened.
Instead protestors got to mingle and strategize:

Policeman feeling left out

There was even some singing - of one of the new picket songs - courtesy of our resident composer, lyricist and veteran of the Eastern Freeway extension protests, Rowan White.

Drillers relaxing in the sun

Highway Patrol lurking at junction, forcing cyclists into traffic

In the end girding our loins for further battle proved unnecessary.
A playful challenge that we have a cricket match instead - Picketers versus Victoria Police - was met with silence. Maybe the police are beginning to realise they are out-classed. After all no drilling at all occurred today.

The Picketers' Eleven

Sunday, January 19, 2014

'Mums and Dads' of Melbourne at today's Tunnel Picket (Monday)

That's how you treat your Mums and Dads?

I am still trembling as I write this rapidly before I start work. The scene above is happening at the corner of Alexandra and Queens Parades at this very moment, as protestors attempt to stop the setting up of yet another drilling rig at that corner.
As I watched, I kept remembering how, early on, a police official visiting our picket for the first time expressed surprise that instead of the rabble he'd been led to expect, the protestors he met there were just like 'Mums and Dads'. He was absolutely right; our ranks are full of Mums and Dads - and Aunties and Uncles, Sons and Daughters, with lots of Grandparents thrown in. Yet this is how those ordinary citizens are being treated on a daily basis by police officers - no doubt, by some, against their inclinations - under the direction of the Napthine Government in thrall to its big business cronies. I know I sound particularly strident as I type this, but the scenes I was witnessing an hour ago are unthinkable in the Melbourne I know and love:


Thank goodness for the ever-present Street Medics

Mums and Dads and dogs of Melbourne

The owner of handsome Fred said he brought his canine companion to the picket for a reason. If the East-West Link goes ahead Fred will be only one of many animals - those at the zoo as well as fellow pets and wild-life - who will lose the wonderful resource that is Royal Park. We can't and won't let this happen!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

'And the heat goes on' at the Tunnel Picket (Wednesday)

Greeting the day with a good stretch

My admiration for my fellow picketers is boundless. To be ready for work at 9am, I generally head home just as the sun starts to threaten. At that point many of the picketers, and there are quite a few seniors in our ranks, are facing the prospect of another 4 or 5 hours in the heat.
They are getting very canny about it though - arriving with beach chairs, ice and parasols. Who needs Sorrento sand when you can work on your tan on Collingwood asphalt? This morning one of the picketers compared the items she now regularly totes with the 'pregnancy cases' packed several months before D-day and left by the front door for that dash to the Maternity Hospital. We can only hope that the outcome for us will be just as joyous.
In the meantime, and unfortunately for me, after my departure, locals showered the picketers with ice creams and icy poles, something that no doubt increased the festive air. And they were not the only ones party-ing.

Police trailer park (Alexandra Parade median strip)

I wonder how the police would feel if they noticed the signage and cute trains springing up on the  trees at the entrance to their compound! The police look as if they now call the Alexandra parade/Brunswick Street corner 'home'. They have moved their food tables into the shade and have erected awnings. Tomorrow I'm fully expecting barbeques - maybe even a paddle pool.
I walked by their encampment en route to the adjoining drilling rig, where work had started yet again today. It appears that the other two drilling attempts were unsuccessful. Obviously the powers-that-be believe 'third time lucky'.
There were no picketers there today as we had the other 2 sites to cover so the force was there in solitary splendour:

Protecting the Alexandra Parade rig from...?

At the second site in Charlotte Street, four speedy picketers had climbed on top of the rig, where supporters ensured they kept hydrated and comfortable.

Settled in (Charlotte Street)

There was no drilling activity at Charlotte Street, nor any police.
Today's focus was Gold Street, home to the famous primary school of the same name (where my Dad went to school).
Once again in the early hours - well before the picketers were up and about - and without any prior warning, residents in Gold Street were wakened by the sound of the police and the rig workers arriving. The locals called the Tunnel hot-line, but although some nearby protestors dashed around immediately, there were too few of them to stop the erection of a fence and the setting up of the rig.

Gold Street Picket

On the positive side, there were new faces for us to meet and greet at Gold Street, some even equipped with their own cool banners.
As I sit here at the computer in my lunch break, writing this post, I just hope that my fellow picketers have found a shady tree and that the icy pole brigade is doing the rounds again. Actually that's not a bad idea ...

Monday, January 13, 2014

Cracking Communities - Tunnel Picket Leaflet

I was delighted to learn yesterday that the leaflet - Another Toll of the East West Link - was finalised. In fact the leaflet was already out there, being distributed in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Carlton, all places where the East West Link would cause immense destruction to homes, public spaces and communities.

I was delighted the leaflet was out there for several reasons.
The first is that its story - about the impact of the building of the Eastern Freeway in the 1970s on the homes and the community of Collingwood - is one that needs to be told. It also represents the determination of that community (some of whom were resident in the '70s) not to go through that pain and disruption a second time.

Collingwood resident, Bianca, hamming it up for the camera

Bianca is a cheerful, positive person, but the damage to her house gets her down. She is a firm opponent of the East-West Link. I know this because of the morning I spent with Keith in Collingwood recently talking to residents and taking pictures for the leaflet.
Despite the fact the the drought and other factors may have contributed to the cracking of their houses, many locals are in no doubt that a key factor was the impact on the water tables of the massive roadworks necessitated by the Eastern Freeway. For more pictures showing the extent of the damage in Collingwood see my post
I was also delighted to hear the leaflet was hitting letter boxes because of what it represents.  Being involved in its production demonstrated to me how much creativity and diverse skills we tunnel picketers have at our finger tips and how keen people are to use them to advance our cause:
The leaflet was Keith's idea and he wrote the original words, as well as organising houses to visit, funding and distribution.
Andrew did a great job with the writing and design, about which Harriet and Rosie gave useful feedback.
I took the pictures and the leaflets will be distributed by a group of committed volunteers.
When you think that all this work was done collaboratively, rapidly and for free by just one small band of a much bigger core group of picketers, it seems to me a 'no-brainer' that in the end we will prevail - over a lumbering opposition hampered by red tape, motivated by money and with no ethos to unite them.
As Keith said yesterday, he believes we can win the battle with as few as our core group of sixty people, though of course it would be great to have many more. His comment reminded me of one of my favourite ever quotes - the one by Margaret Mead: 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.'
So if you are interested in distributing leaflets in your neighbourhood, just ask Keith. And in case you don't know him, this is what 'Napthine's Nemesis' looks like:

Keith in action

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Heat is On at the Tunnel Picket

One of the great things about a 5.30. picket start is that we get to experience the best, the coolest part of the day. And with this week predicted to be a scorcher, it will be lovely to spend the beginning of the day at least feeling reasonably comfortable.
We are becoming seasoned at looking after ourselves in hot conditions, and today hats, sunscreen, copious water and even umbrellas were everywhere. Also as it was obvious it was not necessary to link arms, as soon as the sun rose many protestors moved into the shade of the trees. The police had no such luxury. In their hot fatigues, they had to maintain their position in the full sun. No wonder their bosses decided to call it quits by the early afternoon.

'Stop Wasting Our Money' indeed

Even though the picketers' behaviour was placid and calm, the police presence remained large. While most of them were in casual mode, there were a couple of plain clothes' officers, with guns on hips, patrolling and taking pictures and one of the police along the fence line seemed to be wearing a bullet proof vest - too much 'Breaking Bad' was my conclusion.
Undoubtedly this police presence is costing tax payers heaps of money, a responsibility that the media regularly puts down to us. But how many of these police are actually necessary? Surely some of them could be better deployed at a more edgy gig, like ... the tennis.

Drilling: take 2?

We started today imagining we would only be at the corner of Alexandra Parade and Brunswick Street briefly, as we understood that work was nearly completed there. It soon became apparent that that wasn't the case. It was likely that the work done on Friday was a flop and needed to be done all over again. That is good news for us; the more delays the better.
Interestingly, the word is now out from Linking Melbourne that the drilling is more likely to be finished in February. The idea of a January completion is fast disappearing into the ether. That's what we like to hear.

More taxpayers' money

This shiny new drill is one of two presently gracing our streets. It looks sleek and state-of-the-art. And 'lock-on' proof. But I am assured by someone who knows that that is not the case, and the very top of the drill will provide comfortable seating, with a bird's eye view, before too long.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Media Frenzy at today's Tunnel Picket

The Invisible Man

I know Anthony, one of our key organisers, is definitely in that scrum.  But such was the enthusiasm of the media at this morning's tunnel picket that it was hard to be certain.
As the glamorous 'Anchors' conferred and the technicians readied their equipment, the activity behind the scenes was almost greater than that amongst the patient, sleep-deprived picketers out front.

Dressed to impress and it's only 6am!

Mind you, I am not complaining. It was wonderful to have such a substantial media presence. No doubt some of their interest had been sparked by yesterday afternoon's violence. But I'm also certain they have their noses to the wind, and know the wind is changing in our direction.
And one advantage of the media being early risers is that the site was illuminated by their mighty lights, so I can give you a truer picture of what the picket looked like pre-dawn:

The Early Birds

By about 6am the group had swelled and was four deep in places. There were many new faces, who despite yesterday's police violence, bravely took their places on the picket line.

The people, united

We were not exactly sure how close the drillers were to finishing their job. But we succeeded in preventing the truck, which we understood was necessary to complete the work, from entering the drilling site. And best of all, we did it with our mere presence.

The truck in question

As I headed off home, I reflected on the vagaries of picketing.
Less that 24 hours earlier we had found ourselves in a situation of high anxiety and police aggression. But this morning, if I hadn't known better, I could easily have thought I was at a very laid back music festival (minus the music). People were milling about, laughing, chatting, getting to know strangers.
Looking back, as I waited to cross Alexandra Parade, this is the scene I saw -

Community Mixer

The Street Medics, not required to attend to injuries, were taking time out to relax and display placards to passing motorists. The police seemed to be listening to Anthony speaking. And the numerous protestors were pressed up close to each other, socialising. What a difference a day makes!