Artful Activism in Katoomba
written for the Byron Echo, 6 March 2006

Emails flashed and we learned today that a representative of Barrick Gold addressed the Condobalin Shire Council last week and announced that their Lake Cowal gold mine will start processing "within four weeks", which probably means Monday 27 March.

This also means that, if the cyanide transports are not rolling now, they soon will. And the NSW government is still withholding information about the whereabouts of their toxic trail.

Talk about corporate courtiers. Brown nosers of the rich, the Carr-Macquarie Bank-Iemma Labor Party brings shame to the word Labor. This is government corrupt and far beyond redemption.

The campaign to prevent and shut down the Timbarra gold mine took 8 years of campaigning, 8 years of activism, which went through many changes of tactics, scenarios and personnel.

Perseverance in the long haul is what brought down the Timbarra gold miners and it will bring down Barrick Gold too. A broad based, far-flung, small but persistent opposition will bring these cyanide criminal to justice. Death by a thousand cuts, may Barrick bleed money till it dies!

And if along the way we have to bring down the NSW Labor Government too, so be it. Aspiration has no frontier, no obstruction. And Peacebuses .com and .net are nothing if not resolute.

Furthermore we know we have got time on our side. To extract the projected 80 tonnes in thr rock under Lake Cowal, Barrick Gold have a Labor Government granted licence to cart 80,000 tonnes of cyanide to Lake Cowal over then next 13 years.

It also has Labor Government granted water licences to sink four artesian bores and pump, up to 15 mega litres per day but not more than 3650 mega litres a year over the next 13 years. This daily water consumption is more than the entire domestic use of Lismore district.

But Barrick will not be taking the water with them when they go. Permanently poisoned, it will be left behind in tailings dams two of them each 1.2 km square.

Thirteen years is plenty of time for the lies and calculated risks of the miners to unravel. A road train accident here, a cyanide leak there, and we will be watching their every dirty move.

It takes a lot of money and worry to maintain a lie, but just one candle illuminates the dark. Folk are aghast when they learn the magnitude of cyanide crimes; and no one none but a few see glamour in a North American corporation making huge profits out of permanently poisoning and scarring the Australian landscape

So the Peacebuses are not rushing to Lake Cowal. No hurry. With our artful signage we are always visible, a protest action wherever we are, stationary or mobile. Wherever we roll, we attract the curious and are befriended by the green at heart. We activate activism by setting a good example, as honourable elders everywhere ought.

So rather than chasing cyanide trucks since departing Byron last month with the kind and personal blessings of Mayor Jan, we have been preparing ourselves with spiritual practice (me meditating with the dawn, yoga-ing under trees, reading Rumi in the morning sun), making art and cultivating the garden of the heart.

Our focus is on building sustainable resistance, building community and building resistance. In particular we have been hanging out with the Friends of the Earth crew at Katoomba. Natalie Lowrey FoE's national coordinator is resident there and her house is a cross roads of koori green activism.

The defence of Lake Cowal is a FoE national campaign and Natalie, an energetic and graphically talented young woman of 25 years, is the principle coordinator of the Rain Corroboree, which will take place at Lake Cowal this Easter 14 17 April.

Let me recommend this gathering if you want to be part of some blessed Earth based people power. More info at and

In the lead up to Rain we are doing stuff together, such as presenting an "Artful Activism" flag and banner making workshop and organising a sit-on-the-Earth ceremony for Blue Mountain activist kooris and greenies.

At the request of Nat, Peacebuses went down into Sydney to contribute a rig of flags to the FoE Orientation Week stall at Sydney University. We put out koori-green flags and it looked great, the most radical and colourful corner of the event. Nat and friends were chuffed.

And while in Sydney we got to hang out with our Newtown anarchist friends, Bob Cooney and Joey Nipperess. They invited us to support them in a piece of street theatre, a counter celebration of Howard's 10 years as prime minister on the next day 2 March.

And so it was that the next afternoon we put out flags, Eureka, Anarchist and Socialist ones this time, in Phillip Street for a small Refuge Action Coalition protest outside the PM's Sydney office intending to go onto the main action in Martin Place outside where the $10K a plate Liberal Party dinner was to take place.

The flags didn't get to Martin Place because we were attacked and the flags seized by a platoon of Operations Special Group police, a paramilitary of protest-busting goons created by NSW Labor government under the guise of anti terrorism. Bruised and sore I was from defending my right to fly the Eureka flag in public place.

The flags were later recovered, re-arrested and returned after spending a night on display behind the counter of The Rocks police station. There is a whole other story in this. Check it out at

What is worth recording here is the success of the counter-celebration in spite of OSG aggression.

Bob Cooney wore a latex Howard mask and draped himself in a US flag; Joey was Ned Kelly in the cardboard armour I had made for him last August and he carried a noose. Their script: it's pay back time and Ned Kelly had come as the people's debt collector. Ned arrested and hanged Howard many times that night. All richly deserved!

The photo of the pair in action got page 2 in the Daily Telegraph and all the morning news reports of Howard's triumphal dinner mentioned that it had been dogged with protests: another small tactical victory in the battle of ideas.

This was gratifying because Bob, the friend behind the Howard mask, had also been slammed about by the OSG, and his wrists like mine tortured. The Howard mask, appropriately enough, had limited vision and so for Bob the OSG attack had come as a surprise. But he had stayed in role, with mask on and mouth blathering.

Working the street inviting homeward office workers to come celebrate, he had wandered off from the protest group and was alone when the OSG attacked. After I saw two OSG cops, one either side, half walking, half dragging Howard back along Phillip Street, handling him as if he were a lump of errant dog shit - and it looked just perfect.

Bob and I celebrated success and soreness together the next morning with a deep sense of camaraderie and good humour. Bob speculated on how many of his bruises and sprains had been due to the cops and how many due to Joey and his thorough exploration of the Ned Kelly persona. There is a bit of Kelly in all us I suppose and such are the perils of over acting.

But ah! How good to be standing up alive in such times and with such friends beside.

Yorro! Yorro! Everyone standing up alive!

For peace. For justice. For the Earth!

Graeme Dunstan
5 March 2006


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