SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Stop Adani! - Blockade AECOM


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 AECOM, which stands for 'architecture, engineering, construction, operations and management' is a mega American-based company. It is also an ally of Adani. One of its major current projects is designing a 389-kilometre rail line to Adani's Carmichael coal mine. In February protests were staged against the company outside its Brisbane offices. And on the very same day activists attended the company's annual general meeting in Los Angeles to demand it cease work with Adani. Today was Melbourne's turn.

As it was school holidays we were graced by the presence of a group of junior activists keen to express their opposition to Adani via the age-old method of chalk on pavement.


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It felt great to take concrete (!) action, organised by Galilee Blockade Melbourne Crew, Stop Adani Melbourne and Front Line Action on Coal,  against a company which is so integral to Adani's nefarious plans.


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I was heartened to learn some good tidings from one of the leaders of the Galilee Blockade, Bronwyn Plarre:


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Bronwyn explained that there is a precedent for a Melbourne-based company, in cahoots with Adani, backing down in the face of persistent people power. The Downer Group, located in the CBD, had entered into a contract to provide a range of products for the mine. One of those products was asphalt, whose trucks Galilee Blockade members regularly stopped at their Victorian plants. The company has now pulled out of the Adani contract, to the delight of the blockaders.


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With opposition to Adani mounting and especially when Australia's big four banks bowed to pressure and refused it loans, opponents of the killer mine were naturally exultant. But that was before we realised that while the Adani company might be finding it hard to raise finance, Mr Adani himself has now built such a huge personal fortune that he could easily finance the mine himself - if he so desires. So that is why the next logical step was to challenge companies like AECOM and Downer Group whose activities support his ambitions.


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Queensland can feel so far away. And the tyranny of distance sometimes makes it hard to believe that Victorians can have any impact on the crucial fight being waged up north.

So it was great to hear that at least two of the key infrastructure companies supporting Adani  have offices right in the middle of Melbourne. It couldn't be more convenient really. AECOM is just a short tram and train ride away from the Green Heartland. So watch out AECOM. Like Downer Group before you, you are on notice.  #BlockadeAdani

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Zelda D'Aprano: Local Hero



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'Don't be too polite, girls. Don't be too polite!' That was the advice of Zelda D'Aprano, women's rights warrior, on receiving what proved to be one of her final awards - an Honorary Degree from La Trobe University last year.

Zelda died in February at 90 and today was the occasion of the celebration of her life in the packed town hall of the 'People's Republic of Brunswick'.

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At the town hall I learned that this modest working class woman, who had been full of fear in 1977 about publishing her autobiography (above), had been nothing short of a dynamo. She had been a communist and foundation member of the Women's Liberation movement here in Melbourne. She was an impassioned Unionist, and as such the subject of the iconic image, in the tradition of the British Suffragettes, of a woman chained to the railings of the Commonwealth Building. Zelda was the recipient of numerous awards for her achievements over her lifetime and had mentored and inspired generations of young female activists. All this and I had known so little about her!

I came to Brunswick to honour her because we had briefly crossed paths three years ago, and she had always stayed in my mind.

The occasion of our meeting was the 'Inspirational Women of Yarra Awards' for International Women's Day 2015 held in another town hall - this time Collingwood. I was there to support my friend and fellow activist against the dud East-West Link, Rosie Elliott. But the East-West Link turned out to be not the only dud that day. At this point I am going to heed Zelda's advice and not be too polite:

For one thing, the MC of the Awards was the Yarra mayor, who was male, which seemed a most inappropriate choice for an IWD event.

Also even though the list of nominees read like a Who's Who of exceptional local women, none of them was given the opportunity to speak. As I put it back then in my post (and in my complaint letter later to the Yarra Council): 

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The nominees, handpicked as they were by their communities, and embodying the richness of multi-cultural Yarra, remained an utterly untapped resource. I was intrigued to read about the variety of their preoccupations and contributions in the programme, but as they or their delegates were never given the opportunity to speak,  I went away from the event none the wiser.

 Zelda D'Aprano, pictured above with Rosie, was one of the nominees. She was a leader in the Women's Liberation Movement and played a central role in the fight for equal pay in the 60s and 70s. We were only treated to a brief taste of Zelda's wise and feisty observations when she spoke from the floor. What a missed opportunity!


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It was because of that missed opportunity back then that I was thrilled to hear all about Zelda's astonishing life from people who admired and loved her today. But there was another reason too that brought me to Brunswick.

Zelda reminded me of my mother, Pat Perry, who was only 3 years older and died last May. Mum was also a highly intelligent woman from working class Carlton, who had to leave school early to go to work. She was a Communist in her youth and volunteered as the first female Air Raid Warden during WW2. She too always worked hard on behalf of women, including a long stint as Treasurer for the Women's Electoral Lobby.  

With my mother's anniversary imminent, I was very comforted today to learn more about Zelda, another woman I greatly admire. Both of those 'ordinary' women lived extraordinary lives. 


Tuesday, March 06, 2018

PEN Melbourne International Women's Day card writing event


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On Monday evening forty women (and one man) met to compose messages of encouragement and solidarity for women writers around the world who are imprisoned or under house arrest for their views. The event was organised by PEN Melbourne. It was in honour of International Women's Day. And, fittingly, the venue was Carlton's stunning Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, named after the ground-breaking journalist and women's editor of the Age:

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PEN Melbourne regularly hosts evenings such as this. I must admit, sometimes it can feel like you are tossing a note in a bottle into the sea. But other times we receive heartening responses, when it is apparent that our cards have made a real impact on some prisoner's life.

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Monday was unusual for me because it was the first time I had attended a writing event specifically focused on women prisoners.  The stories we heard of peoples' lives, their courage and resilience in the face of adversity and injustice were extraordinary. And having their poetry and articles read to us  was very moving. Judith Morrison, Committee member, was one of the readers:

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It was great to be able to reach out to the prisoners, to send them cards generously donated by the beloved cartoonist, Judy Horacek, or by PEN Melbourne President Chris McKenzie.


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Of course it is not only overseas that people are being silenced. There are increasing threats to democracy here at home.

For example the Federal Government's proposed changes to the official secrecy laws mean that whistleblowers and journalists who report on leaked information could face 20 years in prison. 

And as the renowned poet Judith Rodriguez (below), who has had personal experience of the key role of translators in disseminating writers' work suggested, it is why it is so important for PEN to support translators. And to create projects in which PEN members work with Indigenous writers to promote their work.

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PEN is a great organization, with a wonderful tradition and laudable aims of promoting literature and defending freedom of expression world-wide. It was founded nearly 100 years ago by a group of literary heavyweights including Joseph Conrad and George Bernard Shaw. And therein has sometimes lain its problem. Because it can feel as if PEN is not for everyone. It is a closed shop, and only eminent, published or 'real' writers need apply. But that is not the case.

We are all readers. Also, as we know, print has become only one of many platforms for writing.  And sadly, the explosion of social media has provided a field day for repressive governments, so that these days many of the writers championed by PEN are bloggers or tweeters or citizen journalists. Even if you are not currently writing a novel, if you use instagram, or tweet, use Facebook or blog you are likely to have a real affinity with them.


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So, if you are despondent about the world, consider joining Pen Melbourne (www.penmelbourne.org) There is nothing quite like taking action to ward off depression. And I can guarantee: at Pen events the food, the wine and the sense of community are always great.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

'A Mighty Force' Nation-wide Premiere

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Yesterday, from Alice Springs to Adelaide, from Yarragon to the Whitsundays, in small country halls, people's homes and grand city centres there was a film premiere. 'A Mighty Force' is a celebration of people power. It features a range of activists determined to stop Adani's grab of our precious countryside and decimation of the Great Barrier Reef.  I was lucky enough to attend a premiere, hosted by Stop Adani Melbourne, at the glorious Fitzroy Town Hall, which was packed to the rafters for the occasion.

Settling in
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Setting up
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The film was great. Coincidentally several of the activists featured had also spoken at the Fitzroy Town Hall as part of the 'Stop Adani Summit' last October. Here are some pictures I took of them at that event:

Aunty Carol Prior, Juru traditional owner from Queensland, with Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, interfaith Adani opponent (right)

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Bruce and Annette Currie, Central Queensland farmers and reluctant activists, who live mere metres from the mine.

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Jageer Singh, high school student with first-hand experience of Adani's rapacity in India, who has catalyzed protests within his Hopper's Crossing school. 

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The Q & A after the film proved enlightening and inspiring:

I learned that last year 160 new community groups were formed across Australia to oppose Adani, and there are high hopes that the number will be even greater this year. One of the groups that I really enjoyed hearing about was Crochet for Coral Not Coal. This Eltham-based group crochet a range of pieces of 'coral'. They distribute them free of charge to opponents of the mine along with a list of addresses of Federal MPs to whom the recipients can appeal. I'll be sorry to part with mine!:

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Queensland sometimes feels so far away. And the tyranny of distance makes it hard to believe that Victorians can have any impact on the crucial fight being waged up north. But I was most encouraged last night to realize there is lots that we can do:

Start planning to join the blockade.  People from all over Australia are taking time off work and out of busy lives to travel to the Galilea Basin for longer or shorter stays to support local protestors. One audience member announced last night that he was heading off next week with five other senior Victorians - Grey Power in the Galilea - to join Front Line Action on Coal (FLAC). And another older person, Audrey, shown in the film blithely locked on via her neck to a mining vehicle, was also at last night's film. Her assertion that she was no hero, just an 'ordinary grandma', was very moving.

Join local StopAdani group. 

Attend with friends and family, or even host, a showing of 'A Mighty Force'.  Although we had a chandelier at our screening, be reassured, it is not de rigueur!

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Join other local residents who have made a pact to knock on 8,000 doors in Batman.  With Bill Shorten saying this week that Adani is 'just another project', that there is 'a role for coal' in Australia, it is apparent that Federal Labor is no ally.  A win for Alex Bhathal in Batman would send a strong message to Labor and ensure that there is another champion for the environment in a position of power. It is crucial that we elect more MPs who are prepared to work to tighten up our weak environmental protection laws. And to Stop Adani.


 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Great Local Lunch Sustainable Living Festival


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The Great Local Lunch today at the Sustainable Living Festival was fantastic. It was my first time. And I had to enter a ballot to be selected to attend this unique 4-course crowd-farmed free banquet on the banks of the Yarra. Obviously my contribution of lemon verbena, lemon myrtle, rosemary, rose geranium and spearmint had appealed to the selectors. So I joined 249 other lucky gardeners and gleaners to taste the magic the Kinfolk Cafe chefs managed to contrive from the gardens and public byways of Melbourne.

Costa Georgiadis was terrific as MC, although the faltering sound system was frustrating for other speakers at times. Costa's enthusiasm is legendary and we all basked in it.

 The hord'oevres as we entered were gorgeous, all served by members of the team of enthusiastic volunteers who made the event possible.


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Today I have learned to love Kombucha.  I had never heard of it before, but now know it is a drink of delicious ingredients whose fermentation is enabled by pedal power. Grab it when you can.


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The queue of lucky participants waiting to be seated.

Before:

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After:

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Starter: Frittata with parmesan rind and kale stems with gorgeous Zero olive oil:

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 Lentils and a variety of yummy heirloom tomatoes: (All the dressings were unusual and I'm sure I caught a whiff of lemon myrtle or lemon verbena along the way.)

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 Pumpkin with onion and greens garnish: (& I learned today from my fellow diners how to waste not a scrap of pumpkin, to eat the skin and roast the pips!)


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 The finale: cake with wild berries, johnny jump ups (or maybe that should be johnnys jump up?), honey and rosemary (mine I'm sure).

The Great Local Lunch was a winner. Fabulous food and great conversation with like-minded people - what more could you want?  I'm certainly going in the draw next year. Why don't you?


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Saturday, February 03, 2018

Rally: No Racism, Stop Criminalising African communities

Recently many Melbournians have been shocked at the comments of our Prime Minister and the Federal Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, about the African community. Claims that locals are 'scared to go to restaurants' because of 'African gang violence' are examples of the scare-mongering tactics used. As so often happens scapegoating is aimed at distracting attention from the very real inequities in our society and the ineptitude of our governments.
But today concerned locals challenged those tactics at a protest outside the State Library followed by a march through the city to the Victorian Parliament. Here are some pictures of those locals (Sadly, as I am still struggling with my computer,  to see the images clearly you will need to click on them):


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If you are getting sick to the stomach with all the misinformation and scare-mongering can I suggest as an antidote a great book called 'What is the What' by the Dave Eggers. It is a story about the multiple traumas faced by young people escaping the wars in South Sudan, and the new traumas that many encounter when they are finally resettled in the United States. Closer to home: in case you missed it, you can still catch it via SBS On Demand - 'Sunshine' starring Anthony LaPaglia, Melanie Lynskey and Wally Elnor is a story of young Africans attempting to make a new life for themselves in our very own western suburb of Sunshine. Highly recommended




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#StopAdani Summit - Melbourne

I have been experiencing torture by technology for the last several weeks.

There have been visits from NBN workers and interminable calls to Telstra. And I am writing this post at speed in the hope that I will finish it before I am inexplicably cut off again. Fingers crossed!

Images are also currently compromised as I transfer them to this blog (Although if you click on them they are much clearer full size). Having said all that, I have decided to proceed with this post anyhow as the great event I attended over 2 weeks ago deserves every possible record. And the issue is even more hot today than it was then. I'm referring of course to the battle to stop Adani.

Queensland feels so far away. And the tyranny of distance makes it hard to believe sometimes that Victorians can have any impact on the crucial fight being waged up north. So when I learned that a summit to StopAdani was scheduled at my local Fitzroy Town Hall I grabbed the opportunity to participate, and to record it.

Here are some of the pictures I took on the day of some seasoned campaigners and new recruits:

Fitzroy Town Hall

Prominent anti-Adani warrior Aunty Carol Prior from Queensland

Bruce and Annette Currie, central Queensland farmers who live kilometres from the Adani coal mine. Bruce is standing as an independent in the uncoming Queensland election - if only Victorians could vote.

Jagveer Singh, Hoppers Crossing High School Student, who has catalysed protests against Adani within his school

Sharing experiences in small groups

Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black (right) a leading inter-faith opponent of Adani