ASEN NSW citizen science roadtrip!

ASEN NSW citizen science roadtrip!

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This mid-semester break, ASEN NSW are heading up to Vickery State Forest on Gomeroi country to take part in citizen science efforts and learn from traditional owners and community about the effects of coal mining on livelihoods in the New England area.

It’ll be happening from 24-28 September (Saturday to Wednesday) with ASEN organising carpooling and food in exchange for attendees chipping in to cover costs.

Find out more on the facebook event, at the info night happening at UNSW (Tuesday 6 September 5pm Quad G027) or by emailing nswact[at]asen.org.au . And don’t forget to register at tinyurl.com/asen-citizen-science ! All welcome, including non-students.

A day at Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Words by BRIDGET HARILAOU, photo by GAELE SOBOTT

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Paying a visit to the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy is good for your health. I’m dead serious. From sitting around the fire and having a yarn, to playing with the kids, to free dinner and making a bunch of new friends, the community, education and inspiration of the Embassy is incomparable. Here’s how my visit on Tuesday January 6, 2015 went.

After wandering into camp at about 4.30pm, I was invited into the shade of a tent to get out of the heat. I was chatting with some people staying at the Embassy and laughing at the antics of the most adorable baby, when some police from Redfern station stopped by. Apparently they had received a call from someone called ‘Amanda’ saying that Aunty Jenny (an Indigenous elder and leader of the Embassy) had been spotted here, breaching her bail conditions. Besides this information being factually incorrect, this phone call shows the constant persecution faced by the Embassy. The caller knew about Aunt Jenny’s arrest (she was assaulted by someone else on Embassy land, then arrested for it), the details of her bail conditions, and executed a calculated attempt to sabotage her before the court date. This is just a small example of the targeted attacks faced by activists fighting for Indigenous sovereignty in this country every day.

After the police left, a big group of kids came racing over from the playground throwing the Embassy into chaos! All the children were photographed for an exhibition celebrating the Embassy’s one-year anniversary. After the photo shoot I explored the Embassy’s organic community garden, showing one little 4-year-old girl the different smells of lemon balm and mint herbs, and talking to the two families who were visiting all the way from Moree. When the sun set, we all sat around the fire, watching some ‘Black Comedy’ YouTube videos (which are hilarious) and the feeling of community and friendship was warming. The fact that perfect strangers are welcome for a yarn really makes the Embassy a beautiful and comfortable space. We were entreated to stay for a feed by everyone there and everyone set about helping to cook. Once the pot was set on the fire, delicious smells began wafting through the camp. Maybe this is what entices a woman walking to Redfern station to stop and take a photo.

We all wave as she takes photos on her phone. Surprised, she waves back, looking unsure as we continue to beckon her over to the campfire. This is one of the things I love most about the Embassy, it welcomes anyone who is interested, even if they have no idea what the Embassy is! Tentatively, she starts to walk over to us, so I go around to show her the way into camp.

“Hello,” I say as she smiles nervously at me.

“Hello. What is this?”

I explain to her that it is a camp protesting the land sales that threaten to destroy the Aboriginal community centre and land known as ‘The Block’ for high-rise apartments.
“They shouldn’t sell it if there is already a community here!” She exclaims.

I know I’ve found a friend.

I invite her to join us for dinner, but she declines, saying it’s late and she has to go. I can’t quite remember why, but for some reason she says that she is Nepalese.
“My friend is Nepalese!” I respond, and immediately start throwing out the phrases he taught me.

“Mero nam Bridget ho,” “Santzay tsa?”

Her entire face lights up, as she laughs, probably at my horrible accent.

“Wow! It is so nice to hear Nepali. Where is your friend from?”

“A village near Pokhara.”

“I’m from Pokhara!”

“Wow!!”

It was a beautiful moment.

I gave her my phone number, in case she ever wanted to visit the Embassy, said goodbye and revelled in the wonder of how the Embassy brings people together.

By 8.00pm a sausage curry was cooking on the fire, and my friend Sonia and I were put in charge of making the rice. We washed it, put it on a stove to boil and laughed at the gentle teasing about how much we were stressing over cooking it! Once the rice was done, everyone ate together at the tables like one big family. The food was filling and tasty, with plenty to go around. More visitors arrived after dinner, and suddenly the camp was filled again. Some more unsavoury characters also visited, like a woman who claimed to be, “one sixteenth Aboriginal” but couldn’t tell us her country or mob or… anything really. I soon saw that First Nations folk can sniff out a liar in 3 seconds, and the possibly intoxicated woman was asked to leave. The rest of the night we chatted with an Iranian interior designer who had two Electrical Engineering degrees, two people who came to do a night watch to protect the Embassy from attacks, some Murri boys from Brisbane and so many more! By 10.30pm it was time to head home and we said goodbye to all the friends we’d made that day.

I had such a fantastic time and I made some amazing new friends that I would never have had the opportunity to meet without the Embassy. The community and family feel that you experience from a visit really puts the fire in your heart, and inspires you to more activism. Simply supporting First Nations people in claiming their land and community centre, through eating and chatting, sharing culture and making friends, is priceless. If you live in Sydney, the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy is literally across the road from Redfern station, and survives off of donations and grassroots support. Pay them a visit, don’t be shy! Everyone who is respectful and willing to learn is welcome at the Embassy.

 

This was originally published on ARMED. We thank them for letting us republish this piece and encourage you to check out the rad stuff they’re publishing at http://armedpublishing.tumblr.com

Lizard Bites Back: a photo essay

Lizard Bites Back: a photo essay

Words and images by ANDY CALLER.

Protestors set up camp on Kokatha country for Lizard Bites Back

Roxby Downs Protestival – The Lizard Bites Back! – saw activists use non-violent direct action to raise awareness of: the expansion of pre-existing mine at Roxby Downs, the significant impacts of the exposed waste in tailings dams (contaminated water containing radioactive material that is a by-product of mining), and the continued occupation of the First Nations people of Kokatha county and surrounds.

Protestors face off with police at Lizard Bites Back

Willing to confront the mouth of the beast at the “gates of hell”, Olympic Dam uranium mine, the activists, environmentalists and concerned citizens present were not deterred by the threat of a high police presence – armed as they were with defection stickers, horses and a stone-cold resentment for being there.

There has been criticism in response to the use of the non-violent direct actions at The Lizard Bites Back. Some have called out the aspects of white privilege present, with activists not taking into account of the use of mutated white babies as props, when it was not white children that were buried by their mothers after the fallout at Maralinga. Still, the bombs dropped there were remembered and named as a long list of global radioactive spills, disasters, plants & bomb tests was recited for the crowd, after which bodies collapsed in a die-in to commemorate the fallen.

Die-in at Olympic Dam mine gates for Lizard Bites Back

The high police presence was intrusive and blunt through the use of drones and stationary cameras on the camp and at the gate. Continuous patrols operated along the border of the camp, which doubled as the parameter of the exclusion zone in which police had enhanced powers of authority by application of anti-protest laws. In this zone, unprovoked searches are the norm, and a refusal to present identification would result in arrest.

March to the gates of hell at Lizard Bites Back
Although the police were relatively placid in their dealing with protesters, the use of a sacred fire as a road blockade on the third day caused an aggressive and frustrated response to the delivery of more firewood, as well as stretching the patience of the police and stretching the composition of the hardline regiment. Allegedly, questions of the validity of the force’s presence in such numbers caused infighting through the ranks of officers.

Police scuffle with protestors at Lizard Bites Back

 

Proposal to dump on SA

There was also an aim to raise awareness of the placement of 3 high-level radioactive waste dumps in South Australia, one of which is set to be positioned on the first thoroughly recorded Songline northwest of so-called Hawker. This is recognised as a significant cultural route of the Adnyamathanha People, and the site has been nominated without their consent.

The other two proposed locations are bordering Pinkawillinie conservation park, posing a threat to the area’s unique biodiversity and likely impacting the economic contribution of the Flinders Ranges as a financial asset to South Australia’s tourism industry. (Between 2013-14, The Flinders Rangers contributed an estimated $281 million to the tourism industry in South Australia’s regional income).

A group gathers to learn about the proposal for multiple nuclear waste dumps at Lizard Bites Back.
The news that South Australia may become a nuclear waste dump for the world comes despite a lack of consultation with First Nations elders and communities. It represents a spit in the face to the significance of land and connection to country that traditional owners maintain, and further depicts the continued reach of colonial dominance through economic forces.

A workshop on the second day saw activists forming affinity groups around the country to raise awareness of the dump proposals, networking to establish a national resistance (pictured above).

Together, we say: wanti, uranium, keep it in the ground.