Four forest protectors ranging in age from 18 to 50 faced court today in Coffs Harbour after locking themselves onto logging machinery between June and August in the Newry and Orana state forests near Coffs Harbour.
Tiffany Daro (50), Hannah Harlen (24), Ishka Targett (18), and Neville Kirk Jnr (35) appeared before a magistrate in Coffs Harbour local court this morning accompanied by representation from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO).
Tiffany Daro locked on to logging machinery in Orara East State Forest on June 7, while Hannah Harlen and Ishka Targett locked on in Newry State Forest on August 1, and Neville Kirk Jnr on August 2.
Prior to going to court Neville Kirk Jnr, also known as Wilkar Kurikutahr, is a Ngemba, Wangan and Jaggalingou man and shares: ‘While I feel nervous about court, I also feel good for standing up and protecting this beautiful country from destruction. My sister is Gumbaynggirr and I do this for her, and the Gumbaynggirr mob and all the animals of the forest.’
The Land and Environment Court stopped all logging in the Newry State Forest last week to allow Gumbaynggirr Elders to survey the logged sites.
Ishka said that ‘Locking on feels like the most necessary and immediate way to stop the logging of culturally significant sites and entire eco-systems. When I was locked on it was heartbreaking to see the destruction already done, and now I feel even more frustrated that I am going through the legal system for fighting to protect the environment.’
‘The cases were adjourned this morning until 6 September,’ a spokesperson for Bellingen Activist Network (BAN) told The Echo.
‘None of them have entered a plea yet and they will be seeking bail variations at the next hearing. Currently Neville has daily reporting which we consider punitive. The prosecution has used Neville’s prior history to give him daily reporting as he is a staunch first nations activist and his previous convictions are for defending Country. He defends Country on the basis of his cultural obligation. He was defending Newry State Forest which is Gumbaynggirr Country on behalf of his 13-year old Gumbaynggirr sister. The Gumbaynggirr elders and custodians have given Neville both verbal and written permission to be on and protect Country.
‘His ability to practice his lore is being criminalised.’
The other forest protector have have single day reporting, which is once a week reporting, all three have a ban from all state forests across NSW.
‘They are not just banned from where they were protesting the logging of state forests they are banned from all state forests in NSW. That is a ban from 12.5 per cent of NSW,’ said the BAN spokesperson.