Affirming the Sacred at Lake Cowal
Peacebus, a glory of colour, a banner rigged along its side like
a sail and PA booming, rolled up and down Main Street, West Wyalong,
to announce its presence and hove to beside the elegant old Bank of
New South Wales building at the corner of Church Street and set up directly
outside the offices of the West Wyalong Advocate.
It was Easter Tuesday 2 April 2002 and Peacebus had come from
Lake Cowal 43 km away to tell the citizens of West Wyalong not to
bank on the gold mine, which was approved for development at Lake
Cowal and at that time stalled by an injunction ordered by the NSW
Land and Environment Court.
While Peacebus companions, Shiri, Charisse and Danielle, deployed
our rainbow and koori banners, I got up on the Peacebus roof with
the mike. But even as I prepared to speak a women appeared amongst
us, breathless with outrage and indignation at the impertinence of
She was, she said, a Bland Shire Councillor, Barbara Stephenson
by name. She ordered removed our koori banners, the bamboo poles of
which were tied with rubber straps to sidewalk bollards. "You have
no permission for this", she repeated.
We did actually but I wasn't there to argue the point. Spruiking
to the citizens of West Wyalong was my game.
Out of politeness, Charisse and Danielle took down some of the
banners as I watched from the roof. My impulse was to tell the
Councillor to take them down herself and get a photo of her crazy
passion. But I held my peace and stood apart admiring the gentle,
yielding, non-confrontational style of my companions. As my voice
boomed on the PA, I watched Cr Barbara clucking calamity like Henny
Penny, to the passers by who had stopped to listen to me across the
We knew many citizens of West Wyalong would find our news
difficult to hear. In 1996 when NSW Premier Carr rejected the
recommendations of the first commission of inquiry into the proposed
mine development, the towns people closed businesses for the day and
some 3,000 rallied in Main Street to demonstrate that "The town is
Mine". The PR job done by the miners had been thorough.
Our action had been negotiated and confirmed with both officers
of Bland Shire and the local police. When Peacebus came through West
Wyalong on its way to the Lake Cowal on Good Friday we had stopped
by at the police station and introduced ourselves.
Snr Sgt Peter Gould, who had served at Lismore and seen some of
the action at the Timbarra gold mine protests, was waiting to greet
us. He knew of me and Peacebus by reputations. He introduced me to
Sgt Pat Swift, who was a man of generous smile and the duty officer
for West Wyalong over Easter and on Tuesday.
The police officers came out onto the veranda of the old police
station to see Peacebus and we negotiated the business there.
Friendly, country style policing this. I could imagine such meetings
happening under this veranda when the road was dust and horses.
Jennifer dog alighted from Peacebus and, like many dogs before her,
sat in the shade of the veranda, there to be petted and admired by
the police officers.
Pat's young son and his mates were there too, on their bikes
their curious eyes looking up at us from under baseball caps. Like
many other citizens of West Wyalong, he had heard that the hippies
were coming to town.
News of our mission was carried by the West Wyalong Advocate of
26 March alongside the headline news of the injunction. Inside there
were two half-page photos, one of the Barrick’s Manager, Evaluation
and Communications (read: Chief Doctor, Spin) standing beside and
pointing with a hint of exasperation at two huge and idle drilling
rigs. The other was an image taken from www.peacebus.com of Peacebus
in Freedom Ride livery. The caption said different slogans about
mining activities at Lake Cowal had draped it for the CHOGM protests
on the Queensland Sunshine Coast.
Curious too was a bunch of folk on a the balcony of a grand two
story federation style house across the road where they were
celebrating Good Friday with wine glasses in hand. The beautifully
painted side panel of Peacebus “Water more precious than gold” was
directed towards them.
I waved and they called on me to explain myself. I offered to do
so on the PA. A command performance? I asked. Yes, the agreed.
The theatrics of the opportunity were irresistible. The
intersection was effectively the civic centre of West Wyalong with a
big Catholic Church, school and convent was on one corner, the
Council officers on another, and the manager’s residence of the
former Bank of NSW on another. It was like I was an actor in a pit
theatre and my wine sipping audience, the aristocracy in their box.
It was 10 am on Good Friday and a reverent hush lay upon West
Wyalong. Even Main Street, which is also the Newell Highway, was
quiet. The feeding chortles of magpies a couple of blocks away were
the loudest sounds.
Shiri got up on the roof and swivelled the speakers towards them.
I cranked up the amplifier and stood in front of Peacebus and
explained our mission. To affirm Lake Cowal as sacred. "It was not
that we do not want prosperity for West Wyalong", I said. "Rather we
were concerned about the risks to life, the destruction of landscape
and the enduring toxicity of modern gold mining".
It was a short spiel and I finished with "Let the rich eat the
gold they got. Water more precious than gold", a flourish and a bow.
Playing their role to the max, the curious Good Friday revellers
applauded grandly and moved inside.
On the other side of Peacebus the police officers were listening
too of course and before we parted, Pat said: “We will protect your
right to speak." He also promised to come out during Easter and
visit us at the Lake 43 km away.
Like the Good Friday spruik, the Easter Tuesday one was short.
The proprietor of the Luxor Cafe beside the West Wyalong Advocate
objected, saying the sound was making it difficult for his staff to
hear orders and disturbing his customers at the sidewalk tables. He
later said that he feared being seen to be even geographically
associated with anti mine sentiment would be bad for business.
I had given Sgt Pat Swift my mobile number and he called me even
as I spoke on the microphone. "I am getting complaints", Pat said.
So was I. A couple of men across the street were yelling at me.
"What do you know about West Wyalong?" they were bawling.
"Okay. I'll wind it up then", I told Pat. And so we did. Our
point had been made.
Our Easter Tuesday action had been provocative, but calculatedly
so. We were not there to win hearts and minds. We were there to be
We were there to let the voice of Lake Cowal be heard; the voice
of the ancestors who from time immemorial had experienced Lake Cowal
as a place sacred to life. And also the voice of future generations
of humans, yabbies, fish, birds and mammals, creatures of all kind,
who are calling for their rights to life and water uncontaminated by
Although my companions were eager to derig and depart as quickly
as possible, I urged them to sit with me at the sidewalk tables of
the Luxor Café and be open to engagement with passers by. To make
eye contact and invite dialogue. To be calm, firm and fearless in
A couple of men had become so angry at our presence that they had
shouted. Some passing women suggested cyanide be laced with the
coffee I ordered. The inevitable “get a real job” was taunted in
passing. But for every abuser there was another who came by and
offered quiet gratitude and praise for what we doing.
While tying down the poles on the roof of Peacebus, I noticed Sgt
Pat stroll by. He waved acknowledgement to me, flashed his big
smile, and kept on walking. Unfussed.
The action may not have won many hearts in West Wyalong but it
got me an invitation to talk live on ABC Radio Riverina next morning
at 8.45 am. Prime listening time for the south west of NSW.
Shiri and I had driven Peacebus to Bathurst through the night.
After Shiri had departed by bus to Sydney, I stayed camped beside
Bathurst railway station. The Lake Cowal Easter companions were all
dispersed now. Waiting for the interview I sat in the sun savoured
the sadness of the parting, breakfasted, sipped coffee, smoked a
pipe and prayed most earnestly that the ancestors and future
generations of Lake Cowal would find voice in me.
The producers call came and then the voice, a torrent of
eloquence, a river of passion, of colourful imagery, attention
holding shifts in pace and tone, of stories, humour and quick
intelligence. And fierce. "Monitoring is bullshit! Facts of life:
miners lie, politicians are corrupt and whistle blowers are
punished." And finishing: "We are going to the Gold Summit to scare
the pants of gold investors. The cyanide gold mining era is over!
Water more precious than gold."
The interviewer steered with a couple of questions but otherwise
let loose the bridle. Afterwards the producer came on the line and
congratulated me. "Great radio. You have a wonderful voice for
radio", he said. Me? The voice of my prayers. A voice of the
ancestors and future generations.
The Peacebus companions who gathered at Lake Cowal to bear
witness to the sacred were six plus Jennifer dog, Molly ewe and
Jolly Jesus, The Lamb.
The essence of bearing witness is being noticed. And there was no
doubt that the Peacebus pilgrims were being noticed.
The front page of the West Wyalong Advocate 26 March had carried
the following story beside its headline story "Court Injunction
"Despite the injunction, the colourful and crusading
Peacebus.com will still celebrate the sacred when it goes to Lake
Cowal this Easter to bear witness to the environmental folly of
setting up a cyanide gold mine in a major wetland.
The Peacebus is supporting Mr Williams is supporting Mr
Williams in his opposition to the mine development claiming it is
too much of risk for the lake and the life it supports.
Peacebus plans to set up a camp in the public reserve by the
Lake and celebrate Easter there.
"I do not expect Peacebus and company will be large in number,
but I know our witness to the sacred at Lake Cowal will be
powerfully symbolic", said Peacebus captain, Graeme Dunstan.
"We will be maintaining a sacred fire vigil there and each in
our own way will be reflecting on the Spirit, the impermanence of
things, the ever renewing nature of Nature and the story of
Christ’s passion. Lake Cowal resurrection." he said.
Father Peters Edwards, an orthodox priest from the Melbourne
Mission to Seamen, will be guiding the Easter meditation at Lake
Mr Dunstan describes Peacebus’ mission as "a pilgrimage" and
invites other interested pilgrims to come along with Peacebus
either as crew or in convoy. Further information 0412 609 373.
After Easter Peacebus will be rolling on to the Gold Summit at
the Melbourne Conference Centre 14-16 April. Inside Mr Randall
Oliphant, president and CEO of the Toronto based Barrick Gold will
be giving the keynote address. Outside Peacebus will be advising
the assembled gold miners and investors that the cyanide gold
mining era is over and that it would be wise to disinvest."
The mine developer Barrick Gold was certainly paying attention to
our mission too. For although the drilling rigs at Lake Cowal were
idle and lined up like ships awaiting the wreckers, the mine site
was on full alert with extra security staff. Video surveillance had
been set up and visitor vehicles were being followed and
photographed. We even had an aerial surveillance fly by of a light
And the miners were plainly nervous. I had no doubt that in
Toronto on the other side of the globe the President and CEO of
Barrick Gold, Mr Randall Oliphant, was receiving regular reports of
our presence. Along with burgeoning legal expenses, security now
another cost for Barrick's investors.
Death by a thousand cuts to Lake Cowal gold mine! May the mine
bleed money till it dies! May crows pick the dead flesh from its
bones! May its bones bleach and turn to dust in the sun on the dry
And what were we much spied upon pilgrims doing? Sitting at ease.
Breathing in the breezes. Tending to a fire and the comforts of good
companionship. Telling stories. Sharing heart poetry. Noticing
birds. Letting the landscape of a sacred Lake seep into us. Easter
and we were witnesses to a resurrection of the Spirit at Lake Cowal.
One never knows who will be the Peacebus companions for any
particular mission. No knowing for sure until Peacebus arrives at
its mission destination, unfolds its butterfly wings and opens in
First to reach the Lake was an old friend who wants to be known as Jack Wayward. He is a 64-year-old nomad who
put eight years of witness, research, writing, organising and money
into the campaign that brought the Timbarra heap leach gold mine
undone. Many camps we had shared. My heart had leapt at the news of
his intention to be there. Fitting out a new rig in Melbourne he had
worked 14-hour days to get it ready in time and had driven through
Shiri Barr, a 34 yr Israeli/Australian, a former kibbutzim and
sometime social ecology student at the University of Western Sydney,
was my companion on Peacebus driving it through the night to Lake
Cowal from Byron Bay. She joined the Peacebus mission when she heard
about it while helping out at the Rainforest Information Centre in
Such a good companion, such an incisive mind, thoughtful,
challenging and helpful. To my mispronunciation of her name as
'Cherie'’ she was calling me 'Grame'. I got to like it for it soon
became associated with good ideas and excellent prompts. However
when in praise and gratitude I suggested the honorary title of
Buswife, she demurred.
Shiri had recently separated from her soon to graduate medical
student husband, and was planning to return to Israel to work for
peace. So all though Easter there was dialogue about healing from
the heartbreak of love and war. This prompted Jack to tell the story
of a great love affair, which had led him to a dive into Judaism in
search of Earth roots ("present but miniscule"), to study scriptures
under the guidance of a cantor in a cold attic, to once be the Torah
bearer in a chant dance around the London synagogue, to wanderings
in Israel and a brush with Mossad.
When Peacebus arrived we were greeted by the mine’s chief of
security, Peter Donnelly, who was waiting in a beautiful new maroon
land cruiser. He pointed Jack out to me parked way out in the dry
Lakebed amongst the reeds soaking up the sun, soaking up the
landscape. Brother nomad, companion of the holy path. Under a vast
sky on a vast plain, I ran to his embrace.
We set up camp under a huge old red gum just below the high water
mark of the Lake, right beside the fence dividing the private land
where the miners had been drilling from the public reserve they
intend to drill, lit a fire, made tea, put out the banner rigs ...
Next came Nicolle 34 years, she too had driven late into the
night from Newcastle where she had left her children with their
father. A mediator by profession she is also a dread-locked veteran
of the Timbarra campaign. Nicolle, Jack and I had been companions at
Crooked Creek reserve the campaign base camp on Timbarra sacred
mountain. More recently Nicolle had been a belly laughing Peacebus
companion for the HEMP Party Aston by election campaign of July
Late in the evening, another car arrived driven by Charisse, a 24
yrs old former resource management student at Southern Cross
University and now a volunteer organiser at the Albury-Wodonga
Environment Centre. She had met Peacebus in Lismore while it was
doing roadside vigils for peace before the federal elections last
November. Driving by she stopped to inquire and accepted a cup of
tea from me.
Back in her hometown of Albury a friend of hers who specialises
in video security had told her of an offer of work he had at Easter,
monitoring hippies protesting at a gold mine. Peacebus. She had
checked the Peacebus website and had now joined up.
With her was Danielle, a year 9 student and dancer from Albury
Wodonga, the daughter of a friend of Charisse. Charisse had come via
the family Easter camp at Jingellic. Danielle hearing about the
sacred Lake, the threat of cyanide gold mining and the Peacebus
mission opted to tag along with Charisse. Green acolyte.
Father Peter Edwards, the orthodox chaplain of the Melbourne
seaman’s mission who had given refuge to Nicolle and I and the other
Aston HEMP campaigners when Peacebus broke down on its way to the
Victorian Police HQ, did not show. So no Orthodox Liturgy of St
Gregory (the old Latin Rite) in English, at dawn on Easter Sunday,
as promised. But the sun came up anyway. Christ is risen!
What exquisite grace we shared! The company of vast dry flood
plain, two old farts and a bevy of beautiful women, fair of face and bright of spirit. At ease. Under
intense surveillance. In witness to the sacred. Companions on the
holy path. What an elegant action!
What to say about the sacred at Lake Cowal?
The Lake basin is flat and huge, its grasses and reeds yellow.
Looking east 15 km away a green line marks the trees of the far
margin. Behind the Weddin Mountains rise up blue mounds on the
horizon. Vast sky. "Just like a Namajera painting", exclaimed Shiri
when we arrived. Shiri had spent some time at Hermannsburg in
Central Australia and had been to the Albert Namajera Museum.
Jack Wayward who had made many a spiritual journey through
landscape both in Australia and overseas described it as powerful,
understated, quintessentially Australian.
Together we listened to and felt the wind (pranic breath, Jack
says), and with deep quiet in our hearts, watched sun rises and sun
sets, moon rises and moon sets, Good Friday, a full moon. At one
with the ancestors who from time immemorial had done likewise on the
margins of this life supporting Lake.
I experienced the Lake as feminine and nurturing. That the
mission had attracted so many women seemed to confirm it for me.
This was the first Peacebus mission not to be predominately male.
But it was also in the nurture of the camp, in how we prepared
food, listened deeply and helped each other. Visitors too. Café Lake
Cowal was soon in full session.
Our publicity had given rise to curiosity. On Easter Sunday and
Monday we entertained a steady stream of visitors. Most of them
local people including local landowners taking their Easter house
guests for a drive. In each case it was the women who were the most
receptive to our mission.
The first visitor was Lorna Eshiu; a 70 year old, widow of the
former Bland Shire Engineer and our West Wyalong host. When I had
come through West Wyalong in February to reconnoitre the Lake and
the action, I read an excellent letter by her against the mine
development and published in the West Wyalong Advocate. It was the
only letter published against the mine during the 1996 pro mine
I looked her name up in the phone book and gave her a call. An
animal loving, eccentric freethinker like me, we got on like a house
on fire. A one time trainer of and breeder of sheep dogs and now a
dog minder for her friends, she adored Jennifer and Molly. Molly
chose to lamb in her drive way. We had sat together in the sunset,
drinking wine, witnesses to the miracle of new life, happy midwives.
Lorna was fascinated by the Peacebus companions but indignant
about the mine security taking photos of her and her car on a public
road. She railed against this intrusion on her privacy and
subsequently rang and complained personally to the Bland Shire
All theatre of surveillance to me. Reality TV for cyanide
criminals, I say.
The next visiting vehicle bore a father, a West Wyalong
businessman, and his daughter, a Wagga boarding schoolgirl. She was
following the Lake Cowal gold mine controversy as part of a school
project, read about the Peacebus mission on the net and had come to
get photos. Her father was bit of an authority on the Lake and the
landscape. Been there, as a boy fishing it seems.
The next was a local quarry man and his wife, gentle Christian
people and curious. The quarry man had worked in a local tin mine
and had personal experience of the cover-ups and environmental short
cuts of the mining industry.
So it was with the stream of visitors. The men would speak of the
good times they had camping, boating, fishing and duck hunting. The
women would be touched by our mission of protection.
In between times I worked to finish the detail of the off side
panel of Peacebus, which read: "Turn towards kindness! No gulags!
Let compassion rule!" The image was of sad faces and figures of
Afghan refugees and it was painted by Elspeth Jones on the street
outside the Nimbin Museum in the two days before mission departure
(plenty of sad-faced refugees of the Drug War there to model upon).
The faces and figures were behind a cyclone mesh fence and I
laboured to highlight the wire mesh in the foreground. The best of
four days work it took, two days in Nimbin, two at Lake Cowal. A
meditation on incarceration.
By the fire Charisse and Danielle sat on a piece of carpet hand
sewing a piece of scarlet velvet into new items of finery. Visions
of beauty. Maidens in loving and intimate conversation sewing
together. Smoke of fire, sheep chewing cud, dog asleep in the dust
of a thicket. Contentment, peace on Earth on a piece of earth,
condemned to become a void, a huge open pit 1 km by 800 m by 325 m
On Easter Sunday, Jack took the companions to explore Mount
Wamboyne, the Lakeside mountain to the north, while I persevered
with my meditation on incarceration. We had been told there were
rock pools and aboriginal rock carvings up there.
While they away I had a visit from a local landowner, Howard
Howard had grown up in the area, loved the Lake, and wanted to
keep it pristine. But for the sake of jobs and services to
townspeople he was willing to sacrifice one relatively small corner
of it. "You have to get the scale in proportion", he told me. I
protested that it was the tonnage of lethal poisons that was out of
proportion, and the enduring soluble toxins that would be left
behind on the site when the miners were finished. But Howard had
faith in the miner’s claim that no poisons would leave the site and
pollute the Lake or the ground water.
Howard told me a story about Premier Bob Carr I had also heard
from my friends in the NSW Greens. On his deathbed, Milo Dunphy, the
driving force behind the successful national parks movement in NSW
(may his name be always remembered with honour) and a bushwalking
mate of Bob Carr, had asked the Premier not to let Lake Cowal be
mined. Carr had agreed and subsequently, on national television, had
personally rejected the first Commission of Inquiry development
Howard was troubled by the native title claim and the successful
injunction by Wiradjuri elder, Neville Williams. Where had it come
from? He had never heard of the Lake being sacred before and nor had
never seen any Aboriginal people at the Lake.
I told them what my koori friend Ron Gardiner had told me when I
met him and his family in Condobolin. That for six generations now,
no Wiradjuri people had been to Lake since they been warned off
landowners. The Wiradjuri had every reason to fear and respect the
injunctions of the landowners because martial law had been declared
against them in 1823. At the time of land grabs by the squatters,
they had been hunted and massacred.
Howard conceded that Australia had a black history and that was
common ground enough.
Howard told me the longest recorded dry spell for the Lake had
been 27 years. He explained the process of regeneration when it
fills from the flooding Lachlan River in the north. First yabbies
and frogs, which have buried themselves under the silt, surface and
breed. Then native fish regenerate. Then the birds arrive to feed
and breed. Some flying in from the China, Japan and Siberia.
The NSW Nature Conservation Council has estimated as many as
470,000 birds on the Lake and 170 different species breeding there.
"Like something out of Africa", was how Lorna had described it.
I could imagine countless generations who had sat upon the shores
of Lake Cowal filled with the same wonder and respect at this
regeneration. Lake Cowal then as a living symbol of the
Jack Wayward and companions returned from Mount Wamboyne in
rapture at the landscape they had seen there. The grand view of the
Lake bed stretching 25 kilometres. But more particularly Jack was
thrilled by the forest remanent he had found up there. Old low
trees, mosses and lichens. Enchanted glades. Finding these, Jack
said, was his Easter highlight.
My highlight was the Elm Dance that Shiri taught us on Easter
Sunday. She had learned it from engaged Buddhist and long time
anti-nuke campaigner, Joanna Macey. Shiri introduced it with two
stories: a Yiddish one about the power of stories and then the story
of the dance itself, which is a memory fragment of an ancient
Siberian forest culture whose people had been forced to quit their
beloved forest because of nuclear contamination.
But first we prepared ourselves for the ritual by making a shrine
of sacred objects at the foot of pole bearing a koori banner.
Standing there hand in hand, Jack, the elder present, smoked us with
a branch of burning gum leaves.
Shiri taught us the steps and the tune, and soon we were circling
and humming, swaying in the shade of the ancient red gum, in full
view of the mine security and its stranded drilling rigs, entranced,
lost in time, bound in grace.
If our search for the sacred at Lake Cowal was a curiosity to
local people, it was the source of consternation amongst some of my
colleagues in the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal who had declared that
Lake Cowal was so sacred that no-one must enter there.
The source of this taboo was said to be Neville 'Chappie'
Williams, the native titleholder who, speaking on behalf of the
Mooka Traditional owners had won the injunction that had stopped the
test drilling. Chappie, formerly a resident of Cowra, 120 km to the
east of Lake Cowal, now a resident in Canberra, had stood up in the
NSW Land and Environment court and with simple sincerity declared
the Lake as sacred, that it must not be mined and that the miner did
not have consent to destroy Aboriginal artefacts.
I had rung Chappie while preparing Peacebus for the Lake Cowal
mission, explained my intention and asked his blessing. Direct and
to the point he only had one question: "Do you want to stop the
mine?" Yes. "Then you have my blessing. May the Spirit guide you."
But Ellie Gilbert, the white widow of Wiradjuri playwright, Kevin
Gilbert, one of the main movers in the campaign to protect the Lake
and Neville Williams’ minder, contested this blessing saying in
effect that I had deceived the old man and lied.
The taboo was not only news to farmers who had grown up upon the
Lake's shores. I soon found that it was news to the Wiradjuri who
lived at Condobolin 80 km to the north. Frank Gardiner, the Canberra
based koori activist who was organising the native title claim
amongst the kooris there, and a sometime ally of Ellie, introduced
me around when I went there in February. I was happily given
approval to camp at the Lake. "Pray to the ancestors before
entering. Pray when departing. Be respectful. Be in the Spirit", Ron
So in the Spirit, Peacebus had camped at the Lake in February and
again at Easter.
The taboo seemed to me to be more about the mystification of
Aboriginality for control purposes than fact or good strategy for
the defence of the Lake.
To suggest there is substance to the taboo is to deny the
evidence of one’s eyes. The aboriginal artefacts found about the
Lake suggest a long time pattern of hunting and camping on its
shores. The Game Reserve upon which we were camped had been used by
duck shooters and fishermen for over 150 years. Piles of stubbies,
white men’s middens, and the remains of their camps were plain to
see. Further more it was grazed by cattle, overgrazed. Farmers and
miners drove about the Lakebed daily.
The only impact promoting the idea of such a taboo could have was
to discourage anyone who had sympathy for the sacred Lake and
respect for Neville Williams and his defence of it, from putting
their feet on the Earth there. For them the Lake would have to
remain a name, a place on a map, pictures in book. An idea of the
sacred but not the experience of it.
Meanwhile those who went daily to the Lake to desecrate would
heed no such restraint.
But we humans are hard wired as herd animals and we love to group
and make distinctions about insiders and outsiders. Green campaigns
are no exception. Ellie Gilbert and Ron Gardiner had been the early
starters of the Lake Cowal defence. It had been them who had brought
Ruth Rosenhek into the campaign and founded the Coalition to Protect
Lake Cowal of which Peacebus.com was a member.
Many and mixed agendas as always, and naturally enough Ellie
wanted to assert the group around her, Neville Williams and Al
Oshlack's court actions as campaign central.
I wished no disrespect for Neville Williams and his courage
standing up in the NSW Land and Environment Court defending the Lake
as sacred heartland of the Wiradjuri people, but I was determined
not to be entangled in koori politics. In an exchange of emails with
Ellie I made my priorities clear. Earth first, koori second.
I recalled that Bundjulung elder, Uncle Eric, was know to weep
when telling how sacred Timbarra mountain, highest initiation
ground, was to his people. But the miners blandished dollars and
duchessed him and his family, taking them on a gold mine inspection,
and into the pouring room where they put gold ingots in their hands
and took photos.
The miner's lackeys in government told Uncle Eric there was no
hope, that the mine would go head regardless of his consent and that
it would be wise to take what he could get for his people, his clan,
his family. The pressure from his long time poverty stricken family
had been too much and the old man signed the 1996 Tabulam Agreement,
which effectively sold his cultural birthright to the miners for
I remembered talking about this with Jack Wayward at the time. His
response was why be surprised or disappointed? What deification and
mystification is happening here that suggested that Timbarra
defenders could expect the Bundjulung whose culture has been crushed
by years of genocide, child stealing, racist oppression, poverty and
endemic alcohol abuse to be strong in the defence of the Earth?
Ellie's issues about control of course mirrored mine at 180
degrees. I am a long time practising anarchist and too old and too
world wary to be dictated to by any reinvented Politburo however
black, however green.
Centralism, it seems to me, sooner or later dis-empowers the
grass roots movement and the controllers, in their self importance, arrogance, delusion, are soon enough stuck in isolation and
alienation, soon enough flounder or become corrupt.
The success of the Timbarra campaign was due to its chaos and
anarchy. For eight years people came and went through the different
phases of the campaign from the early warnings, to the resistance
before the mine opening, the monitoring of the development, the lock
on blockades of roads, the native title challenges in the court, the
lobbying, the close down endgame and clean up negotiations.
Many people made many different kinds of contributions.
Independent actions, some big, some small, arising from a network of
associations always tenuous, always in flux.
Some put their body on the line with tripods and lock-ons. Some
researched and wrote reports. Some monitored the mine by stealth
getting photos and video footage for the media. Some made music,
wrote and sang songs of inspiration. Some made video. Some ran court actions. Some organised
fund raising. Some wrote letters, lobbied and played the
parliamentary game. I took to the road with Peacebus and, heaving to
outside the offices of the politicians, bureaucrats and miners who
had approved the mine, publicly accusing them of cyanide crimes
against future generations.
Committees came and went. People came and went. Some made huge
sacrifices, burned out and went mad for Timbarra was a mountain of
power, and one of its powers was the power to obsess. But always the
campaign was renewing and the struggle alive. Four years since the
shut down, I am still hearing stories from people who undertook
actions of resistance of which I had no awareness at the time.
There was no central organising group. Instead lots of small
groups and independent efforts, attacking the miner like a swarm of
wasps, a constant torment of many stings but no easy knock out
targets for either their mercenaries or their litigious lawyers.
This is the way of people’s power. Everywhere but nowhere in
particular. The movement arising from the people as from a spring
that never runs dry, and when its goal has been achieved, dissolving
back into the people, leaving no standing army.
And when I say the people, I mean in particular the poor and the
lowly. Those with passion and courage to stand up for truth, to name
the prevailing corruption, to see a different way, needs be, are the
outsiders, the outcastes, the underclass, the dispossessed and the
oppressed. Those with neither status nor property to lose by
confronting the lawyers of the corporate rich or the police of the
corrupt state. Their resources are usually meagre but their spirit
and determination come from a truth grounded in the conditions of
the poor, a witness intimate with the suffering in the world, close
to the earth, raw with experience and power.
When the rotten tree falls, it is outside agencies, wind or axe
that bring it down. When the centre is corrupt and rotten, change
can only come from the outside, from the margins. Not from the
parliament or the chambers of commerce or service clubs. Certainly
not from the rich. Thus it has always been.
This era of global piracy by the super rich, of the US tyranny,
is not the first time in the history of human affairs that the rich
have hijacked the state and spread war and poverty. Nor will it be
the last. Many lessons to be learned from the courage and struggle
of the ancestors.
We must always remember that the new order does not spring into
being full-grown. It begins small and tentative, a search rather
than a definite goal. Moving from darkness into light and only the
path under our feet as the guide. The path of friendliness. The path
of peace. The path of goodwill. The new way, not a promise, not a
destination, but here and now, lived and alive amongst us.
Democracy was invented as a form of government in response to the
tyranny of the jail building rich of the 150 years ago. It was
invented to protect the liberties of the people and to assure
equality. An experiment really. Now we see it has become the best
government money can buy. Time to reinvent the state. Time to be
building a people’s movement amongst the poor and the marginal.
And that was my other issue about the questionable taboo. In
terms of building a people’s movement capable of sustaining on-site
resistance to the Lake Cowal mine, it was counter productive and
plain stupid. Lake Cowal is a long way from the centres of green
activism. Hard enough to raise enthusiasm amongst eco-warriors to
make the commitment of time and petrol to drive there. The talk of
taboo could only serve to create division and weaken resolve.
Past experience in environmental campaigns told me that the key
to getting campaign commitment is to get people to the site,
standing on the ground, soaking up the vibe. To stand in a forest is
to want to defend the forest because the forest soon enough
communicates it wants to be defended.
Finding voice for the defence of the Earth, is the work of deep
ecology, the core teaching of John Seed and Ruth Rosenhek’s
eco-workshops called the Council of all Beings. At the heart of the
Peacebus Lake Cowal mission was the intention to sit by its shores,
soak up the sacred there and its find its voice, the voice of the
ancestors and future generations. And then take it to the streets of
West Wyalong and on to the Australian Cold Conference in Melbourne.
Ellie had also reacted to my efforts to organise some kind of
ecumenical Christian celebration of the sacred at the Lake at
Easter. ‘Lake Cowal resurrection’ was my theme. Ellie told me that
both she personally and the Wiradjuri culturally had had bad
experiences with Christianity and that it would be divisive and
inappropriate to invite in Christians at this time when cultural
regeneration was happening around the courageous stand of Neville
Williams as an elder.
May Neville Williams’ name be spoken with respect and honour
For myself, I am not so black and white about Christianity
myself, nor so reactive. Many paths to the sacred. Many different
kinds of Christians. Good people within and without Churches. I am
aware of earnest moves within some Christian churches for
reconciliation. Divisive to exclude.
More particularly I was aware of the impact that the Anglican
Bishop of Grafton, +Philip Huggins, had when he publicly questioned
the safety and wisdom on the Timbarra Mine and the threat it
represented to the health of the mighty Clarence River upon whose
banks his Grafton Cathedral and his bishop's residence, Bishopholme,
In the end we need all the help we can get and I’m for reaching
out for allies. As a fisher of priests and pastors, I had cast the
net wide. But the only catch was Fr Peter Edwards, an orthodox
father at the Melbourne Anglican Mission to Seaman, and last minute
roster problems had caused him to bale out.
In the end the Lake decided our pathway to the sacred and it was
fusion of many traditions, Earth Mother, Pagan, Jewish, Buddhist,
Sufi, Taoist and Christian. Sun in the east, sun in the west, same
The upshot of all this was that Ellie put out that I was working
for ASIO (deja vu Coolum CHOGM) and not to be trusted.
Even an email from my old Aquarian mate, Al Oshlack,
disassociating his court actions from Peacebus. Bad mouthed and ostracised. Out of the email loop. The Peacebus mission to
Lake Cowal declared something other and marginalised. School ground kiddie stuff this.
In this context the reader will understand why I felt particularly
affirmed and gratified when Ron Gardiner and a koori family from
Condobolin, arrived at our Lake Cowal on the evening of Easter
Monday and broke bread with us. Ron suffers for overweight and other
the debilitations associated with diabetes and poverty and had made
major effort to come meet me at Lake Cowal. Our hands shook in
mutual respect. Comrades in the campaign to prevent the mining of
Good man, Ron. He told me he had been working with a Canberra based Quaker group who were interested in reconciliation and that he had organised a tour for them of mission settlements in western NSW so they might understand from direct experience the social conditions for kooris in these towns and the challenges to the practice of reconciliation.
Like jails, Ron said, the 19th century missions were organised in a hierarchy of better and worse conditions for their inmates. Compliance led to movement to better, more ³goodie-two-shoes² missions, non co-operation and resistance led to placement in missions with more punitive conditions. The pits in this system were concentration camps where the mad, the bad and the ugly of mixed clans and tribes were incarcerated and left to fight it out.
The social dysfunctions of such calculated racist cruelty have been long enduring. Ron had taken his Quaker pilgrims to stay overnight in one the communities created by one such pit missions, and some had been frightened for their lives.
From West Wyalong Peacebus meandered towards Melbourne and the
Australian Gold Conference, which took place in the Melbourne
Exhibition and Convention Centre 14-16 April. Bearing witness for
justice. Bearing the voice of Lake Cowal. Beating a drum.
On the back of Peacebus is painted, white on light blue sky over
the ascending dove of epiphany, the words: "Honk for Peace!" Along
the highways of southern NSW Peacebus was eliciting honks from an
estimated one passing car in every 50. That's a lot of honks. Kept
me alert at the wheel and my right arm exercising returning all
those smiles and waves with peace signs.
Peacebus as pop icon. I wondered how much of this notoriety was
contributed by ABC Radio Riverina.
Along the way, we unfurled Peacebus’ butterfly colours in two of
regional media gigs to let Mr Randall Oliphant, the CEO and
President of Barrick Gold and keynote speaker at the gold
conference, know we were coming. Beating a drum I called it.
In Albury Charisse, who does volunteer work for the Environment
Centre there, set up an action for Peacebus in QEII Square in the
very heart of the City of Albury on Monday 8 April. The action
attracted only a small audience, about 12, including Charisse,
Danielle and Danielle’s mum, Rebecca and her 5-year-old sister,
Abbie, who clapped and cheered enthusiastically at the close of my
Dean Street Lake Cowal oratory.
But the PA had people pausing and listening 100 metres away. And
afterwards we attracted lots of smiles and waves as we rolled around
town. Fan mail left under the wipers when parked: "Thanks. Keep
going! Where next?"
A Peacebus got a story on the local TV news and in the local
daily with a colour photo on page 19. Grizzled grey head with five
lovely women and girls on the roof
But more enduring was the networking and affirmation stimulated
by the presence of Peacebus for local environmental activists. The
journalist who rang me from the Albury daily newspaper, the Northern
Advocate, asked me about the development of a cyanide gold mine near
Bellata about 30 km north of Albury and in the catchment of the Hume
I had never associated Albury with gold mining, and certainly
knew nothing of this mine development proposal. But now a bunch of
local people does and they are early on the case to prevent it. The
next day Rebecca, rang the General Manager of the local council and
he was quick to say the developer had backed off. Now the GM knows
there are local watchdogs on the scent of cyanide criminals he will
certainly be less encouraging in any future dealings with mine
In terms of getting noticed, Molly and Jolly on the grass of the
City plaza were the big winners grazing. Smile evokers and
conversation starters these.
After the action I remained parked in the plaza but back from the
main street a little. At ease, at peace, urban shepherd with laptop.
The cops had been courteous and helpful and although a council
ordinance officer came on heavy he soon retreated and stayed away.
The general goodwill was such that when the Park security officer
came on duty at 3 pm, first thing he did was to assure me my
presence was okay and he was looking out for me.
My keyboard tapping was constantly interrupted by strangers
wanting to make conversations and me making cups of tea. Talk about
sheep. About Peacebus. About the issues represented by its signage.
I was happy to listen. In fact I have in mind to make a banner to
fly over Peacebus for such occasions: "Cafe Lake Cowal: Bewildered
and Willing to Listen".
And Peacebus recruited on the way. A young man named Jason who
had spent some time in Nimbin wanted to show me his street
performance tricks. An excellent didgeridoo player, he could also
crack a stock whip.
He demonstrated in the plaza. Crack! Poor dear gun shy Jennifer
took fright and took off. Asking pedestrians as I went looking:
"Have you seen a big shaggy dog running by?" I learned that three
blocks away from the Park she had been still running. I gave up
looking and surrendered to waiting. Jennifer came back within the
hour, panting and smiling, pleased to see me still alive.
Here is a story of the power of prayer, a weather vane to the
fair and benevolent winds the ancestors and future generations had
sent to carry Peacebus along on its mission.
Heading towards Bendigo, south of Benalla, Peacebus overheated,
and green coolant splashed out from under the engine cover. Oh dear,
I thought. Another Peacebus breakdown saga. They had been many and
costly in the past.
Not to be fussed we rolled to a stop by side of the dual carriage
highway and put on the kettle, and put out the table and chairs.
After a cup of tea, a pipe, and some readings from Rumi, the mood
was sweet but it was soon time for action. Time to lift the engine
cover. Time to get out tools. Time to get hands dirty. Time for
left-brain linear logical problem solving.
We had been reading Rumi’s injunction to "Cry out your
So but before leaving my chair I called out loud: "Bring me a
mechanic. This is the prayer of all those who have gone before on
this highway and broken down in buses. Hear my helplessness and
bring me a mechanic!"
I turned to Charisse and saw that she was looking up the highway
to the oncoming traffic. Following her gaze, I saw a big man on a
small bike wobbling towards us.
“What’s your trouble, mate?” he asked coming to a halt at our
table. Overheating. “I can fix that”, he exclaimed.
Charisse and I laughed rejoicing in the Great Spirit that carries
us along.. "You are the answer to our prayers", I said. "But first
you must have a cup of tea."
Pulling the bike from under his bulk, he groaned as he tried to
straighten his legs. "I shouldna have stopped", he gasped. "I will
never be able to start again."
His name was Steve and he was a big smile, dark haired Turk who
had recently moved from Melbourne to Benalla. His story was that he
was broke and ashamed. The night before his Land Cruiser had broken
down 58 km south near Seymour. His recently estranged wife and their
child had spent a cold night in a highway truckie park. She had gone
back to Melbourne with family who had come to pick her up. Steve had
got his son’s BMX bike out of the back and cycled to Benalla to get
The spare parts were in a bag tied to the handlebars. They were
not even the right spare parts. They were the nearest best fit and
Steve intended to make them fit by modifying them with an hack saw
in the truckie park.
I could imagine Steve must have been doing his share of praying
too as he pushed the undersize bike along, punishing himself for
having an unreliable car and exposing his family to cold and the
perils of a highway truckie park.
"Get Peacebus rolling and we will take both you and your bike to
your car", I told Steve. His gratitude gushed like floodwater over a
dam wall. "Tyres", he said. "Tyres all around for Peacebus! My mate
has a tyre shop in Diamond Valley. I work there. Tyres all around."
Getting low on cannabis, I had been praying for more of it too.
On a roll, I asked. "Cannabis! Cannabis! How much you want? I grow
it. Inside I have a cupboard. Outside in the garden too. My mates,
they run the scene in Diamond Valley. Anytime you there I get you
Pity we weren’t in Diamond Valley at that very moment. Peacebus
would have been loaded down like a truck of cabbages going to
market. Steve loved Peacebus. We showed him photos of Lake Cowal and
other actions and took a photo of him standing before it for his
Steve wouldn’t let me touch a bolt or a spanner. He trimmed and
replaced a broken hose and soon we were rolling again. We overheated
one more time before I phoned and consulted Lance the Mechanic in
Nimbin. Lance suggested I check to see if the auxiliary radiator fan
was working. It wasn’t because in my clumsiness I had knocked off
its power lead. Problem solved.
In the truckie park, Steve set to with the hack saw. Charisse put
out the table and put on the kettle. I put Molly and Jolly out to
graze and soon we had company. First up it was 25 curious children
taking a piss stop on their way back to Benalla from a school
excursion, all wanting to pet Jolly. Then it was truckies and
What was the more powerful attractor here? The beautiful and
elegant Charisse at table beneath the words:"Turn towards kindness"
or Molly and Jolly at hand chewing cud and Jennifer relaxed at our
feet? Both and.
Sharing tea and a joint I told these new friends the story of
Steve’s troubles. One wandered over and offered to tow Steve back to
Benalla. Within ten minutes Steve was underway, but not before he
had hacked a piece of hose of his Land Cruiser and given to me as a
spare, just in case.
Beneath my feet this path of friendliness becomes a river
carrying me along.
The delay getting to Bendigo required that we postpone for 24
hours the Peacebus action proposed for Wednesday 10 April. Using my
sister in law’s phone, I made good use of the extra time to work the
local media and make contact with the local anti pit mine network.
Bendigo is major provincial city, which was founded and grew to
prosperity in the 19th century gold mining boom. The twentieth
century cyanide era had also brought a mini boom in gold mining
investment in the area and in the past twenty five years, in the
vicinity of Bendigo some 19 pits have been dug of which only three
have been, or ever will be, back filled by the miners.
This ongoing savaging of the rural landscape fuelled a growing
anger amongst rural dwellers and that anger came to focus in a
resident action group, which formed to oppose an open pit mine gold
development by Perseverance Mining Company at Axedale. Perseverance
at one time had expressed interest in buying the Timbarra gold mine
from Ross, providing the restoration bond money was reduced. Ruth
Rosenhek of the Rainforest Information Centre and the central
organiser of the Coalition to Protect Lake Cowal, had made her
contribution to the Timbarra campaign by being instrumental in
squashing that option.
The group were pleased to support Peacebus and its Lake Cowal
campaign, for they were celebrating a victory. The Perseverance
Mining Company had announced liquidation and the Axedale open pit
gold mine development proposal was dead in the water. Everything was
to be sold right down to office furniture. I was told that members
of the resident action group were planning to celebrate the defeat
of the last pit miner in their region with toasts of champagne at
the upcoming auction of Perseverance’s assets.
But their persevering citizen action had other impacts, for they
had also been a major contributing factor to the dumping of the
super enthusiastically economically rational Kennett government by
stirring up local dissent and fuelling a huge and unpredicted rural
swing against the government in 1999.
The action that they were most chuffed about had been an ambush
of potential gold mine investors that the management of Perseverance
had coached to Axedale from the Australian Gold Conference of 1998.
The investors’ coach had been tailed from Melbourne and its
reception at Axedale coordinated by mobile phones.
Approaching the mine site along a country lane, the miner’s coach
was slowed to a crawl by slow moving obstructions like sheep,
farmer’s trucks and tractors, spruikers and banner bearing locals.
The mine management was furious, the resident action group
triumphant. They had produced an event, which made its point to both
the investors and the media that the mine development had serious
obstructions. The organising had also given the participants a proud
and strong sense of community.
At the suggestion of anti-pit activist Julie Howard, a former
union organiser and wife of the local member, a Labor man, who was
elected in the swing from Kennett, the Peacebus action took place at
the Cornish statue, a bronze sculpture commemorating the labour of
the gold pioneers. Central to the Bendigo CBD it is in front of the
Library, at the rear of the grand 19th century civic hall and
across the road from the Bendigo City Council officers.
Good liaison was established with police but Molly and Jolly’s
grazing as we set up in this central park soon had a ranger on us.
He was friendly enough and as a compromise to reduce obstruction to
the footpath he suggested we pull Peacebus off the small plaza by
the sculpture and angle park it near by while we set up. Angle
parked Peacebus’ rear protruded into a traffic lane in Lyttleton
Terrace, "TURN TOWARDS KINDNESS" facing the oncoming traffic.
Such words attract some, but evoke road rage in others, we soon
discovered. When we were all set up a ready to roll, I slipped away
for a piss and while away, Charisse was witness to a the arrival of
a semi trailer which instead of moving a little to the right to pass
Peacebus, pulled up behind it, with its driver fuming with rage.
"Move this vehicle or I will move it for you", he demanded. Before
Charisse could respond, CRUNCH! the semi had pushed Peacebus off
the road, bending a parking sign pole in front and denting the
corner panels of the mural on Peacebus' rear.
Two foot patrol police officers were on the scene within seconds,
for they were arriving for our action. Witnesses rushed to tell the
story of the wanton assault on Peacebus. Very, very unkind.
Once the adrenalin had settled, Peacebus took off with banners
rigged to its side like a sailing ship and cruised around the CBD of
Bendigo, me on PA. "Citizens of Bendigo, this is Peacebus.com!"
Around the block we returned and hove to at the Cornish miner
statue, now decorated with Peacebus flags and banners and the
placards from the Coalition of Communities against Pit Mines.
Standing in front of Peacebus I told the Lake Cowal story and
handed the mike over to Julie Howard. What a firebrand, she was!
Again it was a small gathering in terms of turn up. Maybe 12
people gathered including a grand cousin of mine who had recognised
my voice on the PA. But it made a big impact in Bendigo that day,
made the local TV news that evening and gave both Peacebus and the
local activists some excellent media.
The locals loved Peacebus’ colourful style. Heartening and
inspirational, they told us. And we loved their courage and
perseverance. Excellent networking.
In Melbourne we sought refuge in the Anglican Mission to Seaman,
a quaint and curious cultural artefact, adjacent to the Yarra side
complex of buildings, which includes the Melbourne World Trade
Centre, the Victorian Police HQ and the Melbourne Exhibition and
Conference Centre (MECC).
Established in the 19th century as a welfare mission for sailors
when that part of the Yarra was the busy port of Melbourne, the
Mission has been marooned both by the shift of port facilities to
elsewhere and the changes of technology that meant smaller crews and
shorter dockings. Although it provided a pick bus service to docking
ships, few seaman were using its beautiful recreation room, sprung
dance floor, proscenium arched stage and sacred chapel.
Our host was Fr Peter Edwards the orthodox priest who had failed
to show for the promised Easter Sunday service at Lake Cowal. He
introduced us to the other two ordained Ministers in residence there
and they were happy for Charisse and I to use the Mission as a
refuge, and for Molly and Jolly to graze in the walled garden at the
Fr Peter showed us about and told the story of the architecture
and the beautiful icons in the Chapel. A seafarers Chapel and me a
Peacebus pilgrim, I prayed there for guidance and protection like so
many others before had done.
Our publicity had worked well and the MECC security had been told
by the miners to expect our protest. A week earlier I had rung the
MECC to negotiate the action and was put through to the Director of
Operations, Frank Moran, and his Chief of Security, Peter Saunders,
who had just sat down to discuss the problem of Peacebus. They were
delighted to hear from me.
I emailed Peter Saunders explaining our mission, our peaceful and
colourful ways, our desire to be noticed and yet not to obstruct the
Australian Gold Conference in anyway. To the contrary we wanted the
gold investors to enjoy their confab with us as contributors for I
reckoned that the news we came bearing could save gold investors a
lot of grief.
I also faxed a letter giving notice of the action to the
Victorian Police via the chief of Staff, Chief Superintendent Kevin
Scott, whom I had met during the aborted Peacebus mission to Police
HQ to collect the Big Joint during the Aston by election campaign of
the previous July.
Advice was what I sought. Where best to set up? A couple of days
later, after meeting with police, Peter Saunders rang and
recommended Batman Park, a reserve between the Yarra River and the
railway viaduct, adjacent to Spencer Street, directly across the
road from the MECC. This park and the River beside was the view from
the Conference Centre.
"Beside the Yellow Peril", he said referring to an infamous piece
of sculpture, a pile of yellow painted steel slabs, which the City
of Melbourne had commissioned and paid a small fortune for 30 years
prior. Originally sited in the uptown City Square, the sculpture had
been so disliked that it had been dubbed the 'Yellow Peril' in
reference to the anti-Asian sentiments been promoted by the Vietnam
War proponents at the time, and moved three times before being
placed in Batman Park.
"Perfect!" I exclaimed and thanked Peter, who I realised had
checked our website and had taken up a cyber seat on Peacebus.
Helpful now to us pilgrims as if he were a Peacebus pilgrim himself.
Gold as the Yellow Peril. Once associated with prosperity, gold
is now more appropriately associated with poisons. The stacked slabs
I saw as representing the gold held in reserves, the stacked ingots
in vaults keeping the price high. And the instability of the stack
symbolised the instability of the gold mining industry, which is a
house of cards, held together by PR lies.
Police and MECC security then were okay about our action. But
asking the Melbourne City Council for permission to use the park
was, I knew, doomed to failure. For starters, Peacebus carries no
public liability insurance, and this is a nightmare for local
government. Then there was the matter of the grazing livestock. And
steel posts in the lawn. Better to ask forgiveness than permission
in such circumstances. So I made a token effort or ringing the Parks
Booking office on the Friday afternoon before. They were out to
The Australian Gold Conference began with some sort gold
investors expo on Sunday 14 May and Charisse and I drove Peacebus
into Batman Park confident that, being Sunday, we would not have
much trouble with ordinance officers.
We set up six koori banners in two lines to direct focus on
Peacebus and its "Water more precious than gold" side panel and
rigged the "Viva Timbarra! Forever ban cyanide gold mining" banner
above it. Then we worked to complete the painting of a set of
cardboard letters, which we had cut out in the cloisters of the
Mission to Seamen the previous day. The letters were 600 mm high,
white with black trim. I had had a vision of spelling out slogans
when Peter Saunders described the location to me.
On the first day we spelled out: END CYANIDE TERRORISM. On the
second day, the day of Randall Oliphant's keynote address, it was:
INDICT THE CYANIDE CRIMINALS. On the third day it was: THE CYANIDE
ERA IS OVER!
The set up was colourful, ordered and eye pleasing. Add a couple
of grazing sheep, and the elegant Charisse sitting at table taking
coffee, and you will understand why we were the object of much
curiosity and many stares.
Visibility is essential to social change. We herd animals look
for leadership, and we change by modelling the social behaviour of
others. Anonymity is not an option if the goal is to create cultural
movement and change. Deluded are all those folks hiding away, in
cherished privacy convinced by their television sets that they are
well informed and active citizens because they have opinions. But
the opinions are TV generated and the believers are dupes of the
most sophisticated propaganda machine ever created.
To consolidate the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks invented
the modern propaganda methods of the Big Lie. The Nazis brought
German thoroughness and refinement to it, but the Americans learning
the skills from the Nazis, added TV, Hollywood and Disneyland to the
task and they have now lock stepped the minds of billions.
When a Jennifer barks, Molly and Jolly instantly become alert,
their eyes staring in the direction of the danger, their sheepish
brain processing for an appropriate response. We humans are herd
animals too and hardwired to become alert when danger is suggested,
real or simulated. Infotainment of TV news fits around this
hardwiring like a glove. Like an opiate around a synapse of a pain
receptor. When we see and hear about a human disaster on the other
side of the world, we want to watch, and keep watching.
Disaster upon disaster, wars, bushfires, floods, nuclear
accidents, rapes, kidnappings and murders without end every night
from 6 pm and the most shocking images repeated and repeated.
So are consciousnesses fed by a TV diet of fear and the fruit is
not only a sense of powerlessness but also of isolation and
disorientation. Our sheepish brains assume that what is happening on
the TV screen is also happening outside our windows, in the very
streets of our neighbourhoods. Isolated in a fear generating virtual
community, we are disconnected from the humanity, nurture and
grounding of actual community.
It's a bigger problem for social change than this bunny can
comprehend. My personal response has been to avoid watching TV and
instead to become visible in public place, occupying it in the name
of peace and validating the essential and prevailing peacefulness
and kindness of the communities that I visit. And I am into the old
fashion art of speaking up and speaking out.
Thus I walk in the footsteps of the ancestors who went before,
who opposed the tyranny of the rich, the greed driven, and struggled
for liberty and freedom. And I don’t miss the news at all. In the
emptiness left when I don’t have TV images and worries rattling
around my mind, is filled with birdsong and friendship. Closer to my
heart, closer to God.
But visibility is not for everyone. Leo fire horse me, loves it.
Charisse told me she found the exposure daunting but grew used to
it. Jennifer sheep guard dog, up against passing pedestrians, trams,
and trains, plus helicopters landing nearby, found it all too much
and took refuge inside Peacebus for the three days of our witness.
But the belly demands steady grazing from a sheep so Molly and
Jolly accepted the circumstances and their calm presence astonished
and amused passers by. Incredible to me who had spent so much effort
bringing colour to the park, were the people who would notice the
sheep first, come over to talk about them, and then notice the glory
of Peacebus, its banners and its message.
By agreement with MECC security I used the PA sparingly. Only
three times a day for 5 to 10 minutes, timed to coincide with the
tea and lunch breaks of the Conference. Talking from on top of
Peacebus, the PA boomed and the sound bounced around the concrete
Through the tinted glass of the MECC I could see shadowy figures
watching me. Spectres of the corporate machine, they seemed to be,
the poisoners and the polluters who take profit but not
responsibility for their actions.
To whatever ears might be listening, I told the story of Lake
Cowal, warned the investors Barrick Gold's Lake Cowal mine
development was dead in the water and ended with the curse: "May the
Lake Cowal gold mine bleed money until it dies. May crows pick the
dead flesh from its bones. May its bones bleach and turn to dust on
the dry Lakebed. Let the rich eat the gold they have. Water more
precious than gold!"
As with other actions the Peacebus presence attracted a stream of
curious visitors, tourists, parkies, and passing greenies. The
security staff of MECC came over and introduced themselves and when
our police liaison officer arrived, Senior Constable Peter Masters
of the Special Events Unit, the corners of his grin were almost
reaching his ears. I guessed he had checked our website and read the
stories of other actions. Peacebus.com gets lots of clicks from
police and other government departments.
At about 2 pm Monday two Melbourne City Council ordinance
officers appeared and looking about in wonder began by saying: “I
understand your position. If you had have asked for permission for
this, it would never have been granted.”
Then they looked more carefully at our signage. "What are you on
about anyway?" I explained about the Australian Gold Conference in
session across the road and our mission to bear witness for Lake
They told be they had recently seen and been talking about a ABC
TV documentary about clean water becoming a scarce resource in some
parts of the world. They were aware that gold miners were major
"Facts of life", I said giving them practiced lines from my Lake
Cowal oratory. "Miners lie; politicians are corrupt; whistle blowers
"Hey", they laughed. "You could be talking about Melbourne City
"Tell you what", said the senior of the two ordinance officers.
"It"s our duty to tell you to move on. But we will not be back till
Quick on the uptake I replied. "And maybe you won't be back
tomorrow morning either, because we want to be here for the last day
of the Conference." They shrugged their shoulders and walked away.
At 4 pm we will still packing when one of the ordinance officers
arrived back. While I finished tying down the load, he leaned on the
bonnet of his Council vehicle writing what appeared to be tickets.
Before driving Peacebus out of the park, I hailed him "Are you okay?
Apologies for any trouble we may have caused you." "Not a worry", he
said with a grin and drove away, the ticket writing a subterfuge.
On Monday we had visits from three Conference journalists who
crossed the road to learn more about our protest. These were Sinead
Mangan from Mining News, Eric Johnson from AAP and Ian Howarth from
the Financial Review. Good meetings these and now our media releases
are carried on the mining news networks.
But not by Melbourne print, radio and TV media, for although
media releases had been sent and I had spent an afternoon ringing
resource and finance journalists of none covered our protest. "How
many are coming to your protest?" I would be asked. "Two adults, a
dog and two sheep", I would reply and then plead: "But we are
colourful." Not interested.
Meanwhile Randall Oliphant, the King Midas of the moment, was
I guessed the PR mills of the mining industry were churning. But
in this business of bearing witness to be ignored is to be noticed,
especially if the miner is paying.
When planning the Mission to Melbourne I was aware that it was
more than just a meeting of Australian gold miners and investors. A
major gold summit of some sort was to take place.
For the gold mining industry globally is in change. Compared to
other metals the price of gold is decreasing so making other metals
better assets and better reserves. The theme of the Australian Gold
Conference was consolidation. Big mining companies are devouring
lesser mining companies and forming huge conglomerations, which own
huge concentrations of cash and gold reserves, huge pits around the
globe and handle huge quantities of cyanide.
Australian owned gold mines have ceased to exist. Ownership of
global gold production is now concentrated in North American
corporations and Australian gold miners have all been gobbled up in
mergers engineered by liars, sharks and merchant bankers.
This was news I learned talking to the journalists and the
conference participants who would talk to me. Noting that nametags
distinguished gold conference participants from other passing suits,
it was my habit was to walk along side them and respectfully elicit
their views and news of the conference.
From one journalist I heard that the biggest pit in Australia was
the Kalgoorlie Super Pit, which is 5 km by 3 km and final depth of
700 metres. The excavation uses more diesel per month than the
entire state of Victoria. I also heard that Premier “Cyanide” Bob
Carr in the week following the Gold Conference was to open the
Newcrest Mining Company's Arcadia mine near Orange, a copper/gold
mine that will dig an even bigger pit.
I learned from a hedge fund operator, that the wealth of gold
mines is illusory. The only investor profits to be made in gold were
in hedge funds and currency wind falls, he said.
I wondered if all the gold, even that still in the ground, had
been already been sold many times on the futures market and for
centuries ahead. I wondered if the truth beneath the spin was that
actual production profit margins were slight at a time when
production costs were increasing due to the working of lower grade
ores, the digging of bigger pits and the contending with more and
more environmental constraints.
Thus the gold miners are in a squeeze. But they are committed by
their presales to produce the gold otherwise the gold investment
bubble will burst and the paper money of the stock market will
evaporate as it has in times past. The rich have a big stake in
staying rich. Many funds managers have a stake in not questioning,
not doubting the security of gold as an investment.
Consolidation is what businesses do in bad times. It is word that
signals a phase in an industry's life, like marshes describe a new
way of being for a river which once leapt from cliffs and cascaded
down gorges. Now things aren't so adventurous. The time of the
entrepreneur is over. And so too the time of canny mining and smart
Now is the time of the confidence booster. The PR man is now more
valued than the engineer.
The spin that Randall Oliphant was putting out at his keynote
address was that consolidation would bring new efficiencies, new
economies of scale and a new gold boom era for investors.
One funds manager I met suggested, and I presume he got the line
from Mr Oliphant as part of the sell, that consolidation would mean
more environmental responsibility because these new gold mining
giants would have more to lose from spills. I reckoned size would
mean bigger corporate clout in buying governments and bigger fees
for PR companies to hide bigger lies. He reckoned I was cynical but
did have the grace to acknowledge that such environmental restraints
on gold miners as there were, were there because of people like me.
As Midas of the moment Randall Oliphant, ought to be acclaimed
and saluted for his achievements by every snake oil salesman past
and present. In a time mighty illusion and disappearing profits, he
has talked and worked up Barrick into a mighty empire of gold.
Surely he deserves recognition as a folk hero of sorts. What mighty
greed must drive him. And behind the what fundamentally fear and
The conference participants spoke of his suave and genuinely
liked him. Oliphant exudes the glamour of gold. The photo on the
Barrick Gold website shows a sleek face with a sensual mouth and the
weary eyes of a hard working executive. Storyteller, spinner of
dreams, I wondered what fantasies he enacted in his sex life, and
how and when did he touch the earth and get real.
It was from the journalists that I confirmed the rumoured gold
summit, which was in fact a meeting of the World Gold Council, the
global peak industry body for gold producers, and was to take place
in Crown Casino on Wednesday 17 April. The journalists wanted to
know if I was taking Peacebus.
Apparently the business before the Council was a proposal for an
advertising campaign to promote the mystique of gold. The aim was to
increase global gold consumption by promoting gold ownership and
adornment as a wealth creating charm. More PR props for the house of
Bearing witness for Lake Cowal outside the World Gold Conference
was an opportunity not to be missed. No Australian owned gold
producers means it will be the last time that the WGC meets in
Melbourne. Besides it was at Crown Casino and last time Peacebus had
been there was for the s11 blockade of the World Economic Forum. I
felt duty bound to pay the Jeff Kennett Memorial Cultural Centre
But both the police and Crown security were in denial of the
event. Just a dinner for the Australian Gold Conference
participants, my police liaison told me.
"Not happening. Besides why would I tell you, a protester, if it
was?" said Carlos, the shaved head, dark eyed security man in the
foyer of Crown Casino. Carlos was distinguishable as security from
the other suits by his martial arts bearing and the wire in his ear.
I had wandered over the River on the afternoon before to check the
I explained my mission was to negotiate and he called his boss, a
suit distinguished by the haughty face of arrogance that the
servants of the rich such as butlers like to show to the poor. I was
a parkie lounging on a planter box in the outside plaza and when the
boss came towards me, his face pained with distain. He affirmed the
denial and I politely bid him a good day. Coming, ready or not.
That night at Charisse’s brother’s house in North Carlton, in
between joints, good wine, excellent food and convivial company, I
prepared and put out the following media release.
Media Release 17 April 2002: Cyanide Busters
protest outside World Gold Council
When the peak industry body of the world’s gold producers meets
at Crown Casino today, the colourful and crusading Peacebus.com
will be outside accusing its members of cyanide crimes against
11 am Wednesday 17 April 2002
outside Crown Casino entrance,
Queensbridge Street, Melbourne.
"A casino is an appropriate place for the World Gold Council to
be meeting", said Peacebus captain, Graeme Dunstan. “With rising
production costs and the excessive reserves of gold in the world,
the only profits to be made in gold production are by hedge fund
managers and currency speculators."
"The world needs more clean water, before it needs more gold",
he said. "These promoters of cyanide gold mining are water
poisoners on a huge scale.
"They are cyanide criminals", said Mr Dunstan. "May their
children not despise them."
"These days gold miners are working ores at less than one part
per million gold", he said. "This means they dig huge pits, use
thousand of tonnes of cyanide, burn mega litres of diesel, and,
after they have taken the gold for the pleasure of the world’s
rich, they leave their poisons in tailings dams to contaminate the
surface and ground waters of the local people."
Peacebus has come on a journey of justice for future
generations from to Melbourne from northern NSW where it was a
contributor to an eight year sustained campaign which stopped the
Timbarra cyanide heap leach mine at the head waters of the
Clarence River. Now campaigning to prevent a cyanide gold mine
opening at Lake Cowal, a major wetland near West Wyalong, Peacebus
is warning gold investors that the days of the cyanide gold mining
era are numbered.
"Environmental activists have now stopped development of gold
mine pits in Bendigo and Stawell in Victoria," said Mr Dunstan.
"In NSW sustained action by north coast Earth defenders brought
the Timbarra gold mine, the last cyanide gold mine to open in NSW,
to a close after a mere six months of operation."
The Lake Cowal mine is now stalled by an injunction won in the
NSW Land and Environment Court last month by Wiradjuri elder,
Neville Williams, who said the Lake was sacred, that it must not
be mined and that the miner had no consent to damage or remove
Mr Randall Oliphant, president and CEO of Barrick Gold, the
Toronto based multinational cyanide miner and developer of the
Lake Cowal will be at the World Gold Council.
Peacebus will be telling Mr Oliphant that the Lake Cowal mine,
which has cost an estimated $65 million so far and is yet to turn
a sod, is now dead in the water and that it would be wise to
Water more precious than gold! Viva Timbarra! Ban cyanide gold
mining everywhere and forever!
But the truth was for me was that I was exhausted. Too much
exposure, and for too long. My lungs were weak and I needed a warm
place to rest a while. So it had to be a minimalist action. Just me, Charisse and Peacebus in a zap.
Brave and patient Charisse, companion, sister, helper, her
company a blessing. One moment hefting poles and up on the roof of
Peacebus tying down the load like wharfie, the next sitting at ease
at our table elegant, and beautiful to behold.
The plan was we would cruise from the Seamen's Mission to the
Casino, pull off the road and into the Casino plaza timing our
arrival for 11 am, which was when I understood the media conference
was to take place. I would climb on the roof, Charisse would hand be
the microphone then lock up, sit aside and deny all responsibility
And so it happened, me in my Eureka T shirt and green fatigue
pants on the roof, a wild man, mad intensity in my eyes, microphone
in one hand, the other a fist shaking, or a finger of accusation and
condemnation pointing at the rich men’s tower of glass and steel. On
a plaza bench beside in witness sat the elegant Charisse, dressed in
black tights under green Chinese silk split skirt, sleeveless vest
and elbow length gloves.
At the boom of the PA Carlos came running out of the foyer. He
sprinted over to Peacebus. "You can't do this. It's private
property", he said. "Won't be long", I shrugged.
Carlos quickly assessed the locked bus and his powerlessness and
ran off. Soon Carlos's boss was in the plaza with a whole gargle of
suits with wires in their ears doing an odd dance of distraction as
they paced about talking to each other and their wires.
And what was the cause of the consternation of these wired suits?
A grey bearded old man on a hippy bus thundering doom like a
biblical prophet. What madness, I thought. One can't get more
marginal, more eccentric than this.
As I spoke I could see room service staff standing at three
different windows on the high floors looking down and listening. I
guessed there was an opulent conference room up there where the
super rich were plotting gold futures and I guessed that they would
be hearing me too either directly or indirectly.
It was not the best speech ever to leave my mouth, but the
rawness of my fatigue gave it a crazy edge and I aimed it at Randall
Oliphant personally. I cursed him as a water poisoner in the name of
all the future generations of beings. "For your cyanide crimes may
you name be remembered with contempt by a thousand generations to
come. Repent before your children despise you."
A three minute special. Enough was enough. Finished on the PA I
hailed Carlos who, 15 meters away, was in the midst of a security
staff meeting marked by much agitated arm waving. "Hey Carlos! We're
out of here." He replied with a gesture of acknowledgement, a kind
of a salute, as one warrior to another. Charisse opened Peacebus and
took the mike. I climbed off the roof into the driver seat and off
Back at the Seaman's Mission Charisse and I were taking a
farewell coffee with our hosts in the beautifully appointed upstairs
dining room, admiring the collection of icons Fr Peter had assembled
at a shrine there, when 45 minutes later, I got a call from Snr Cons
Peter Masters, our police liaison.
"Where are you?", he asked.
"Very close. We have taken refuge in the Seaman’s Mission, just
behind Police HQ", I said.
"In that case I will tell the D24 patrol car not to go to the
Casino and pick you up", he said.
I thanked Peter Masters for his cooperation and good humour.
Then I turned to thanking Fr Peter and his fellow ordained
brothers for the refuge they had given us and for their kind
When I had arrived at the Seaman's Mission I was dismayed to see
how infirm Peter had become as he struggled down the stairs with
walking stick in answered to our bell call. A wasting disease, he
said with a shrug. Peter a scholar, a former schoolteacher, a lover
of young men and a man of discriminating tastes and sharp and a
trickster Irish temperament. It had been a delight to have him as a
guide to the heritage of the mission, the story of its architecture
and the meaning of the beautiful icons he had arrayed in the Chapel.
For Peter, orthodox Christianity combined authenticity, beauty
and soul. He had come into it, via Solshenyskin, the author of the
Nobel Prize winning, "Gulag Archipelago". Thence to Tolstoy and
other Russian novelists who were in touch with the soul of that
Now ordained, Peter was in a spiritual limbo for to celebrate the
mass in his beloved chapel, he needed at least one other communicant
and despite all his efforts of advertising and creating events he
had none. When he came to our witness in Batman Park, he came in
mufti, tracksuit pants, sneakers, beanie and dark glasses. I noticed
as we sat at table taking our farewell coffee, when Peter spoke
authoratively the jaw of the senior Anglican minister at the
Mission would sometimes tighten in barely concealed fury.
Outside I looked into Peter's eyes, "Difficult for you at this
time", I commented. He fell into my embrace and sobbed. Dark night
of the soul, we agreed. Both of us companions on the holy path, knocking on a
door and being broken open.
Peter gave Peacebus a gift, an icon painted on gold leaf
depicting the three angels, the welcomed guests of Abraham’s dream.
A popular icon, he explained, by which the sacred relationship
between host and guest is remembered.
And leaving Charisse at her brother's house in North Carlton, I
thanked her for her companionship. She had been grace and sweetness
itself. I had learned lots about Charisse, artist and eco-warrior,
more confident with textiles than words. And I had learned nothing
at all. Much of our time together had been spent in noble silence.
It had been like walking beside an angel.
She kissed and hugged me one last time. Sigh! It was the parting
of the ways once more. Peacebus’ first Lake Cowal mission was ended.
When a boat slows down, bilge water sloshes forward. It's like
that for me when a mission is complete and I go to rest. Not just
fatigue lays me low, but also all the voices set aside and ignored
by demands of the action at hand, come rushing forward into
consciousness and I find myself swimming in sorrows, weighed down by
self doubt. Many inner voices questioning, and many doubting.
Had all that effort been worth it? What is that drives me to take
on such huge and crazy tasks? What is beneath this obsession to get
Including the fit out for Peacebus, the mission had cost me about $2,500,
of which $1,000 was fuel for the round journey a
total of 3,600 km. From fundraising and donations I had raised about
$800 of which t $600, came from the generosity of the Rainforest
The last of the small inheritance from my father’s estate was
spent. What profligacy! What about old age, sickness and the frailty
In the days that followed many friends gave me refuge and grazing
for Molly and Jolly, shared their hearths, fed and honoured me. But
the fatigue stayed with me, and my lungs became so weak I was
obliged to stop smoking cannabis and take a course of antibiotics.
For all my spiritual practice I noticed I was depressed, irritable
and filled with futility.
Brother Jack Wayward reckoned it an appropriate time to press me
to go deeper about my driven-ness to be noticed. Psychotherapy by
Without cannabis smoking I began recalling dreams again. In the
course of this email exchange, an urgency dream awoke me just before
I was rushing to dress and depart for a black tie function but
can't find my dinner jacket. Substitute a white sports coat. Look in
the mirror. Feels wrong. Then I can't recall where or why I am
going. Woken by the mewing of a baby nearby, my 2 month old god son
whose name is Journey. Notice panic rising. Back to breath.
That morning I was an irascible old man and Jolly copped it when
he jumped into Peacebus (first time) for a forage. I hauled him out
by his ears, kicked his bum, and tethered him. Felt good!
At Jack's prompting I recalled how my over achieving ways (dux of
school, Duntroon, honours engineering graduate, and so on) had
arisen from wanting to please and be noticed by Mum, a shy country
girl and somewhat split off.
I recalled the first time I topped a class in primary school
rushing home to tell her. She in the midst of hand washing clothes,
put her head out from the smoke and the steam of the old wash house,
me on the back steps looking down, excited, still puffing from the
run, pulling at the backside of my too tight pants. "That's nice",
she said and gave a sixpence found in the wash and went back to
work. Disappointment. Is that all?
Dr James Hillman, a men's movement mentor, suggests the destiny
view is more empowering than the trivialisation ("it is nothing
but...") of developmental psychology. That I needed that barely
affirming Mum (her closest friend told me she was always talking
proudly of my achievements) to prepare me for dealing with the tall
poppy syndrome in later life, the strength to be visible, audacious
and way, way out.
Maybe but I noticed myself honouring my mother again. Grieving
for her still and grateful. Just acknowledging that grief,
everyone’s grief really, opened my heart to the world again and gave
It was just as my Buddhist text advised: “Evermore bear in your
heart the pain and sorrow of the world. Faith there by regains
vigour. Trim your lamp.” My lamp was being trimmed.
But I’m a majestic Leo too, and I love to be stroked. Always
yearning for the pat on the head. So to finish this saga here are
two stories of affirmations that had me purring.
I was happy to rest and cruise in Victoria but my HEMP Embassy
comrades wanted Peacebus back in Nimbin for the Mardi Grass 3 - 5
May. They reckoned Peacebus has a deterrent effect on police
roadblocks. In the past when Peacebus and a load of Ganga Faeries
have rolled up at a drug search road block, the coppers have packed
up and retreated to their stations.
And in the past police have been doing show operations in the
week before and the week after the Mardi Grass to convince TV land
that the NSW Police are tough on drugs generally and on Nimbin
particular. Media illusions these to hide the fact that the Police
know better than to take on people power and attempt to bust the
Nimbin hemp harvest festival, the biggest cannabis law reform rally
in world. But by busting a few of the hapless poor, they would flex
the muscles of their media image.
Peacebus then as the heavy cavalry of Nimbin town.
By agreement I got Peacebus back to the Rainbow Region in time
for a meeting of the NSW Premier and Cabinet, which took place at
the K12 Evans River School at Evans Head on 30 April and met the
hempsters there. A bunch of other protesters were there too,
including some gum tree worried farmers and two bus loads of
Alstonville folk showing strength in numbers for a by pass.
These regional meetings of Premier and Cabinet are a meet the
people exercise for the government and as such it was an excellent
opportunity for Peacebus to bear witness for Lake Cowal. All the
Ministers would be within PA range with the added bonus that of a
school in session as audience too.
I set Peacebus up on a public reserve, opposite and overlooking
the school gymnasium where the civic reception was to take place. A
half size model of a Wirraway aeroplane on a pole, a reminder that
Evans Heads had been a major WWII training base for the RAAF, flew
behind the Peacebus banner reading “No racism! No war!”
Although the local police were happy with the set up, the
entourage security, unfamiliar and distrusting of Peacebus’ peaceful
and colourful ways, had other ideas. They wanted to corral all
protesters near one gate. Their plan I guessed was to bring the
Premier in by an alternative gate, which was opposite, the Peacebus
I refused to cooperate and there was a bit of bother until local
area commander, Inspector Barry Audsley interceded on behalf of
Peacebus. He came over to tell me so. A big smile and warm
handshake. "I told them you were a professional and travel about
doing this all over the place." This was the same Barry who approved
the busting of the Nimbin Cannabis Cafes after the last Mardi Grass,
the same police commander whom I lambasted in the press. How things
That was affirmation enough I suppose but better yet was that
given by the students themselves.
For the school kids the presence of Peacebus and the hempsters
was far more electrifying than the presence of the pollies. The
students were confined to classrooms and when I spoke on the PA and
told the story of Lake Cowal and the moral turpitude of the NSW
Premier and Cabinet, there was the deep quiet of listening through
out the school.
Peacebus got noticed. How do I know? By the light in the eyes of
the students who came across the road and talked with me. Three
crews of Media Studies students taped interviews with me. Two lads
even donated pocket money! Lovely kids. Evans Head parents ought be
In a letter published in the Northern Star 9 May, I gave thanks.
"Better than any prime time news coverage this kind of youthful
notice. Exultation for the spirit of this old man to receive it.
My gratitude for that kind of affirmation could fill oceans with
But what even more impressed me was the courtesy and good grace
of the event itself.
Everywhere friendliness. No harsh words. No bombs scares or
bomb checks. No tall men with hard eyes and wires in their ears.
Police cooperative and smiling. Politicians totally accessible.
Democracy at work.
We all ought be proud. As Australians, as NSWelshpersons, as
citizens of Evans Heads, as peace loving people of the Rainbow
Region, as folks who believe in freedom and the basic goodness of
all humans, all creatures.
In particular I want to thank Superintendent Barry Audsley for
his policing. He interceded on my behalf when the entourage
security police had doubts about the peaceful and artful ways of
Peacebus.com. The aesthetics of the site was at stake for me,
security control for them. Barry’s goodwill made everything easy.
Under my feet this path of friendliness becomes a river
carrying me, and many others, along."
The other post mission affirmation that gave me delight was the
report the admirable Ruth Rosenhek had given me of her mission to
Toronto to bear witness for Lake Cowal at the annual general meeting
of Barrick Gold.
Her mission was accompanied by a paid advertisement that was
playing on Canadian TV with Australian actor Jack Thompson calling
for a fair go for Lake Cowal. A gathering of protestors outside had
also been organised.
The AGM of the second biggest gold producer in the world, biggest
by capitalisation and reserves, took place in a splendid auditorium,
the best that money could buy so to reflect the wealth and
confidence of Barrick to the assembled shareholders and funds
Randall Oliphant was boosting confidence at the podium in front
of huge, wall-to-wall projection screens. The audiovisuals were
In response to a question from Ruth about the necessity and the
morality of mining a major and sensitive wetland, Oliphant went off
on an irrational tangent. He spoke first of his recent meetings with
NSW State and Bland Shire government officials and the support they
had expressed for the Lake Cowal mine development. Nothing new or
Then by way of deriding the opposition to the Lake Cowal mine,
which he was describing as a key plank in Barrick's expansion into
Australia, he produced a news clip, apparently from the West Wyalong
Advocate. In the scheme of his presentation it was tiny, but he
waved it around to make his point.
“Peacebus breaks the peace in West Wyalong”; he chortled
Until that moment none of the assembled shareholders would have
heard of Peacebus. And now they had.
In that moment Peacebus was mightily upon Randall's mind. The
mask had slipped. He was scratching a fleabite. He had been spooked.
May there be many more flea bites. Death by a thousand fleabites to the Lake Cowal mine!
For the Earth! Viva Timbarra!
6 June 2002
For the lead up media releases, letters and images of the Peacebus Mission to Lake Cowal at Easter 2002,