It was the first anniversary of the Stop Adani convoy on 5 May. We had joined the convoy at Byron – kickstarted with the massive rally at Mullumbimby showgrounds – on Easter Sunday, 21 April 2019.
The grand finale for the Stop Adani convoy was the 5,000-strong rally in front of the new parliament house on 5 May. The gathering was huge, collecting people from all over Australia and from Canberra and surrounds, that would join to create an historic momentum for change.
It is extraordinary that that was only a year ago. Though politicians were practising ‘political distancing’, we were not distant from each other, but standing as one, with the single proposition of keeping our warming world clean of coal.
Talking to ghosts
Parliament was apparently empty; its ministerial content were on a mission to keep Australia full right-wing on an election tour d’Australie. If we, the environmental movement, have got anything wrong, it’s the absence of dialogue with the preoccupied vote-collecting representatives.
I have to admit, walking out can be an effective tactic to silence protest. It seems the applicant makes their claim to a ghost. That’s how I experienced my protesting on the green lawn with the modern iciness of Parliament House in front of us. We were applying to a ghost, an invisible barrier to the rescue of our blue planet.
The line-up of speakers, and the unity of over 5,000 people holding up signs, clapping hands, and cheering at the speeches that were addressing the serious issues of a global catastrophe made for an unforgettable demonstration of people power.
It was a peaceful gathering of people with a sincere interest and honest agenda to bring on the turning of the tide. The distant politicians had better come, watch, and listen, instead of attempting to ignore us. Their absence spoke louder than words.
We won’t go away, the problems will not go away; as long as the problems are present, we will be present.
Among the guest speakers were Richard Flanagan; Adrian Burragubba a Wangan and Jagalingou man representing the traditional owners of the land on which the Adani mine is being developed; Blair Palese; and two school strikers, Tess and Taliah, who delivered an impassioned speech that was outstanding and thought provoking. Bob Brown has a gift for rallying people like no other. And Paul Kelly performed the beautiful song My Island Home.
Richard Flanagan asked who would be prepared to get jailed for locking-on and blocking access to the mine site, and hands went up everywhere around us. I was in awe of the courage of activists who were able to step out of their comfort zone to commit to such action that hampers the proceedings of mining companies. I am not at that point yet, and I doubt I ever will be. The physical on-site protest is, and must remain, a measure of action that not only reaches the headline news, but delays and stops destruction processes effectively.
The speech by Adrian Burragubba, for me, was the most authentic and deeply convincing:
‘The first law that was here is not the law of the land, the law is in the land. It is our dreaming. The dreaming of the Jagalingou people… This is why we stand so strong against the Adani project. This part of our dreaming which is being affected…
‘Adani is an environmental terrorist who destroys the whole country… The man is a polluter who destroys everything that’s in the land. With the racist discrimination comes the destruction of our homeland… When they gave the water licence to Adani that was it, that was the declaration of war upon the Jagalingou people and our sovereign rights, and the rights of our ancestors…
‘We don’t want an uncivilised government. We want a respected government that protects us… It’s not over, and we’re gonna win.’
Between the lines I could hear the suppressed anger manifested in the soul by hundreds of years of foreign occupation and dispossession from the land that always was (and always will be) theirs.
For the Indigenous nations to forget and adapt is near impossible. The absence of treaties, the continued negative reporting by mainstream media, lost court cases, and stolen land rights – particularly by mining companies – underlie their agony. As does the shunned and ridiculed Uluru Statement from the Heart that requests constitutional reforms.
A few of us sought a spot away from the sun, and our little shelter, where a handful of people met by chance felt like a refuge, not from the rallying mob – but from the harsh realities that irresponsible politicians in power throw at our communities. The real threats that exploration licence after exploration licence are granted.
There are moments of hope, and even euphoria in our collective actions like this rally. But besides the present sensation of being part of a motivated movement for change, there was the nagging thought that if our actions were without consequence, they were without significance. Only time, the thing we haven’t got, will tell.
The convoy, the rallies and the final rally in Canberra were our moment to speak up, our time to protest, the expression of our united consensus on the issues of degradation and destruction. Bob Brown committed to his action and with him, thousands of Australians. And Adrian Burrugubba came hurtling down the highway from his homeland in Central Queensland to seize the opportunity to voice his opinion on behalf of his people.
I believe that the force of active resistance and public dissent will make an impact. That the call for sanity must put pressure on the government and on the policy makers to stop Adani as a symbol of stopping fossil fuel dependence. I believe this will carve inroads for positive change that may lead to a new definition of human society to be adopted by governments in order to implement the universal law of true prosperity. A law where the health of the natural environment and the health of the people who inhabit this environment would never be put at risk or compromised. The inclusive law would work reciprocally, securing economic and ecological protection of assets in perpetuity.
The fight to stop Adani’s mega coal mine continues. The worldwide impact of COVID-19 has brought one hopeful shift – concerning the economic unfeasibility of the project (which we already knew); but unfortunately the clearing of land and construction of the rail corridor are well underway, making the fight that much harder. Find out more at the Adani Watch website (www.adaniwatch.org) put together by wilderness conservationist, Geoff Law.