Jo Vallentine, West Australian Regional Meeting
It was a wonderful week in Canberra at the recent Peace Convergence, which was so much more than the inaugural meeting of the Independent Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN). It began with a shared stall at the National Folk Festival, kindly offered by Unions ACT, where a number of IPAN members gathered signatures on a petition about the F35 jet strike fighter planes. It was fertile ground, because as soon as we mentioned cuts to education, health, disability services, the ABC and more, probably coming up in the budget, it was clear that slashing costs of military hardware would be much more palatable!
We had a meeting of many groups who’d worked together, sight unseen, to prepare for the conference, so it was wonderful actually meeting the like-minded people from all round Australia (except Tasmania), followed by the conference itself, attended by 100 keen people, excited that a national movement calling for an independent and peaceful Australia is under way. It’s actually quite radical, because we’ve been neither peaceful, nor independent, up to date! There were many great speakers, including Dr Mike McKinlay (ANU), Dr Alison Broinowski (former diplomat), Dr Marty Branagan (author of Global Warming, Militarism and Nonviolence), Dr Sue Wareham (MAPW and Campaign for Iraq War Inquiry), Justin Tutty ( member of Basewatch, monitoring U.S. military in Darwin), Kim Sattler (secretary of Unions ACT), Dr David Stephens (Secretary Honest History). But the standout for me was former U.S Marine, a young Iraq veteran from the United States, Vince Emanuel, who really tells it like it is, about his home country – very powerful. There was also workshop time, providing great networking opportunities, and some planning for future directions.
Nonviolent direct actions are planned against Australian military involvement in the near future. Check out: www.swanislandpeace.org for details about 28 Sept to 3 October actions to highlight the role of our SAS forces, with Pastor Simon Moyle at the helm. In 2015, when we will be inundated with ANZAC centenary commemorations, our own Greg Rolle has an inspiring vision of one hundred activists crossing the line at Talisman Sabre, the bi-annual military exercises in Queensland, next July. See www.peaceconvergence.com. It was gratifying to note a number of Friends at various events during this week.
A successful day of actions to beat the world record for the number of protests in one location in one day was well organised. Fifteen minutes or so at 27 locations, with good speakers giving information about the war-making contributions of Lockheed Martin, Rayethon, etc., and various embassies and government departments. I wasn’t in on that bit, but Scott Ludlam was eloquent at several of the venues. His re-election was much appreciated by people from all round the nation.
The day of reflection at Silver Wattle was nurturing in the midst of all the busy-ness. I was particularly pleased that Dale Hess focussed on the work of Joice Loch, a particular heroine of mine, whose adopted Ouranoupolis in Greece was a place of pilgrimage for me a couple of years ago.
The lantern walk and vigil, from Mt. Ainslie to the war memorial on ANZAC eve was superb – as was the presence of Frontier Wars at the official march on ANZAC Day itself. Graham Dunstan made beautiful banners, and many placards reminding the crowds about the many massacres which have taken place on Australian soil. It was moving for me to carry one reading “Pinjarra Massacre 1834, 30 Pinjareb people killed”. However, a line of police stopped this memorial contingent from entering the forecourt of the AWM (where we’d been the evening before), so we quietly sang “Lest we Forget” over and over, led by the amazing Chorus of Women, and listened to a very powerful indigenous leader make his case for the contingent to be allowed through. It was a good exercise in nonviolence, and I hope will result in the frontier wars being officially recognised in future. Clearly the crowd was on side, and many were heard asking the police why we’d been stopped. The young policeman I’d been eye-balling said as we turned to leave “Thank you for your patience,” to which I responded “Thank you for YOUR patience. I hope you won’t have to do this again.”
Many people camped at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy for the week. The connections between indigenous and non-indigenous activists was one of the highlights of the week for me. We will not find peace in this country until there is proper respect for the first nations peoples.