A Physical Stance Counts

Among many talents, skills and expertise they have on environment, my dear friends Rae and John Sheridan are scientists and climate activists. Last week I posted a picture and brief story about their new pup Chaos who they adopted while fighting to protect the environment in New South Wales, Australia. This protest event took place in July. Here is a short factual account by Rae Sheridan about the events that took place when Rae, John and the members of 350.org took a stance on the establishment of a coal mine in Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine site.


Rae arrested1JPG

Above, Rae Sheridan on the scene of the protest when she got arrested.


Far right and in front, Rae and John Sheridan hold banners with members of the 350.org.


A Physical Stance Counts

by Rae Sheridan

The police road block two kilometres from camp was our first taste of being part of a ‘suspect’ group. After the road-block, we were welcomed at camp and immediately given a tour of the very considerable facilities; kitchen, information tent, campfire gathering circle, farm barn-cum meeting hall, solar recharging nook, communications unit, toilets, showers and a little further  the tepee belonging to indigenous activist Muzz the owner of an impressive part dingo Mother, Dubi, and her irresistible ten 7-week-old pups.

The NSW convoy arrived as we put up our tents.  A flurry of activity followed with a walk up a nearby hill led by Muzz and Dubi.  From a craggy summit lookout we had a good view of the surrounding rural farms and in the glancing rays of a winter sunset we learnt of what was at stake with the clear felling of the critically endangered Grassy Whitebox woodland, and cultural heritage sites of the Gomeroi people, the traditional owners of the Leard State Forest.

There were around 200 people in camp.  Before dinner we met in the barn for a basic briefing which covered some of the history of the campaign, legal aspects and an outline of the two planned actions for the next day.  We decided along with about 40 others to be in the band that would seek to trespass on Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine site to disrupt the logging operations knowing that if successful we would be arrested.  Others planned to blockade a mine approach road.  Dinner was a buzz with folk meeting and sharing stories. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement.  For many of us, this was our first foray into deliberate arrestable illegality.  Further planning followed.   Our band was asked to form sub groups to devolve care, making checking on each other and monitoring of the whole group easier.  We choose intrepid as our foursome’s name … fitting for the most senior of the smaller groups. We put together our provisions for the next day in our back packs and set alarms for 1:30am. With a 2am start planned we realised that the moon would have set and we’d be walking in the dark.

The trip to the mine site had to be overland as the roads were policed on every approach. As our 12 kilometre route passed houses and crossed roads we had to walk in silence and without lights. Led by three local ‘scouts’ we evaporated in single file into the darkness …along tracks, across recently sewn fields, along fence lines, across creeks and finally into forest.  For our subgroup of veteran bushwalkers this was an unusual variant in which a loftier purpose added to the fun. Our timing was spot on. At dawn we crossed onto the mine site and past the Whitehaven Coal signage warning of trespassing. Within minutes flickering orange lights announced the arrival of 2 ‘security’ utes. Both ‘sides’ knew their ‘rights’.  The security guards could not touch us, just advise. We marched on shepherded by security fore and aft, stopping to plant eucalypt seedlings and greet the dawn with photographs of the landscape intact on one side of the road and levelled on the other. Girt by pink plastic ribbons, some isolated ‘habitat’ trees still stood erect.  Their wild inhabitants had 24 hours to evacuate before their homes would also be felled.

We moved to a road junction attracting more security officers on all sides.  They warned us to be careful, not to venture off the road in case we should ‘trip’. More sapling planting was accompanied by singing, a banner display and a bite to eat.  Eventually three police vehicles arrived stimulating another round of photography on both ‘sides’. We were charged with trespassing, our packs examined and as two Greenpeace paragliders sailed overhead, each of us was photographed, our details taken and, in groups, we were ferried off the site in paddywagons to a road junction near our camp.  The entire 4 hour standoff was marked with civility touched with a cast of theatricality.  John’s request for a senior’s discount on the fine was taken in good spirits. Back at camp we learnt that the other larger party had made a colourful ‘act up’ on one of the roads leading to the mine site.  There was a short debrief after lunch.

How do you assess the impact of the protest?  Social media, local media and some mainstream news outlets reported the action. The deforestation ceased the next week after the company was threatened with a court injunction. The fight will be back in court in September. Meanwhile the site is being thoroughly cleansed of trashed forest in preparation for explosion-driven excavation. The fight to save what remains of this unique forest is ongoing.

The experience left me convinced that physically taking a stand counts. I feel it is a necessary frontline strategy to combat environmental injustice.  For me it is the logical next line of action – a restorer of mental health in the face of so much frustration and it was fun.  Taking action has had a ripple effect. In my immediate circle of friends and relatives taking direct action has raised awareness of the threat of coal mining. It has stimulating self reflection in others leading to a reassessment of what getting arrested means.  My 70th birthday could not have been spent in a better way for a better cause.  On a less personal level non-violent direct action definitely feeds the voracious media and brings wide awareness.

I was impressed with the organisation, preparation and the monitoring of this direct action by the numerous supporting groups especially 350.org.  I was impressed by the commitment of the wonderful local farming families. My quandary is why more ‘affected’ people are not involved?  I’m convinced that the arrest of one popular ‘famous’ person such as a football player or singer would overcome a crucial hiatus in changing attitudes to non-violent direct action. More folk would be motivated and mobilised. It is reassuring to hear that there is a growing demand for non-violent direct action workshops. I cannot help but feel that the more  the public  hear  stories from individuals at the protest line the more non-violent direct actions will be seen as an effective, risk adverse and safe form of protest…. especially for the retired who do not have the threat of a career being compromised by having a ‘record’.

It is now two weeks after the action. I have been fined $100 and not the $350 that was expected. John, as yet, has not received notification. A collateral benefit is that we have become besotted parents to one of Dubi’s pups.

We look forward to being part of further non violent direct actions as an effective way to support farmers such as Rick Laird and the climate change movement.

Rick Laird, fifth-generation farmer from Maules Creek, said, “We have exhausted every legal and political avenue to make our voices heard. Whitehaven’s mine will destroy our community and our livelihood. We’ve seen this happen in mining areas all over the country – eventually the farmers will be forced to move out. My family has lived here for generations: we are prepared to fight for this place.”



Rae Sheridan

7th  July, 2014



Tavurvur Erupts Again

Over a decade ago, I lost one of my closest friends, Anzac Rabbie. He was a talented Papua New Guinean banker who was very well respected amongst his peers and the community. Anzac, named after the famous Anzac Day was from Rabaul. We took Anzac back to Rabaul to bury him. His wife Delma, children Rachael and William and their families who lived in capital Port Moresby, all travelled back to Rabaul for Anzac’s funeral. While we were in Rabaul, the Tavurvur Volcano erupted. It was one of the scariest things I had ever experienced in my life. Anzac’s village was position quite high and inland on a hilltop. However, the eruption shook and destroyed houses, schools and other structures. We were completely covered in ashes. This natural disaster left a very significant memory for me. In PNG we do cover ourselves in some of our regional cultures to show respect for the dead. For the case of my dear friend Anzac, even nature gave him it quite a ‘send off’.

Today I read, Tavurvur erupted again this morning. Here is the story from ABC.


Papua New Guinea’s Mount Tavurvur volcano erupts back to life

By PNG correspondent Liam Cochrane

Updated about 6 hours agoFri 29 Aug 2014, 2:28pm

A major volcanic eruption in Rabaul on Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain Island has left the local community concerned for their safety, as residents flee and businesses close.

The eruption came from Mount Tavurvur, which destroyed the town of Rabaul when it erupted simultaneously to nearby Mount Vulcan in 1994.

Authorities said the most recent eruption began in the early hours of Friday morning.

“An eruption commenced from Tavurvur form between 3:30am and 4:00am,” a bulletin from the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory said.

“The eruption started slow and slowly developed in a stromblian eruption with incandescent projections accompanied by explosion noises and ongoing loud roaring and rumbling noises.

“Stronger explosions are generating air phases and rattling windows.”

A strombolian eruption is characterized by short-lived, explosive outbursts of fluid lava ejected tens or hundreds of meters into the air.

Local resident David Flinn described the eruption of lava and rocks as savage and said lightning strikes could be seen amongst the ash cloud.

He said the volcano is currently emitting light steam and occasional booms, with about one centimetre of light brown ash covering surrounding areas.

Mr Finn said locals on nearby Matupit Island, about one kilometre from Mt Tavurvur have fled and yachts have left the harbour.

Authorities have not yet issued an evacuation order for Rabaul residents.

Schools and some shops have been closed, but Rabaul Hotel employee Susie McGrade said locals just want to get on with their lives.

“People still live here, we have to get on with our daily lives,” she said.

“We’re up on the rooves, cleaning off the ash, we’ve got to save our property, try and get back to normal, so what can we do? We’ve got no where else to go.”

It is yet to be confirmed whether the eruption will disrupt local or international flight plans.

Rabaul was the provincial capital in 1994, but after the town was destroyed by volcanic ash the capital was moved to Kokopo.

By comparison this eruption is a relatively small event.

Mount Tavurvur is considered one of the most active volcanos in the region, most recently erupting in early 2013 and recording other erruptions in 2011, 2010, 2006, 2005 and 2002, since the major 1994 explosion.

Marie Claire Features Women Fighting to Preserve Native Culture

Thank you Oscar for sharing this feature. As indigenous people of this world, we must fight to protect our culture. Once the culture leaves us, it is gone forever. Museums and books will not and cannot re-capture nor save the culture for our future generations.

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/08/26/marie-claire-features-women-fighting-preserve-native-culture-156592

Chaos, A Climate Activist

Chaos at 14 weeks

This was Chaos at 14-weeks old and photographed by his owner, John Sheridan. I met Chaos a few days ago at my house. He is half dingo. Chaos is a Climate Activist.  Chaos’ mother was a climate activist (with owner and indigenous activist Muzz) before Chaos was born in Maules Creek, close to a new coal mine project currently underway in regional NSW. The project construction costs are estimated to total $767 million. When operating at full capacity Maules Creek is expected to employ about 450 people.

Being an activist meant being present and taking part in marches which often result in police interventions and arrests.

In June this year Chaos’s new owners and friends of mine, Rae and John Sheridan were amongst protestors against the Maules Creek coal mine project who got arrested. Just before they were arrested Rae Sheridan recalls how she and John met Chaos.

“The police road block a couple of kilometres from the base camp gave us our first taste of being part of a ‘suspect’ group. We were welcomed at camp and immediately given a tour of the very considerable facilities; kitchen, information tent, campfire gathering circle, farm barn-cum meeting hall, solar recharging nook, communications unit, toilets, showers and a little further  the tepee belonging to indigenous activist Muzz the owner of an impressive part dingo Mother, Dubi, and her irresistible ten puppies, all seven-week-old”.

This weekend, on this Blog – read more of the Maules Creek incident and a brief insight into the life that Rae and John Sheridan live as Climate Change activist.



Short story

Sometimes, to write a short story, I need to write three to get one. I am never fully satisfied that I have written the one I like.

The good thing about this is that, I can develop and edit the ones I don’t really like and eventually they become a short story. It is just like creating artwork.

The short stories I like best are the ones I can write in 20 to 30 minutes and it flows effortlessly in the first draft.

A new short story is coming this week – that’s a deal.

Cool stuff

I love art. I make art. I also enjoy what other artists make. From time to time, I will post images or videos of some cool stuff made by other artists. I hope you like them too.

This first image below cracked me up. I was looking for a couch, not that I will afford any of these ones but they are worth just looking at. These couches are quite clever and unusual but some are simply beautiful. Here is one which I probably could recreate because we raise layers for our weekly egg supply but on second thought, it will be too much effort.




Most of us have felt the brunt of racism. I have read some of the posts by fellow bloggers and I wanted to share some of my own experiences and views about racism.

My mother is Papua New Guinean and my father Australian. When you have parents that are black and white, you feel the hate when it comes – from both sides. When I was growing up in my village in Lae City, the children tormented me in different ways. I was one of three ‘white’ children in an all-black school. These ‘white children’ shared the black and white parentage. Our skin was only a few shades lighter. Everyone’s hair was curly. We were the same people but we would be treated differently. For me personally, I spoke the same languages; ate, drank, danced and followed all the rituals and traditional obligations in the same culture. But, when there was a fight with other children – I became ‘white’. I was white devil when my hair grew long.

One day during our language practising group exercise (we were all learning English in primary school-grade five), I got into a fight with a boy who called me a “white bastard”. I more or less told him he was a “dumb-ass”. He didn’t like what I said so he swung a piece of board at me and sliced my right eye-brow off.

The cut left the opened top of my brow open. The split brow fell and closed my right eye. Blood gushed everywhere.  This made me mad. The pain and blood did not stop me from jumping on top of him and choking him before two teachers ripped us apart. An ambulance was called in and seven stitches later, I returned home. My grandmother took her bush knife to the boy’s family home and after giving his parents her piece of mind – they reprimanded him. Lucky for me, the board did not get my eye and my eyebrow grew back and the stitches were done so well no-one sees the scar until I mention it.

My grandmother told me that the word ‘white bastard’ was a very bad word and every time some kid called me that, I had to tell her. She insisted that the children would be jailed. It was a long while before I learnt the true meaning of ‘white bastard’, but that will be another story on this Blog.

We moved to Australia ten years ago. One day, I went to a Charity store to buy some clothes. This time, I was the only ‘black’ woman in the store. The shop assistants, all volunteers were also from the local Christian churches. I brought the clothes I wanted to buy to the counter and got questioned by counter woman (a white Australian), who already decided I was going to steal something. I told her the clothes on the counter were mine, I needed to try on a pair of pants before I paid for everything. I told her I would like to leave the clothes on the counter and return once I finished from the fitting room. I don’t know how that could have meant anything else. This woman verbally attacked me and kept on referring to me as “people like you” come into this store and “blah blah”. I am saying “blah blah” because I do not need to repeat what she said to me. I had never seen her before – she was a complete stranger to me. I decided within five minutes of her racist abuse that my shopping had ended and hurried out before I slapped her.

Racially related unrests and crimes have taken many lives.  In this day and age we expect things to be different and better. I did. I thought we are more educated and the world is connected in so many different ways with our technology that we would learn more about each other. I expect people in general to be courteous, kind and appreciative towards me and each other.  I wish we all could accept each other, our colour, our faith, our cultures etc. We are all the same but different.

It is sad that today, more so, we are more suspicious of one another and we judge each other for whatever our own personal reasons are. We are not prepared to let our minds open and accept what we do not know or understand.

In the case of recent events in America, when information unfolded, it became more obvious the actions of the authority in Ferguson could have been carried out better and without taking a life.

My 18-year-old son and I constantly have a conversation about racism. Nathan showed me this video by John Oliver on You Tube about the Michael Brown Shooting in Ferguson and I wanted to share it.

Watch John Oliver on You Tube.


Living in the Wild West

Our Suburb is Bellbowrie. It is one of several in western Brisbane, Queensland (Australia). Most people here are very friendly and the atmosphere is like a village. We have lived here for three years and seven in Chapel Hill (also in the west) so I am comfortable to speak about the western suburbs. The council offers daily, free buses for the students travelling out from here

With large open spaces and beautiful landscape, just near the river, this part of the west is regarded as one of the richer parts of Brisbane. House prices range from $AUD400,000 upwards. In parts, prices are as high as $2-3 Million. Our house is a fifty-year-old termite ridden renovator with some land I grow vegetables and my sons raise their chickens for eggs. Our neighbours have horses. The area is beautiful and full of wild-life. You can understand why the early settlers came here and eventually made it a pineapple farmland.

Over a year ago a body of a beautiful woman was found at Kholo creek three minutes drive from where we live. This was a very quiet place. The spot was between Mt Crosby and Anstead. In these two suburbs, families live in acreage properties, some farming and these two edge onto Bellbowrie. The discovery of this woman was shocking to all surrounding communities.

As it turned out, the story unfolded very slowly and pieces came together as police worked through the case. From the original story that hit the media; a mother of three daughters going out jogging and not coming home (according to her husband) to the wife being murdered by the husband himself. It has been a year but slowly the pieces have come together. The family lived in Brookfield which is about five minutes from us. The husband has been charged with murder.

Last night my 15-year-old son rung me from Canberra while on a school trip. He told me yesterday  police were canvassing another suburb next to us, Pullenvale. It was an interesting piece of information. I had thought it may have been some drug related search. But, as it came on the news channel tonight, police had made a discovery of large quantities of chemicals they suspect were for bomb-making.

It turned out, the house owners were away in Italy and had rented their house to someone who police now suspect was trying to make bombs.

The suspect had been arrested in another incident in Sydney, NSW and traced back to this rental house on Cedar Rd, Pullenvale.

Today police were unable to move the large quantities of chemicals due which were declared unsafe. To ensure the safety of the nearby residents, Instead, most of the explosives were blown up after police secured the area.

It just goes to show that anything can happen anywhere and people can never be what you think they are. We always have to trust our gut and our instincts but in the end, if anything is going to happen, it will happen. Isn’t that a scary thought?

Links to the news stories;



In Mosquito Net

The mosquito net was white, light and airy. I could see everything outside my enclosed bed. I would not have been five yet, and mother and I shared this bed on the floor. It was made of a blanket and a sheet with a pillow on the wooden floor. The room was packed with our clothes and things. To cover, we would use one of mother’s laplaps.

The mosquito net flopped around me.  Mother had tucked its ends by weighing the net down with some clothing. At the bed head, the net was tucked under my pillow. To keep the net from touching my head, my old T shirt was rolled length-wise into a sausage and laid behind my pillow. If the net did touch me, the mosquitos would penetrate through the holes and get me.

Mother was a nurse. She knew how seriously and often I got attacked by Malaria. She had told me last time I was too tall to be carried to the nearest clinic, several hours walk away.

In this bed, the mosquitoes will not get me, and Malaria will not touch me. I drifted off in my sleep and enjoyed the comfort of my luxurious bed in Wagang Village, outside Lae, Papua New Guinea.

I prayed: “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for his mercy and endurance, forever and ever, Amen”.

After what seemed like a whole night had gone by, I was woken by strange voices talking. There were two new voices. I could also hear my Uncle Sam speaking in English. Uncle Sam only spoke English when he joked or when he was drunk. His English was impressive. His voice was quiet but Uncle Sam sounded confident. “Yes, you can go and see her”, Uncle Sam told someone.

I recognised my grandmother’s low disapproval as she told Uncle Sam that no-one should disturb my sleep. I heard footsteps coming towards me. They walked up the old steps of the Fibro and timber house.  Mother and grandpa build this house from his teaching and her nursing money. Most of the fly-wire was ripped so I could hear everything.

At the top of the landing, the shoe soles brushed the sand on the wooden floor as they approached my room. There were more than one person. I felt nervous and I wanted to call out to my mother but I was not sure if the footsteps would come to me.

The footsteps stopped at my door. My heart pounded. My door opened and I looked up. In the light of our small kerosine lantern by the bed,  I saw two white men peeking down at me through the mosquito net. One was fair and the other had dark hair.

“Mama! Mama!”, I yelled out.

The one with the dark hair sat down and reached out to me, smiling. I saw his white hand come to me and I threw my cover and crawled to the end of the bed. The man’s thick black hair was brushed back neatly. His eyes were dark with thick eye-brows. I stared at his face. I had never seen him before. I started to cry. The man tried to hush me but he seemed nervous. He said in English, “It’s ok! Everything is ok”.

The more he tried to speak, I became terrified and recoiled into the further corner of the mosquito net. I called my mother and cried louder as I backed into the corner. There was no way out and they were at the door. The man with the dark hair put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some notes and coins. There was a lot of money. He put them on my bed and beckoned me. He told me that money was ALL for me. I had never seen so much money. I was sure I was not dreaming. It was unbelievable and scary.  “Come!” he said again.

I refused.

“Mama!” I yelled and my mother came running up the steps.

She walked into the room and the fair haired man stepped outside. My mother smiled and I could not understand it.

Why was mother smiling at this stranger? And why was the stranger giving me money? Was he going to take me? Was he going to buy me from my mother? I did not move. I wanted my grandmother.


Tomorrow: Short story

Dear friends,

I shall post one of my short stories tomorrow (Brisbane time). It would be a story from my Memoir series. The thing about this short story is that many of us think that we are not capable of remembering events and things that happened in our lives when we were very young. I don’t remember as many things as I would like to. On the other hand, there were things that have happened that I wish I could just forget.

In general, when something very significant happens some time during our early years of life – it sticks in our heads. Make time to sit somewhere and remember those times. I bet there are many stories to write.

Some of my memories are as fresh as those of events that only happened yesterday. Often I do not remember them straight away, but things can happen in the present to trigger me back – through layers of life to find that piece of memory. It is just like doing a search on my computer for a file.

I enjoy some of these forgotten ‘files’ but by the same token, some are not always pleasant to go over again. But together, good or bad, they make a great story.

I am grateful that I have these memories. The memories make “me”. Without the memories, I could not write my memoir.