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, April 19, 2014

'At Home' Tunnel Picket: Brunswick Street Saturday

Picket table

On a chilly Easter Saturday we tunnel picketers set up our table at lunch time in the middle of our heartland - Brunswick Street.

Socialist Councillor Stephen Jolly joined us

We spent our time chatting and debating with passers by, promoting the upcoming rally and inviting contributions to our fighting fund.  

Mother and son picketers

Today was an easy gig, but I couldn't help recalling that only a few months back the very corner on which people were handing out leaflets (above) was the site of a very different scene, as the government's agents attempted to muzzle our opposition via intimidation:

Strong arm tactics

Thankfully we are enjoying a break from such distressing starts to our days. So today we were free to do more pleasant things, like photographing passing supporters to add to our soon-to-be Tumblr photo petition:

Bevy of beautiful supporters

Reminiscing about some of the weird experiences we have had over the last months: like the time that a police officer, obviously frustrated out of his brain by our persistence, and spotting Andrew leaving after a morning of successful picketing, presented him with an on-the-spot fine for the heinous crime of failing to have a bicycle bell. The officer took this action near a bike path with similarly deficient cyclists streaming past. But Andrew had his revenge. He is now the proud owner of the most glorious golden bell.

Anthony paying homage to Andrew's bell

We took time to admire the new street signage adjacent to our caravan:

Sign of things to come

Spotting this sign reminded me that further support for our position on the contentious issue of the Labor Party 'honouring the contracts' came from an important source earlier this week. Dr Nick Seddon, an expert on government contracts, speaking at a legal forum, was emphatic that there would be nothing to prevent the Labor Party from simply ripping up the contracts should they win the next election. It's beginning to look like the Labor Party has nowhere left to hide.
If we put the bunnies and chocolates to one side for a moment, the Easter message is all about regeneration and ultimate triumph against political force and against the odds. It couldn't be a better message for opponents of the East-West Link, so here's to a Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

'On the Road' with Tunnel Picket (Saturday)

Hussein - Mernda resident

We might not have encountered quite the same thrills as Jack Kerouac and his beat friends on their travels across America. But joining the cavalcade to Mernda this morning, with a group of my fellow tunnel picketers, presented unique charms all its own. One local, Hussein (above), delighted at being asked to participate in our online photo petition, embraced and kissed me on both cheeks as thanks. And this was not unusual.
People way out beyond the end of the train line are hurting bad. Abandoned as they so often feel, many of them were most grateful for our presence.


We learned how hard it can be to manage with only one car in Mernda. If the car is required to get to work by the primary bread winner, the parent at home can be utterly stranded and isolated without a second car. So the relative cheapness of housing in this outlying area is totally undermined by the costs of travel (petrol, car insurance, registration and maintenance).
Boastful local billboard tells only part of the story

Many locals know that the train once ran through to Whittlesea, but with the line currently ending at South Morang, Mernda and beyond is out on a limb. No wonder they responded strongly to our public transport message and were enthusiastic about attending the rally.

Lizzie (9 years old)

And it is not just the adults who are concerned either. One mother told me that at her daughter's school the children frequently talk about their worries and appreciate fully the link between excessive car use, emissions and the destruction of their environment.

Left behind

I came away with only one regret today - that we had had to leave our dear old caravan behind in Fitzroy, where it had been blocked in by a car. I had been looking forward to being part of a convoy with our mascot at its head. But the receptivity of the people of Mernda and their keenness to join us in our opposition to the East-West Link made it all worthwhile. So make sure you are not left behind next time. Join us on the road!  

Saturday, April 05, 2014

The dud East-West Link: Hearings and Sightings

Royal Park

I have spent the last couple of days with my head spinning. A single day on Thursday at the East-West Link Panel Hearing and I emerged enlightened, and enraged. Enlightened because I had the pleasure of hearing from eloquent community activists such as Kaye Oddie, Secretary of Friends of Royal Park, who left me in no doubt of the unique value of the park's remnant native vegetation, the White's Skinks habitat site and the Trin Warren Tam-Boore Wetlands. Kaye was utterly convincing in her assertion that this 'green jewel' in Melbourne's crown needs to be seen as a whole and left exactly as is.
The calibre of the speakers from professional, business and community organisations opposing the Link was uniformly high and their passion for the areas championed was very moving. Professor Louis Irving, specialist in Respiratory Medicine, appeared on behalf of Gold Street primary school, threatened by the positioning of an unfiltered tunnel vent nearby.

Flourishing and heritage-listed Gold Street Primary School

Professor Irving managed to retain his decorum under the predictable attack on his qualifications by the LMA barrister, Stuart Morris, who even suggested at one point that the witness had learned his facts 'down at the pub'. A welcome comic rejoinder by Irving was that we would be satisfied if the air in our neighbourhood was as clean as that of Toorak.
I ended the day enraged for two reasons. The first is that, if only the LMA had genuinely sought feedback and tapped into the expertise of locals before embarking on the project, it would have had to conclude that the Tunnel was a no-go. The second reason is the lurking uncertainty about the openness/impartiality of Panel members, and their ultimate power should they end up convinced that the project is ill-advised.
Even a single day at the Hearings leaves listeners in no doubt that the Tunnel should be shelved forever.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon, with my camera, wandering the streets of Collingwood and exploring the lesser known areas around the Eastern Freeway with two impassioned community members. Keith Fitzgerald, who faces compulsory acquisition of his Collingwood home, is due to present to the Panel next Friday and wanted to undertake some further research in anticipation. Fiona Bell, Heritage Advisory Committee member to Yarra City Council, arrived at Keith's house equipped with information about some of the unique houses that dot the threatened streets of Collingwood:

Full of history

Keith, convinced that the LMA's research-base is sadly lacking, had also made a recent discovery. The huge Australian Paper Mill(AMP) site, destined to become a high-density accommodation area, is sadly lacking in public transport options, but that does not need to be the case.  Keith took Fiona and I on a local orienteering adventure to demonstrate why.

APM complex in background. Indentation of old rail track in foreground

Keith argues that reinstating a rail link from the APM building and running it to near-by Ivanhoe station would be a relatively simple feat. It would give future APM residents easy access to that train line, particularly if a station is built within the APM residential area itself. In the other direction - widening the Chandler Highway bridge and running the train line beside the Guide Dog's building and along the empty hills below the freeway would link the APM to the Doncaster train line in the middle of the Eastern Freeway.

Water tanks (?) in perfect alignment with Eastern Freeway

Keith's proposal captured my imagination. It sounded like it might be cost-effective, have the advantage of requiring no compulsory acquisition of peoples' homes and be sited on vacant lands.
It is exactly that sort of visionary planning that is so fatally lacking in the LMA's dud project.