Building the culture of River Care
Report of the Cyanide Watch action
at the Bruxner Highway level crossing
Casino, NSW, 26 July 2007


Banner rig beside the rail level crossing at Casino, NSW, 26 July 2007.

Freight trains were slowed but not stopped by the Cyanide Watch blockade at the rail level crossing on the Bruxner Highway at South Casino on Thursday night 26 March.

But by our witness we can say with certainty that no cyanide passed that night.

Every day the cyanide is stopped is a safer day for the Richmond River and a day closer to banning cyanide leach gold mining and the bulk transport of cyanide forever.

For most of the night we sat about a campfire by lantern light supping hot drinks and exchanging stories. We were 16 strangers for the most part and by the time we departed sixteen friends, friends of the Richmond River.

Fire circle talk by the rail, by the river and in mist of South Casino Casino, NSW, 24 July 2007. Margie Hayes, principla of Casino Public School with black hat and big smiles, Graeme Dunstan, Cyanide Watch organiser with Southern Cross patch on his cap, Cyanide Watch patches on his jacket, Joe Friend, true Friend of the Richmond River in green jacket and Akubra, Our Lady Floresta, wise woman elder (Flo with a w) with grey plats, Heather Bray, mother of three, gardener, zoologist leaning forward to hear, Ionas Yarker, yogi, poet, dancer, truthsayer, kneeling in meditation, Linda Pinda, listening intently with blonde hair in pony tail and jacket with white top dark bottom, Ella (?), red haired, blue eyed German, mother of three, remembering German rivers, their pollution and their clean up.

We had come from all about: Nimbin, Lismore, Casino, Ballina, Newcastle, Vancouver and as far away as British Columbia.

Joe Friend from Friends of the Richmond River shared insights from his research of twenty years or more into fish toxins he reckons to be entering the Richmond River particularly from exotic toxic woody weeds.

For example: did you know that just two seeds from a Castor Oil plant, and these are proliferating on the banks of the Richmond River under the rail bridge about 50 meters from where we sat, would be lethal, if swallowed by a child? Image a fish.

Castor Oil plants on the banks of the Richmond zZRiver (not flowing at this time of drought) under the rail bridge at Casino, NSW, 24 July 2007.

Margie Hayes, former principal of Nimbin School, now the culture transforming principal of Casino Public, showed up all smiles, regaled us with teaching stories and spoke of her gratitude and praise for her Nimbin friends and her Nimbin years.

Three local Aboriginal youths were drawn to our fire and koori flags. Their faces lit up when they recognised Margie and she hugged each of boys. "Now young fathers," she told us. "And i knew them when they were yea high."

Our safety was assured that night by the presence of just four police officers (very low key and courteous) and two representatives from the Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator. They were in contact with the drivers and their movement near the track a signal to us that a train was due.

Then we would break the fire circle, take the lanterns and stand close to the rail.

These freight trains are truly awesome and i am fast becoming an addicted train spotter.

Their headlamps lighting layers in the mists of the night as they slowly and respectfully approached and rumbled by, the locomotives, huge steel monsters but somehow benign and magnificent as work elephants; then the line of wagons, different shapes, different colours, sliding by one after another, maybe a 100 of them, the whole caboodle maybe a 1 kilometer long.

Using the PA I hailed the driver as the first south bound Pacific National freighter approached. "Are you carrying cyanide? Are carrying cyanide safely?" and then delivered a free form rant inspired by the ancestors, inspired by the rivers and the angels that protect them.

The speaker horns were directed at the freight train and the sound was bouncing off the passing walls of steel, loud and carrying far across Casino in the still of that river flat misty night. Heart stirring stuff.

When the second south bound National Pacific freighter came by more than an hour later, I lit a distress flare so that we could see the HAZMAT warnings on the containers more clearly.

YouTube video of Casino Cyanide Watch Action

The illuminated smoke of the bright pink flare twirled in the slip stream of the passing wagons, lighting them up so that they slid past as if boxcars of tormented souls enroute to Hell.

From these profound experiences of awe we would return to the warmth of our fire and companionship, our tongues and our hearts quietened, if only temporarily. Cyanide Watch, if nothing else, is awesome theatre.

The information given about the freight trains given by the cops and ITSRR guys, their passing times and the nature of their freight, proved reliable and when they departed we knew for sure there there would be no more freight trains that night.

Group shots, Casino, NSW, 26 July 2007.

We took our time packing up the flags and banners. The Lismore crew departed and then the Nimbin crew, Binna, Johnny Chai and Dan, arrived late coming via the Day Out of Time Mayan celebration in Mullumbimby over 100 km away. Margie stayed onto connect with them and the talking around the fire went on till late into the night. Public space, our space.

After I gave Joe a lift back to Lismore. During the fire circle talk, Joe made the observation that LandCare (and in this he includes riverbank care) had succeeded because it plugged into an existing culture of land cultivation both agricultural and garden variety.

On the other hand river care, as in care of the water and its aquatic life, has little or no supporting culture. Rivers have always been drains to the white man and what's under the surface has always been out of sight and out of mind.

True river care, Joe says, will need a cultural shift. There's a cultural challenge! Hats off to your efforts, Joe.

As for Cyanide Watch it will roll on to another town, to another rail bridge over another river, and to another bunch of activist river carers.

It's a cat and mouse game at this time with the cyanide maker, Orica, the cyanide carrier, Pacific National, the various cyanide guzzling gold mines and the corporate governments that approve and hide their criminal deeds.

They pretend to ignore us. But these rail side witnesses are powerful and movement building. We maybe few but we are watching and watched and we make many friends as we go,

For me it's on the back burner for a while.

Next project for will be witness at Sydney APEC. Pro-greed, pro-war, pro-nuke, this the biggest gathering ever of neo-liberals in Oz will render Sydney CBD a ghost city. Let the dead dance! See

For the Earth! To the dust!

Graeme Dunstan
26 July 2007

Media outcomes

? at this time

For the Yarwun Cyanide Blockade pre-publicity, Click here

For the Chullora Cyanide Blockade pre-publicity, Click here

For the Cyanide Watch home page, Click here.

Click here for the Cyanide Watch media releases

Click here for an index of other Cyanide Watch actions

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