Faced with the extraordinary capture of our governments by the mining industry and enmeshed in a struggle against many of the largest companies in the world, communities have chosen grace under fire and displayed incredible courage, integrity and imagination. Against all the odds people are taking back their power and peacefully building the greatest social movement this country has ever seen.
From the far flung expanses of Central Queensland to inner city Sydney, from the verdant northern rivers to the western plains, from one end of this vast continent to the other, we are witnessing an historic coalition of farmers and conservationists, of lawyers and doctors, of students and retirees who have been united by their deep love of this country.
Together, they are saying that enough is enough, that it has gone too far and now it is time to put the future first, to protect what we have for generations to follow and to build a new democracy that has people rather than profits at its heart.
Here are just a few stories about our communities:
Friends of Felton: Felton, on the Darling Downs of Queensland near Toowoomba, was in the sights of a company called Ambre Energy which had plans for an open-cut coal mine and a coal to liquids petrochemical plant. The community launched an amazing, colourful campaign with widespread community support and gained pre-election promises from the Queensland Government to protect the valley. In August 2012, Premier Campbell Newman wrote to Friends of Felton stating that 'no company...has a right to develop a mining operation in the Felton Valley, and companies will not be able to secure such a right under the Government'.
CSG Free Northern Rivers: On a beautiful autumnal day at The Channon, in northern NSW, a new social movement was born when the local community declared itself 'Coal Seam Gas Free' after having surveyed all of its residents in a door by door, road by road, community democracy process. Since then, in just 10 months, more than 11,000 people have been surveyed and more than 70 communities in the region have declared themselves Gasfield Free and are now preparing to defend the places they love. The unique grassroots process they invented is now spreading across the country and the world, inspiring communities everywhere.
Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic: Landholders in the Scenic Rim area of south-east Queensland are squaring off against incredibly powerful companies in the form of Dutch Shell and PetroChina who own Arrow Energy. Arrow is after coal seam gas from the beautiful scenic landscapes of the Rim. The community is also up against plans by two mining companies to explore for coal around Boonah and Peak Crossing. The Scenic Rim is high country, and in 2011 the community took to the peaks to deliver a jaw-dropping sequence of banner drops against coal and coal seam gas. In January 2012 the Arrow Energy drill rig rolled in to the Scenic Rim and was met with a 10 day blockade. Shortly after, in the lead-up to the election the Queensland Government promised to protect the Scenic Rim from mining, and the community is now fighting to have that promise implemented
Southern Highlands Coal Action Group: The landholders of the Southern Highlands are up against the giant Korean company, POSCO, who plan to develop an underground coal mine in the area. The farms being targeted at Sutton Forest are derived from the original Golden Vale property, a rich cultural site steeped in the history of the Southern Tablelands, and are protected by a unique covenant that prohibits any commercial activity except agriculture. Attempts by POSCO to explore for coal have been met with a powerful community blockade, and their subsequent attempts to enforce access through the courts have so far failed. This courageous community is holding its ground.
Fullerton Cove Residents Action Group: Fullerton Cove is a rural-residential area just 10km from the centre of Newcastle, adjoining the beautiful Hunter estuary. This quiet, strong community was shocked to become the target of Dart Energy plans to drill for coal seam gas. As the drill rigs prepared to roll in, the community commenced peaceful direct action with two brave local women, a mother and a grandmother, chaining themselves to a tractor for five days to protect their homes. At the same time, the residents launched a legal challenge and were successful in obtaining an injunction to stop the drilling until a full court hearing and a judgement from the Land and Environment Court. The final legal judgement is due in 2013.
Bellata Gurley Action Group Against Gas: Bellata is located on the rich black soils south of Moree, an area often described as the Golden Triangle which produces some of the best 'prime hard' wheat in Australia. The farmers in the area have found themselves up against a company called Leichhardt Resources, a shelf company trying to march on to their land and drill for coal seam gas. The community has rallied together and every one of the 84 landholders within the exploration licence area have locked their gates. They have produced expert research showing that the company has not complied with its licence conditions and have so far prevented any drilling in their beautiful country.
The Knitting Nannas and Girls Against Gas: Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, but it is a new phenomena in the fight against coal seam gas - a group of caped crusaders and a band of super-knitters who don the yellow colours of the No Gas triangle and sweep all before them in the anti-coal seam gas personality stakes. If it is a Knit-On you're after, or a breathtaking glimpse of supernatural powers, look no further then the Knitting Nannas and the Girls Against Gas. The Nannas have gone global and they are the undisputed winners of the most popular coal seam gas group, with the Girls a close second. Long may the gentle clicking of their needles weave a magical yellow force-field around our land and waters.