There is an amazing feeling that comes when a gathering of people from around the nation come together for a common cause. The ‘Beyond Coal and Gas’ summit sought to bring people from the many corners of Australia (and New Zealand and Singapore!) to unite them as part of the powerful social movement against the destructive boom of coal and gas. The conference took place at Ivory’s Rock on the traditional land of the Yuggera people and was met by 270 farmers, scientists, volunteers, campaigners and traditional owners. This beautiful collaboration saw a weekend of empowering panel discussions, around 70 ‘open space’ workshops and the mingling of people from all walks of life.
There was a smorgasbord of workshops offered by the many inspiring people who were there. The open space facilitation meant people were invited to share a session and the participants were given the responsibility to create both their own agenda and experience. Some of the varied workshops offered were: community organizing, NVDA, coal and health, fundraising, caring for oneself and the Earth and cultural awareness.
What had become clear since the 2013 conference in Kurri Kurri was that many more communities had direct threats to their land, their towns and their culture. The spread of unconventional gas and mining licenses over fertile farmland and precious natural land saw many people disillusioned by government motivations. We also shared the concern for the global community – impacted by the fossil fuel industry’s contribution to climate change and other ecological disasters.
But the fight is on across Australia! Communities are taking on difficult, but deeply valuable, work in every state. Campaigning, up-skilling and non-violent direct action trainings are being taught around the regions with several towns preparing for blockading. Many people had no choice but to join the movement, as their homelands and wellbeing are threatened by these industries. The message was clear over the weekend – we must stand with them to protect the places we love.
Set against the backdrop of beautiful Australian bush, the weekend became a celebration of the unity that the movement has created between people. We were joined by many traditional owners from around Australia, who expressed their trauma as they continue to lose their land to fossil fuel companies. The panel explored our capacity to work across all cultures with sensitivity – valuing all humans as cultural bearers.
As I flew to Brisbane, I witnessed parts of the land scarred from coal seam gas wells, reminding me of the importance of the fight that we make together. On the flight home I was reminded of the beauty of the land still left – and carried with me the inspiration shared over the weekend. What stayed strong were the words spoken by Dr Anne Poelina: “We are losing the sovereignty of our nation, but we have a new family now… And this is a fight of our own energy.”
By Zianna Fuad