13.6 C
Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Persons of interest: Ian Cohen

Latest News

Head-on crash car traveling in wrong direction

Police say that two men are in hospital after an accident on the M1 overnight, when emergency services responded to reports of a crash involving two cars near Clothiers Creek

Other News

$1500 council fee rebates for farmers

NSW Farmers commends the NSW Government on its delivery of a rebate scheme for NSW and local government fees and charges, following its $500 million commitment in the State Budget last year.

The ghost in the archives #3: Sexism, legal discrimination and ‘the game of bastadry’

The ghost in the archives #3 – In which a former Echo drudge dives into the crypt and comes up covered in dusty memories.

Flawed plan

Kai Beijerbacht, Mullumbimby For those of you who haven’t been living under a rock, I’m sure you are aware of the...

Head-on crash car traveling in wrong direction

Police say that two men are in hospital after an accident on the M1 overnight, when emergency services responded to reports of a crash involving two cars near Clothiers Creek

Eungella: Alleged domestic-related stabbing suspect charged with attempted murder

Police say a man will face court today charged with attempted murder following an alleged domestic-related stabbing earlier this year.

Getting the right stuff in your bins in the Tweed

Tweed Council is asking residents to be more careful with what waste they put in which bin – a surprising amount of the area's refuse, both recycling and landfill, ends up in the wrong receptacle.

Former NSW Greens MLC and activist Ian Cohen. Photo Tree Faerie.

Wendy Champagne

In the leadup to the Adani rally and convoy on April 21 (see page 1), The Echo profiles another local activist who has been influential in the field of environmental protection.

Ian Cohen is a larrikin activist and a passionate torchbearer for The Greens party. Love him or hate him, this self-named ‘radical ratbag’ has earned his place as an elder of Australia’s environmental movement.

Cohen’s activism is rooted in a love for nature and the ocean, which was ignited after Boy Scout visits to the Blue Mountains.

Despite just missing out on the legendary 1979 Terania Creek protests, Cohen arrived to the north coast soon after to make his ‘first stand’ against sand mining at Middle Head, near Macksville.

He says of the protest, ’People were really there to help and it was a fantastic feeling… the camaraderie’.

‘Every morning before the day’s action we’d all go for a surf together’.

While the protest failed at Middle Head (with a ‘military-like operation and 140 arrests’), the next mine at Grassy Head was prevented.

‘Our action virtually drove the sand mines out of the state in the 1980s,’ he says.

Cohen continued with activism in the Nightcap campaign, which was a continuation of Terania.

And then down at the Franklin River in Tassie, where he dug in as one of the main people. ‘I developed a knowledge of where to go along the river and how to guide people’, he says.

WC: You went on to sit as a Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council for nearly sixteen years. How has politics played a role in the movement?

IC: We had some significant wins. I won more forest in parliament than as an activist overall. That does not denigrate the activism – the activism has to be there for the politician to have power. It is a symbiotic relationship.

WC: How do you see yourself, as a ratbag or a consciousness-raiser or neither?

IC: Both. It’s part of my being. Everyone likes to be an artist and everyone likes to be creative. My canvas is pretty rough and ready, but it allows me to get out with ideas that are so out there that they tend to inspire people. Like doing that [1986] warship action.

WC: Jumping into Sydney Harbour on your surfboard and grabbing hold of the bow of a US nuclear warship as it entered the Harbour….

IC: That was just a completely mad idea. I lay in bed one night thinking, what can I do to stick it to everybody?

That image went the equivalent of modern-day viral. It was published in almost every newspaper in the western world and a lot of the eastern world as well; it was even published on the front page of the New York Times. That was me being a ratbag, being a radical, pushing against the system and creating a kind of theatre of the environment that got the message across like nothing else.

WC: There seems to be an escalation in the narrative these days, where environmental activists and Greens in general are being labelled ‘terrorists’.

IC: This is something the Murdoch media love to push around. Something that the Nationals and coalition push all the time. 

We had an Australian ethos that loved a larrikin. Hawke was a larrikin prime minister and I used to shake his hand and not let go, just to get in on the media run with him.

He knew what I was doing and he tolerated it, because we had such a healthy, robust democracy. 

Democracy itself is under attack right now.

The culture has changed and we are moving into a far more dangerous environment where people protesting Adani have the potential to be fined thousands of dollars just for trespassing on the site during a protest.

Previous articleDangerous dogs
Next articleToilet debates

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Too true how culture has changed. Yes – it’s dangerous, Ian. Costly
    as well. Still, with democracy a forgotten word in the land of the
    ‘reporting world of Murdoch’ we’ll continue to be the ‘outsiders’. The
    Greens & affiliates are the land & waters’ only hope – including the
    Climate Change Students & the aged.

  2. From a generation who actually put their arse on the line to protest injustice. Sadly, these days it’s mostly just signing a petition online.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Housing crisis and Council

Avital Sheffer, Mullumbimby Population growth in this Shire is inevitable like it or not. Those who are being pushed out by the unfolding housing tragedy are...

Flawed plan

Kai Beijerbacht, Mullumbimby For those of you who haven’t been living under a rock, I’m sure you are aware of the ever-increasing housing shortage crisis in...

Affordable myth

Patricia Warren, Brunswick Heads There is a ‘myth of affordable housing’ in Byron Shire. Well may councillors lament the lack of ‘affordable housing’ in Byron Shire but...

Midwife quits

Deb Walsh, Fernleigh It’s become untenable for me to continue working in hospitals. I have quit. I will be deregistered soon by my own choice. Working with...