The Channon Market became a reunion ground on Sunday as those who fought for the forest gathered to acknowledge, celebrate, rekindle and share the stories of the forest and how they came to be saved.
In early August 1979, Nan and Hugh Nicholson made an appeal at the Channon Market to prevent logging in the Terania Creek area. Within the next five days 300 people were gathered at the Nicholsons’ property. Cars moved into position in the valley to begin a peaceful blockade.
In 2019 there have been several events to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Terania Creek win and on Sunday, the Nicholsons again went to the August Channon market, but this time it was to reflect on the past and prepare for the future.
Nan says that in 1979 they didn’t imagine a day like this when she and Hugh would sit with their grandchildren and over 200 members of the community to celebrate the 40th anniversary of a win.
‘We certainly were not thinking that far ahead but we were very aware that what we did or didn’t achieve at Terania would have important repercussions for that forest,’ she said.
‘We had no idea that our actions would help so many other rainforests. Nor did we realise that we would change the culture of the Northern Rivers region from an extraction mentality to one of profound gratitude for our natural surroundings.’
Nan said it was really wonderful to know that they are members of such a community. ‘It’s a bit like the spiritual feeling of knowing that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
‘It gives me hope that we have a chance of turning around at least some of the horrors that are being inflicted on us by corporations and a government that has been captured by the corporations. It is wonderful to celebrate a win but I hope that people who came today will take that as encouragement to fight for nature with renewed vigour.’
Nan says the current climate, both political and environmental is a reminder that the battle isn’t over.
‘There is much more fighting than ever to come. As resources diminish the battles will become nastier, as we have seen with increasing penalties for those who obstruct destructive practices, or even draw attention to them.
‘Fortunately, we have a new wave of younger folks who are not willing to give in.’
Nan said she loved the troublemakers’ alley at the celebration with its multitude of environmental groups. ‘They are what we need to be concentrating on now and I could see many people being drawn into activism by exposure to so much choice. There was a smorgasbord of issues and you could take your pick!
‘The organisation of the day was splendid and reflected months of planning and hard work, almost all by volunteers.’
One of the organisers was the Nicholson’s daughter Terri who was three years old at the blockade. She said it was a beautiful gathering of people coming together to celebrate Terania. ‘We wanted to commemorate in a way that was uplifting but we also wanted to bring to mind the real issues that we are still facing,’ said Terri. ‘Yes let’s celebrate what we have achieved, but still move forward in continuing to protect the forest.’
Terri says her main memory of that time was hanging out with Aboriginal elder Burnum Burnum. ‘Terania has been the backdrop of my whole life. I don’t remember a time before the protest,’ she said.
‘My whole life has been surrounded by the beauty of the forest, it was my whole world. It was beautiful to share today with so many people – to feel like I belong to a community that has cared for the forest and stood up and protected it, then continued to take action on important environmental issues is just such a beautiful thing.’
The program for the day included a photographic display, documentary viewing, a book launch and a troublemakers alley, where like-minded community groups had stalls for displays, information and resources.
And the future? Nan and Hugh and others from those original actions are not resting on their activism laurels. Today you can still see them on the backlines and certainly on the front lines still battling it out to save the forests.
Nans reiterated what she has said many times in the past, quoting Alice Walker: ‘Resistance is the secret of joy. In desperate times it is not just your duty but good fun to cause trouble for the bastards who are trashing our precious home.’
Photos David Lowe & Eve Jeffery