Filmmaker David Bradbury prevented on reporting on church service that kicks off the Talisman Saber US/Aust military exercises in north Qld.
by David Bradbury
It didn’t get off to a good start; I was refused entry to film a church service attended by both US and Australian military.
It was held in the quaint St Christopher’s Chapel in the bush, about ten kilometres out of Rockhampton.
The Chapel was built by US army engineers in 1943, when the US was genuinely our friend and ally in the war against fascism and Japanese expansionism.
Back then, Queensland was base camp to 70,000 American troops which Uncle Sam had dispatched there to help bolster the famous ‘Brisbane Line’.
It’s a line that was drawn across northern Australia; allied forces would retreat to and defend all below that line against the invading Japanese forces.
St Christopher’s Chapel gave quiet solace and spiritual inspiration to many American soldiers who took time to reflect and ask for courage for the fight ahead, be it defending Australian soil, or fighting in the very bloody and brutal campaign in New Guinea where the Japanese were finally stopped in their push southward. We’d be speaking Japanese now if it weren’t for them!
It was disappointing as a pacifist, a Christian and a lover of Australia’s history that I wasn’t allowed to film the service. It symbolically kicked off Talisman Saber 2017, which is a joint military exercise between Australian and US military. I even heard the priest saying at one point, ‘We must forgive our enemies’.
I was met by police liaison as I parked my car and started to get my camera and tripod out to respectfully set up with the other local TV news crews.
Senior Sgt Kerry Duffy came over and told me I would not be allowed to enter and film the church service because, ‘I was with the protestors’.
Only Graeme Dunstan and two other peaceful protestors were there. Graeme had parked his vans with its signs a discreet distance from the chapel, so those coming for the service could read them.
Sgt Duffy told me later she’d watched my film War on Trial the night before and Blowin’ in the Wind recently. It’s an earlier film of mine that ask hard questions about what we get out of our current military alliance with the US.
I gave the sergeant my promise that I was not there to disrupt the service, only to record it. I gave a similar undertaking to Livingston Shire mayor’s assistant.
Eventually word came back from mayor Bill Ludwig that I was not to be given entrance to the service.
So frustratedly, I was forced to get some very average shots from outside the fence and the backs of heads of assembled military and World War II vets.
Or be arrested for trespassing. I was told this by senior constable Adam Christianson, who at six foot two inches, towered above me and would have had no trouble in putting his threat into action.
I protested at this by saying that my uncle Jack had been a ‘Rat of Tobruk’ and chased the Nazis across the deserts of Libya. I said that my uncle Ron had been a POW in the notorious Japanese Changi prisoner-of-war camp. It all fell on death ears. There was a cold irony to my refused entry that the very freedoms our grandfathers, fathers, uncles and aunts had fought for – freedom of speech and the media – was denied me here in Rockhampton in 2017 as the military exercises between Australia and the US kicked off to allegedly continue those freedoms and love of democracy.
I pointed this out to the police who replied they were ‘just doing our job’.
The US flag was unfurled by the local scouts flying proudly in the breeze next to the Australian union jack and stars for each state. And the Salvation Army played Advance Australia Fair and the US national anthem in the rotunda next to the chapel.