north Qld outreach, March 09

clare towler


In early March this year, I paid a visit to our dear environment collective friends in the humid, and recently drenched, North Queensland. I headed to Townsville and Cairns in the aftermath of both the Victorian bushfires and North Queensland floods, to find a handful of passionate change-agents. It really is all one needs to feel hopeful.


In a sweaty rush before I left Brissie, I gathered as many enviro/social-justice resources as I could. The impact of sharing leaflets, films, posters and nifty things like GMO-free guides can have a profound effect – connecting people to issues currently made invincible or de-politicised in their own towns or at their universities.


The JCU Townsville enviro collective is finding its feet again, as new activists or budding-activists link in. I met up with Lauren and Tom, who are keen to put energy into getting a handful of Townsville JCU folk to Students of Sustainability this year – hooray! I filled them in on state/national organising, ASEN Training Camp, climate camp, direct action on coal, and activist education. They gave me the scoop on T’ville enviro activist movement and the cultural barriers they face in taking direct action in a fairly conservative city. They acknowledged that national days of direct action grant them greater legitimacy with targets and the media, than isolated efforts which are easily marginalised.


Tom is studying visual media at JCU and has some rad skills to share with the network. He’s nominated to be on the ASEN germinate collective, which pulls together all aspects of ASEN’s annual publication on the latest social movement and student-activist happenings. This is an awesome example of supporting activism through people’s interests and skills.


Sarah, environment officer for JCU Cairns enviro collective, is developing an awesome relationship with the JCU Student Union, and getting some good support in return. They’ve collected a few thousand signatures for a petition to switch the Union refectory to 100% free-range eggs! A campus permaculture garden, and food co-operative are on the horizons. They’re hoping to get a few people to Student of Sustainability this year. It’s a small campus, but there collective is passionate.


I think the most important thing I learnt was the power of face-to-face communication – there’s really no substitute of parity. The movement is about people and the webs of inter-relationships we form and sustain. More so, in the past, QEAN hasn’t been so great at regional outreach – so let’s treat this as the start for a more concerted and sustained effort to support these folk in their activism, and where possible, link them into our networks and plans for revolution. Oops, did I say that? Ha!