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Byron Shire
February 4, 2023

How to be an Activist

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Dave-Rasta-photo-credit-@jarrahlynchDuring the Byron Bay Surf Festival, surfer Dave Rastovich is bringing some of the most influential and experienced humanitarians and environment activists he has met along his 12-year conservation path to participate in a unique event: The Activists’ Toolkit.

What can attendees expect at this event that they might not see anywhere else? 

What will be available for participants is direct access to some of the leading activists in Australia, an opportunity to hear their up-to-the-minute strategies and tactics for carrying out successful social/ecological campaigns. We feel like people will walk away from the afternoon with more tools in their activists tool-kit and a clearer understanding of how their care and compassion can be expressed both personally and politically. Owing to the state of the world right now there are more and more people engaging with social and ecological issues, and it feels essential that we all share our experience and knowledge with each other, to avoid ‘recreating the wheel’ and to also build strong community movements.

What does grassroots activism mean for those who have never tried it?

Most people in the northern rivers have an experience of grassroots activism every week. Going to the farmers market, growing your own food, running a local business, participating in community events are all forms of healthy activism. The definition of activism is changing everyday. The old image of activism simply being protest and blockading is much broader these days. Also the activist character is much broader; we only have to look at the Lock The Gate movement to see how much diversity there is… Knitting Nannas, Surfer Against CSG… there too many groups to name.

Why is activism at the local level so important? 

It is clear for us in the northern rivers to see why activism is so important. We look around and see trees, long natural seascapes; we breathe clean air, and view a skyline filled with birds and natural hinterland rather than highrises and mansions. They are all the result of people being informed, engaged and active in their community. The intact beauty of our area didn’t stay that way by chance…

What do you think of the panel of speakers coming to town?

There is an encompassing range of speakers for the afternoon who will cover the whole spectrum of activism. Helena Norberg Hodge will illuminate the economical angle; Hugh De Kretzer from the Human Rights Law Centre will reveal precisely how the legalities of activism are being challenged in Australia and how we can move within those boundaries; Millie Telford (a Byron local) comes from an amazing angle of youth and Indigenous activism that is truly inspiring. There are many other speakers attending who will hopefully bring something for everyone to be inspired by.

Why is having this event at the Byron Bay Surf Festival so special or important? 

The Byron Bay Surf Festival is THE most inclusive surfing event in the world. Unlike every other big surfing gathering/event there is no competitive event at the core of the festival; there are no barricaded areas where only the ‘rich and/or famous’ have access; there is no heavily branded commercialism within the festival. It is run by the community for the community. The health of our community is directly linked to how involved we are in relation to social and ecological issues. Having an activists’ afternoon within the festival gives us an opportunity to bolster our community and feel stronger than ever in our solidarity and care.

What is your background in activism? 

More than twelve years ago I co-founded a group Surfers For Cetaceans to focus on activating surfers around the world on marine threats, specifically relating to whales, dolphins and porpoises. We continue our work in that realm. Also partnering with Surf Aid International for the last fifteen years has been really exciting and rewarding; their work in remote Indonesia bettering living conditions for isolated communities has been very successful. And working with Patagonia is just incredible; their mission statement says it all: ‘Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis’.

How did you get started?

Surfing brought me close to social and ecological issues around the world. Direct experience with shark finners in the Galapagos Islands, super trawlers in the Pacific, dolphin killers in Japan, mining giants in Queensland and CSG threats in Glenuggie, Kyogle, and Bentley have all been firsthand experiences that I couldn’t turn my back on.

Who should attend this workshop?

The afternoon is totally relatable for people of all ages, genders, races, religions and interests. We are aiming for a great afternoon of humour, creativity, empowerment, education and talking story.

The Activist’s Toolkit presented by Patagonia, Saturday 25 February 2–3pm at the Byron Theatre at the Community Centre.

Tickets at byroncentre.com.au.

For more info about the Surf Festival and associated events go to byronbaysurffestival.com.au.

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