Christine Venner-Westerway, Queesland Regional Meeting

In many respects the June 2021 Disrupt Land Forces Campaign never ended.  It continued on with actions occurring at different Brisbane-based weapons companies, conference events, site locations related to military influence and activities. The nexus between world-wide militaries, weapons corporations and governments is powerful and frightening. The toxic mix includes police forces who in themselves have become increasingly militarised and often oversee fossil fuel extraction on First Nations’ land. It is a David and Goliath scenario of massive proportions.

With the announcement that the Land Forces Expo would again be held in Brisbane at the Convention Centre 4-6 October 2022, a core organising group under the banners of Wage Peace/DLF 2022 was quickly established and embarked on a series of regular, intense meetings. We wanted to draw down on the lessons we had learnt, broaden our base, try new strategies, hone our nonviolent action skills, be creative, and work on deepening our relationships with other like-minded protest, peace and faith groups. We sought to highlight the direct role played by the military in climate destruction, by adopting the theme Earthcare not Warfare.  

We worked hard to make the voices of our own First Nations peoples and those from West Papua central to our actions and message. On the Friday night prior to the expo, we held a Solidarity Fire ceremony where affected groups from West Papua and the Philippines zoomed in and lit fires in tandem with us: emotions were high, not to mention the stakes, if detected.

The primary aim was to disrupt and make proceedings uncomfortable and unprofitable for all those involved in the expo, at whatever level. The police presence around the Brisbane Convention Centre precinct more than tripled this year. We faced surveillance cameras, higher rail barriers covered in thick blue plastic to conceal those registered to attend; we were pulled over in our cars as we arrived and departed and the Jagera Hall and drive-way was frequently monitored by the police. Prescient or not, the DLF organisers had, very early on, decided that the campaign would not simply be a repeat of last year. The strategic decision to de-centralise a number of significant actions meant that we were at times one step ahead of the police, enabling us to sufficiently make our mark and deliver our message. Due to participants’ adherence to the campaign’s nonviolent direct-action principles, police were often reduced to observing on the side-lines. We strove to practise what we preached and ensured our actions were creative and threaded with merry mischief making! The collective expertise in the use of social media meant that our messaging and actions were broadcast throughout Australia and around the world.

Intel from inside Land Forces 2022 tells us our disruptions were a success:

  • 2 VIP presentations cancelled
  • Reduced number of participants overall
  • Participants not returning after the first day
  • Massive increase in police and security which meant extra money spent because of our protest (nothing compared to the cost of sponsoring and hosting the event in the first place)
  • H(arms} dealers ‘intimated’ by truth telling
  • H(arms) dealers failing to staff their stalls

Specific Quaker support and participation came in the form of

  • Quaker representation on the Core Organising Group
  • $5000 donation via the YM Peace & Social Justice fund. This money was earmarked for the hire of Jagera Hall for an entire week and a contribution towards accommodation costs for inter/intra state supporters. (As was the case last year, Jagera Hall is a crucial base for the campaign, a place of safety and solidarity with our First Nations peoples who continue to be directly impacted by colonization, over-policing and growing militarization)
  • Miscellaneous costs covered by QRM PSJ fund e.g., printing
  • Organising a 24 hour Fast & Vigil in Reddacliff Place Brisbane
  • Pre-expo distribution of information flyers at train stations and markets
  • Standing in witness and being a supportive presence throughout the week-long Festival of Resistance
  • Serving as a bridge between those less inclined, with those more inclined to direct action, but who nevertheless wanted to express their dissenting voices

Our New Zealand counterparts tell us that it took them four attempts to produce the desired outcome: viz the cessation of the weapons expos. As Robert Fisk, the well-known but now deceased fearless English war correspondent said, “Follow the weapons.  If you don’t cut the weapons off, wars will never end.” (Quoted in Love in a Time of War: Lara Marlowe 2021). We know our effort is miniscule but we also know our brothers and sisters in those countries and communities who are the victims of war and conflict take strength from our actions, experience our solidarity. It gives hope, it proves the effectiveness of citizen-based protest – the power of standing firm and raising the voice of dissent. For the Quaker contingent there is truth telling – living out our Peace Testimony.  We are compelled to act, to bear witness, to be the best we can be and never give up.


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1 Comment

  1. Bruce Henry

    Thank you for this powerful , ongoing witness. It’s inspirational!
    I love the “Guided missiles, misguided men” banner. It reminds me that QPLC has “also promoted awareness of the vital contribution that women can and should make to decisions about defence and foreign policy. QPLC endorses the UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security – that “reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peacebuilding, humanitarian response in post-conflict reconstruction……….


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