Story & photo Melissa Hargraves
The Rural Bush Fire Service has recently come under fire for supporting police with catering services at anti-coal-seam gas (CSG) blockades. That role has since been picked up by the local area command (LAC), which comprises administrative and volunteer staff.
Friday, when the Doubtful Creek blockade was without arrest and confrontation, proved an opportune time to explore the catering support for the citizens opposing CSG in the northern rivers.
A camp kitchen has been set up to provide nourishing and delicious meals for campers and day visitors. The kitchen receives all its ingredients by donation and volunteers create gourmet sustenance.
Gordon Fraser Quick, who stood in as police liaison officer, talked to Echonetdaily about the basic needs of people in these conditions.
‘The basic requirements for human existence are food, shelter, warmth, companionship and purpose. Out here, the purpose is to save the world. Companionship, we are a community united. Food is managed by a community-owned and -managed kitchen. And shelter we have created many types, but we are also sheltered under the knowledge that the Githabul people care about this place and we are trying to help them care.’
The camp kitchen has received food from many sources and places.
‘As far as southeast Queensland, Tamworth, Armidale and Byron Bay we have received food. We receive fresh food from a large number of local organic farmers. Concerned citizens and supermarkets have donated longlife milk.
‘On a daily basis we receive fresh food, water, ice and frozen meat for those who are not vegetarian.’
A natural hierarchy has been formed in the kitchen, which is an amazing feat when you consider the potential of ‘too many cooks’ in the kitchen.
‘The kitchen operates on a voluntary basis by self-nomination, which we do not interfere with – if people want to cook, that is great!’
Janaki and Chris Vale from near Mt Warning arrived Friday morning and headed straight to the kitchen. They have committed to long-term support of the CSG-Free movement.
‘We will be coming and going when we get spare time, even if it takes years. Come out if you get a chance, bring the kids out; it is very friendly,’ Janaki said.
She was quick to put the call out: ‘We need chai spice and any other Indian spices, instant coffee and frozen water bottles when you come out, please’.
‘Food is the nicest way to give service. I lead a spiritual life so the more I can help people the happier they are. That is for both sides, the police as well.’
Blockading can take a toll on people emotionally and spiritually. I asked Chris about the role of food in sustaining non-violent action.
‘If people are eating well they function better and can cope emotionally with what is going on.’
Feeding the masses, particularly in a camp environment, has the potential to produce mundane food.
‘We have had the most amazing meals,’ Gordon said. ‘It is like a rainbow of colours having come through what we have eaten. There has been Mongolian, Hungarian, Malaysian, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese – it has been amazing.’
Blockades can become active before sunrise with police escorts of truck movements. This naturally concludes that protesters will be up and about and maybe needing some early morning nourishment.
‘The camp kitchen can begin at 4am: there will be pots of percolated coffee donated by local organic farmers, ready for those starting early!’ said Gordon.
Camping with fine food sounds attractive but it does not come without responsibilities. Some people love to cook, but how many like cleaning up? That too has morphed into a participatory operation.
‘The wonderful thing about this camp is that people chip in, they see a job that needs to be done and do it. We have an informal roster system where someone will walk up and ask you have you done any washing up lately and if not then it’s your turn. There are no dramas or resistance to that,’ Gordon said.
‘We ensure that those at the camp are participating.’
Full production cycles of CSG mining are as elusive as snow leopards. I queried how these campers were managing their waste.
‘At Glenugie we purchased a commercial rubbish service, here at Doubtful Creek we have people removing waste daily. We send our compost to people who have chickens, our recycling goes to people with recycling services, and the same for our rubbish. It is all separated.’
To comprehensively cover the camp’s waste removal requirements, the question needed to be asked: ‘What about the human waste?’
‘We have two toilets, the blue loo and the green machine which we rotate around. These need to be hired on a daily rate which isn’t cheap. To buy one outright is over $3000. We would love a benevolent benefactor to provide one for this campaign!
‘People are being asked to make a coin donation “If you crap, put it in a hat!”’
Portable toilets require service. Echonetdaily witnessed a portable toilet allowed through the roadblock for the police camp.
But Gordon told us, ‘When the roads are closed ours are not allowed to be serviced’.
If you would like to get involved in the camp kitchen, contact Jan Fauske on 0429 910 238 or ring the camp phone 0428 941 083.
To subscribe to updates on the Doubtful Creek camp email [email protected].