Creating Change: Grassroots community organising

When political processes aren’t working, and the major parties don’t seem to be representing anyone, people join together to create change at a  grassroots level.

It can be so easy to become apathetic if you just listen to the infighting of Liberal and Labor, and it often makes people feel more disempowered than ever.

However, when grassroots community organising takes place, it revitalises communities and allows the individuals to participate and incite social change. It empowers the people directly involved and impacted by the issues being addressed.

It’s inspiring to see the array of different grassroots campaigns that have started in Australia and the incredible changes they have made.

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One example is the town of Bacchus Marsh (west of Melbourne). A WA based company called Mantle Mining has an enormous coal exploration license which covers Bacchus Marsh and 386 km2 of the surrounding area. They have plans to dig an open cut brown coal mine, dry the coal and then export it to India. Once they heard about this license, the local Moorabool Environment Group (MEG) leapt into action and started engaging with community members, spreading awareness of the plans and the impacts it could have. Alongside Quit Coal they mobilised large numbers of the community, holding a rally in town to tell Mantle Mining that they weren’t welcome. Most excitingly, MEG worked fiercely to convince the normally conservative local council to sign on to the call for a Moratorium (ban) on all coal and unconventional gas projects in Victoria until the impacts of it are known.

Another great example is the Coal and Gas Field Free Communities Campaign  that has been hurtling through Gippsland. Under threat from a blanket of coal and unconventional gas exploration licenses, local communities have mobilised and decided to take a stand. Based on a model used very successfully in NSW, townspeople survey the community asking them if they wish to be coal and gas field free. In every town that has completed the survey over 95% of residents said ‘Yes’. The towns of Poowong, Seaspray and Harmers Haven have all held declarations displaying these results and proclaiming their town ‘Coal and Gas Field Free’ and over 20 other towns are undergoing the process.

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