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.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

'Declare Victoria Gasfield Free' rally

Committed protestors at today's rally

I need to start with a confession. Although I knew 'fracking' was bad and could bandy round expressions like 'unconventional gas' and 'coal seam gas', today was the first time I really understood what they meant. Just in case there are people out there a bit like me, maybe I should start with some helpful definitions I picked up today.
Unlike 'conventional gas' which is found in large reservoirs, 'unconventional gas' is trapped in coal (coal seam gas), sandstone (tight gas) and shale (shale gas). Because it is not free-flowing, unconventional gas requires hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' for extraction. With fracking, massive quantities of water, sand and a cocktail of over 600 different chemicals are injected underground at high pressure to create cracks through which the gas can then flow.
The process sounds nasty and indeed it is - for water which can become depleted and contaminated, for food when agricultural land is decimated by mining, and for communites, which feel worried and threatened at the prospect.

Ursula, Victorian Co-ordinator Lock the Gate

But there is good news and bad news for us Victorians. The bad news is that most of Gippsland and South Western Victoria are already subject to licences for unconventional gas and coal exploration. The good news is that there are so many people determined not to let it happen.
These people succeeded in pressuring the former Liberal State government to put a temporary ban on the process. And at the moment they are determined to keep the Labor government on the straight and narrow. As Ursula (above), one of the speakers at the rally put it: 'Now is the time for the Victorian Government to step forward and become the peoples' protector.' She added: 'We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but together we will.'
There is fervent support for Ursula's position and one of the things that particularly delighted me today was that so much of it naturally comes from regional Victoria. Instead of being surrounded predominantly by fellow city folk at a rally as is usual in Melbourne, today there were lots of country people in evidence, who had often travelled long distances to the Melbourne CBD to fight for what they believe in:

Lorraine, a 'knitting nanna' from the Latrobe Valley

Some important people even travelled from interstate to be with us. Drew Hutton, who in 2010 formed the 'Lock the Gate Alliance', has been working tirelessly ever since with threatened communities across Australia.

Drew Hutton surrounded by media today

Drew made the point that unlike his home state, Queensland, where opposition to unconventional gas developed too slowly or its neighbour, NSW, where the fight is on, Victoria is in a fortunate position. He feels that now is an 'historic moment' for us because we can prevent it from ever happening here. He even suggested that because we were at the SLV protesting we were already 'heroes', which is high praise coming from someone who has made resistance to this unjust, dangerous process his life's mission.
As a veteran of a successful battle against the dud East-West Link, with its identical  advocates - the government/big business alliance -  I feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to keep Victoria gas-field free. And I must say one of the delights for me personally today was meeting up with some of my old Tunnel Picket mates who, like me, have been moved to join this fray:

Familiar, and dear, faces

P.S. Just in case you are wondering what all the percentages are above the names of the Victorian regions and towns on the yellow triangles, they represent the number of local people in those areas opposed to unconventional gas and fracking. As you can see (below) the numbers are very high. No wonder there is cause for optimism.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Circus Oz's Strong Women

Two strong women talking to a third - Director Nicci Wilks

This afternoon I ran away to the circus. Or to be more precise I gratefully accepted the invitation from my friend, Ponch Hawkes, to join her for a preview of what the seven new graduates of Circus Oz's Strong Women Masterclass are up to. These emerging circus artists had travelled to Melbourne from different parts of Australia to work together for three weeks to hone their performance skills, learning from each other and a range of experts. And this afternoon was their opportunity to showcase their talents.
I took my camera but, understandably, wasn't able to use it during the show, so you will have to take my word for it that it was great.

If I needed a reminder that the circus is a magical place I had it this afternoon. Clothed in darkness and a nude costume, spotlit, and with the sound of water trickling in the background Vanessa (above) morphed into a glorious water nymph stretching luxuriously within her grotto. It was only afterwards that I spotted the 'grotto':

The grotto?!

And on the bike below, Abby, its rider, supported five of her fellow performers as they hurtled round the stage leaning out at seemingly precarious but perfectly balanced angles:

I found it amazing that in such a short time these young women, who had previously been strangers to each other, developed such obvious rapport and the trust necessary to put their well-being entirely in each others' hands.
It was a delight to watch how strong, lithe and confident they were in their bodies, how skilful they were in their art and how apparently effortlessly they engaged their audience. And being able to observe them at such close quarters was a real treat.
Something else I appreciated about the event was, because it was 'by invitation only', the select audience included former Circus Oz cast members, staff and supporters. It was great to see them mingling with the young women and encouraging their efforts.

Thank you Circus Oz for extending your invitation to this ring-in. Running away to the circus was exactly what I needed.