Eve Jeffery & David Lowe
It was a peaceful day on Saturday at Glenugie, a long way from the fight two years ago when the headlines read ‘More arrests follow new Glenugie lock-on’.
The protectors of Glenugie gathered at the Travelling Stock Reserve (TSR) water hole to commemorate those dark days and celebrate the silver lining.
Despite massive community opposition, Metgasco managed to get their test drill into Glenugie, but the threat of invasive gasfields brought this small community together like nothing before.
Barry and Sarah Fletcher own a neighbouring property to the drill site. They went to the blockade every day and their home became something of a protector refuge during hard times at Glenugie. They also provided internet to get the story out to the world.
‘It was so good to see so many people here today’, says Sarah, who spent many hours on watch at the roads around the rig site.
‘Meeting all those people and becoming friends with them, staying friends. Two years later we’re still friends.’
‘I had never considered being a protester before. Now I like the name “protector”.’
The threat to the land and water was an issue that spread beyond Glenugie and beyond the northern rivers, and this led to the biggest protest action in Grafton’s history as thousands marched across the Grafton Bridge.
The original ‘Simmo’ Peter Simmonds came back to the water hole to catch up with friends and enjoy the feeling of being back in a safe haven.
‘It’s an amazing feeling actually. It’s a tranquil place, I love it, and it also has meaning for me.
‘This particular billabong and the next one along is magic, and I think it’s connected with a deep emotional feeling I had when I was here a couple of years ago.’
‘This was our respite. I think it still is a magical place.’
‘It’s nice to see familiar faces. We don’t have to say much but we’ve been through something, so the feeling goes quite deeply.’
Resident Donna Franklin is a Gomeroi woman who also spent time as a Pilliga protector.
‘It’s great to have people back again’, she said on Saturday. ‘It just feels like the community’s getting stronger every year.
Even though the gathering might be getting smaller, we’re reaching out more to the community. The people are behind us and the community seems to be talking to us again.’
Many of the arrests at the time were contentious and one magistrate threw out police charges against two anti-coal seam gas (CSG) protesters saying they were ‘vexatious’.
Though the drill rig left Glenugie, it sailed into further controversy at Doubtful Creek and then Gloucester. While the threat to the northern rivers has receded for now, New South Wales is still under assault from this industry on a number of fronts.
Friendships were forged at Glenugie that even the toughest mining company strategies can not and will not break, and heaven help any man or drill who ventures into the area to attack the land and its people again…
The drill rig has come and gone. The community, left fractured and trying to rebuild itself, now faces a new threat from the proposed highway.
~ Photos Tree Faerie / Cloudcatcher Media