PEACE - ARMS ACTIVISM
On this page: ASIO-Anti Terrorism; Josie Lee;
Hellen Cooke; Yvonne Smith; Edith Morgan; Thelma Prior;
Pamela Curr; Marion Harper; Joan Coxsedge; Zara Wildeneur; Women's Health in the North;
See also: Save
Our Sons/Vietnam War
... For the umpteenth
time, we warn that true security will never be achieved with harsh laws
- or bombing runs. They only make things worse, as we can see from the
expanding horror of Iraq. Unless
we address the growing poverty and gross inequalities bedevilling our
world, then we will continue to reap the consequences.
Before rushing ahead
to accept legislation which is turning this country into a police state,
we urge you to heed the words of eleven Nobel laureates who attended a
Nobel Peace Prize Centennial Symposium in Oslo in December 2001. They
stated: 'The most profound danger to world peace in the coming years will
stem, not from the irrational acts of individuals, but from the legitimate
demands of the world's dispossessed.'
The sad irony is
that thirty years ago, the world's richest nations pledged 0.7% of their
GDP to help the world's poorest. It has now slumped to 0.22%. And
rest our case.
Gerry Harant Gharant@primus.com.au
Over the past four
years I have done a lot of student work at Melbourne University. I was
lucky enough to fall into student activism with a group of amazing people
who Where and are very careful about consensus decision-making and talk
about a variety of issues. So at university I got involved in a lot of
issues other than forests. I learnt a lot about ideas surrounding non-violence
through practices such as consensus, without necessarily knowing that
was what they were at the time.
In the current political
climate with the war in Iraq etc I have taken an interest in peace studies.
A few activists whom I knew a little about and whom I thought were quite
inspiring decided to do a non-violent direct action training workshop
at Common Ground, which I keenly attended.
I had heard about
the Free West Papua movement and as part of the non-violence direct action
weekend we decided to organize an action at Australian Defence Industries
(ADI) at Benalla in regional Victoria to highlight Australian involvement
in the oppression and murder of the West Papuans, and the Archenese as
well as to protest Australian participation in the war in Iraq. ADI
produces weapons - from bullets to rifles to heavier equipment. It has
an exclusive arms supply arrangement with the Australian Defence Force
Questions to the
Australian parliament tabled by the Greens in 2005 have confirmed that
the weapons made here in Australia are being shipped to Indonesia, Israel
and other states through military aid arrangements. A body associated
with the ADF shipped at least 14 shipments of military aid including weapons,
ammunition and military equipment and at least 207 shipments of dual use
(military and civilian) goods in the years 1999-2000. We
believe these weapons are likely to be used by the Indonesian military
(the TNI) against the West Papuan people. This was the link I had clear
in my head when we decided on this ADI action at Benalla.
There were two parts
to our protest. The first involved going to the streets of the township
of Benella to communicate with the local people about the issue. We wanted
to open up a space for discussion of their thoughts on war and weapon
production, because the reality is that people make weapons and those
same people have the potential to refuse to do so.
We wanted to create
a space where people can begin to give themselves permission to think
about their involvement in the production of war. Having said that, we
understand that these people do it to support their families, obviously,
so we didn't want to be too confrontational nor act in a manner that wasn't
respectful of their circumstances. It is a difficult issue. I
think we created a comical and non-threatening space for dialogue. For
example, we had people walking around in white pesticide body suits with
pretend metal detectors, saying 'have
you seen any weapons around here?'
So we had people dressed up to look like a caricature of ASIO agents,
with dark glasses and dark suits saying 'have you seen a plant growing
weapons around here?'
We also did a lot
of strategic questioning ('are you aware that ... ?' or 'what do you think
about ... ?') and we did some visual displays, rather than pushing our
ideas on people. However
we couldn't resist having a banner, which was a little bit more confrontational,
WEAPONS LIKE THESE COULD BE USED TO KILL PEOPLE LIKE YOU'.
Then we went across
to ADI. We had warned the police in advance that we were doing this and
they allowed us on the property to a certain line. ADI is set well back,
a couple of hundred meters, from an isolated road. You can't see the weapons
plant from the road.
We wanted to symbolically
transform this plant into a positive space for peace and a socially constructive
space for feeding people, not hurting them. We brought along sweet potatoes
and pumpkin with the idea of planting a vegetable patch on ADI land and
symbolically planting a seed of hope. We
sat around in a circle. People brought art materials and we drew things
and talked about our visions for a more peaceful world; we shared stories
about experiences where people have been oppressed or had violence committed
against them. We
also shared stories of hope.
Then we set up a
display. It had an aboriginal flag because we are all aware of wanting
to respect the people whose land we were occupying and who also might
not be happy with a weapons plant on their traditional land. That was
important to the group. A
few of us decided to walk on to the property beyond where we were allowed
as we wanted to make a statement, to intervene in the production chain
of war. As we walked, with the rest of the group we sang songs of hope,
justice and equality. As
a result Jason MacLeod, Adam Breazley and I were arrested for trespass.
The police treated
us well - it was very amicable. Our process had been as pacifistic as
we could make it so there was no fear and everyone (including police)
always knew what was going on. We
believed this was important, as fear and violence are often closely associated.
This process however raised some questions in terms of how much one is
working with the police and the system and how much one is really intervening
in the system when the process is so transparent.
We have discussed
this a lot since. But I think for what it was it was a good experience.
In participating in these actions, some of the ideas we have been exploring,
and I certainly have, is the idea of privilege, the privilege that the
majority of Australians experience as normal and the idea of sacrificing
that privilege to make a statement.
We are defending
ourselves in the tradition of pacifism. We see the court as a place for
our voices to be heard - not our lawyers.
The case is being
heard in two parts and the final part coming up soon**. For
me, the privilege I will lose in terms of difficulty in entering certain
countries (perhaps Indonesia) and the hassle at airports of having to
reveal your 'criminal record' is the least I can do. You can't be aware
of injustice in the world and turn your back on it. I
will continue to be active, to use my time and energy to create a more
compassionate and thoughtful world. It is important to me to continue
to do that.
**The case went
very well. We argued a case of 'necessity', which means we believed it
was necessary for us to commit our crime to prevent a greater crime from
being committed. It was an argument that was very useful for use to explain
our motivations for action, but apparently is very difficult to win in
the court of law. In any case all the defendants had an opportunity to
speak our minds and argue our case.
Also Jacob Rumbiak, West Papuan refugee and independence campaigner
for more about his life story) and Donna Mulhearn, Human Shield in Iraq,
were given a forum in the court to tell their stories about human rights
abuses they observed or experienced, at the hands of what they believed
were Australian weapons, in West Papua and Faluja (and Iraq broadly) respectively.
They made graphic and humbling statements that moved the courtroom full
In the end the Magistrate, Peter Power said our evidence wasn't sufficient
to prove the necessity argument. However throughout the case he showed
consideration for our position as self defended, was very fair with his
decisions and allowed a wide range of questioning for the witnesses. To
finish he very respectfully acknowledged each defendants motivations with
praise, found us all guilty, but no conviction was recorded on our records
in exchange for a 6 month bond and $450 worth of fines which he decided
we should pay to UNICEF to support their programs in Cambodia (a project
for which he has created a donations drive and rallied support for amongst
other magistrates in the Children's Court of Victoria, the court in which
he works the majority of the time).
We felt that Mr. Power gave us just about as little 'punishment' as could
be afforded within the law. Interestingly early in the proceedings, Mr.
Power volunteered the information that he is an ex-Defence Force employee
who coincidentally worked for the transmissions department that spied
on Indonesian radio transmissions during the process of occupation of
West Papua in the late 60s and early 70s. Ah, the webs we weave. I wonder.
There was a small amount of money available
from the Government for the International Year of Peace and the Non- Government
Organisations came together to decide how to use it.At
these meetings I found out that people who come together for peace are
not necessarily peaceful. In fact, some young men wanted to take the word
peace out of the International Year for Peace.
We weathered a few meetings by sticking
to the agenda and these young men got bored with us and left. But then
the head of the Returned Soldiers' League came in. He, again, seemed hell-bent
on removing the word peace. A friend of mine, an ex-headmistress, had
enough of this - she spoke up and said 'Will you be quiet?' He was.
Stella Cornelius - a member of Women's International
League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) - came in. She was an absolutely
unflappable woman. The RSL man said she must not criticise the men involved
in the war games we were having at that time. He called these men 'the
brave boys who would fight the wars'. She just
said, 'Yes, I really want to help the brave boys. I don't believe their
lives should be risked wantonly, so I propose that before we have war
games we should have peace games - serious peace games'. She
won me over. I still correspond with her. So, Helen Caldicott and Stella
Cornelius became two heroines of mine. In
those days I was actually helping to lead the peace movement, but in my
own mind I was pursuing it.
There were great peace marches in Canberra. We dealt with any disturbances
ourselves because, as they were peace marches, they had to be peaceful.
The march might be against the law, but it was always peaceful. This seems
to have been forgotten in later years, when we had people who would nip
off and do actions by themselves to grab media attention, but that would
negate the message the main body of the protest wanted to communicate.
was very much in evidence when the unionists crashed through the doors
of Parliament House during the 1989 protest. I was there that day, listening
to all the talking and part of the enormous number of people who had come
to protest. All of a sudden these people burst through the door of Parliament
House. The police were brutal in repressing them. They felt they had the
right to go in and grab people and mistreat them - and they did. After
this I was sick. I had a strange illness for two years. I thought I was
alone in my suffering, but after talking about it with other people who
had been in the protest I realised that everyone had illness. It seemed
to me that it was some type of psychic malaise from the time of the protest
when we had all felt quite disempowered. We
felt we had made good protests but against the world arms trade we knew
we had managed to do nothing - so we punished ourselves for it. Anyway,
I found myself a good homeopathist and came out of that and I was part
of the 1991 protest. This was even bigger, in the main peaceful, wonderfully
diverse and varied.
about the mid-eighties I became involved with WILPF. Again, I volunteered
to help with the newsletter and found myself quite rapidly becoming editor.
I did that until the International Congress in Sydney. One of the things
about being involved in the international movement, particularly the women's
peace movement, is that there is the opportunity to travel to different
places and have different experiences. In
Sydney there were many more aboriginal, Maori and Islander people. They
took over workshops and led them off in completely different directions,
so I got a completely different view of what peace is about. From then
I found myself working more and more for WILPF. The objectives were so
broad, it didn't really matter what took my interest, and I could work
for that and be active in that. I was not constrained.
For the 1991 protests people had come together
from all over Australia and from all walks of life. I persuaded WILPF
to act outside the AIDEX protest itself because there were enough people
there. I thought we should be in the Civic Centre, where we would catch
the eye of people who were just passing through. We
took bamboo poles and slung them across our shoulders like Chinese coolie
women. There were four different placards in large letters on each pole.
The letters had been coloured in by some of our children.
They were simple phrases that would stay
in people's minds such as:
ARMS MAKES US POORER NOT SAFER
We intended that people would have to come
to some conclusions as they puzzled out the meaning. We stood in the Civic
Centre during the main peak hours, enduring the down drafts from the high
In the main we had a very good response.
It was hard work and sometimes we suffered abuse, but we were winning
people over - at least to thinking about it. We particularly got a wonderful
response from busloads of children who were going to and from school.
They would peer out, read the slogans, open the windows and cheer and
thumbs-up to us. It was very heartening to have
this response from primary and secondary age children.
After AIDEX 1991, as after AIDEX 1989, people
in Canberra seemed to be in a state of shock. Even people who had not
been involved in the protest at all. Almost everybody who lived in Canberra
knew somebody, or was related to somebody who had been in the protest,
it was so widespread and well attended. I think
this was so throughout much of Australia, certainly in the capital cities.
We were in a peace network at that stage and we decided we should try
to do a type of reconciliation action. We would ask people to come and
tell their stories and we would just listen and record them. This would
involve us in a lot of planning, but we had a precedent, before the International
Year of Peace, when people like Dorothy Green (the great peace activist
and poet) had been involved in touring around Australia, listening to
people's stories about peace.
We got a really good idea of what the protest
had been about for people across Australia when Nancy Shelley, who was
the main protagonist here, went across Australia to Sydney, Adelaide and
Newcastle. Here, we tucked ourselves under the Ecumenical Council in the
ACT, which made us quite respectable. In fact, it made us quite invulnerable
when we decided we would seek every possible experience. We
were able to front up to Sir William Keyes, the head of the Australian
Defence Forces, and the Chief of Police (he forbade any police to talk
to us but he talked to us himself. A couple of police did talk to us,
We spoke to the arms traders, when we could,
and we spoke to politicians, unionists, and of course, to the activists
who were there. We also spoke to people who had been employed on the arms
trade stalls - soldiers and people who had a job for the first time -
who were quite traumatised (not by the terrible weapons being sold, but
by the protesters). Nancy Shelley did the write-up from all the transcripts
of interviews. I did the research to place the events in context, I designed
the cover and named the book Piecing It Together. I
have re-discovered the mid-1800's Australia Felix and the international
hopes for ending war, social injustice and inequities, and I have formed
an e-mail group of WILPF to restore to mind the history that was covered
up by the ruins of noble war.
Lately I have been participating in non-violent
direct action, non-violence training, legal information and then the action
against Australian Defence Industries (ADI) at Benalla. ADI makes 'Product
and Components' which are mainly sold to the government, i.e. we, the
people. Somehow, someway, a proportion of this product became available
for the use of the Israeli Army in their dispossessing work in Palestine,
and the Indonesian Army also find Australian made 'Product and Components'
useful for oppressing and raping the land and peoples of Aceh, West Papua
and the islands between. Just this morning Radio
National had a news brief that the UN Human Rights Commission had served
notice on Caterpillar (the USA firm that makes and supplies bulldozers
to Israel to raze olive groves, houses and the occasional peace activist),
that it may be party to an international crime.
It will be a great day when the weapon makers,
including the product and component makers, are called to account. My
hope is that an international criminal court will soon prosecute companies
and nations that supply the materiel of torture and dispossession, as
well as the militaries and nations/companies who use them.
back in time – when the Vietnamese people were struggling for independence,
the UAW had been in touch with the Vietnam Women's Union. They sent us
much information about the nature of their struggle – we knew what
was happening and were active in support for them. And
although it was a very important issue – it was to become even more
so with the conscription of Australian young men – my feeling at
the time was that the antiwar struggle had taken over the UAW at the expense
of women's specific issues and problems.
I hadn't formulated what those problems were as the Women's
Liberation movement did later, such as challenging the role of the family,
the sexual revolution etc. but I just had an uneasy feeling that we were
becoming the women's adjunct of the peace movement. When
Save Our Sons was formed following the introduction of conscription this
single issue organisation was able to take on the role that was needed.
That was great. Once again a lot of UAW women supported them.
- My dad was a socialist. He had an immense effect on
our family. He was very clear on some issues, for example, the antiwar
stuff in 1914 when they had those first world war posters like the "WHAT
ARE YOU DOING FOR YOUR COUNTRY?" posters. I wasn't
alive then, of course. He was quite involved in the anti-conscription
campaign. He was a strong figure in the union. He used to work down at
Spotswood and if people were in trouble they would say "go and talk to
Coldy, he'll know what to do (our name being Coldicutt).
Peace was the issue at that time. Dad took us all to
Festival Hall when the Dean of Canterbury (the Red Dean) was here, who
was a strong socialist advocate of the Soviet Union, and so forth. -
... I got involved in many campaigns through the Communist Party during
and after the Second World War. Then I joined the Union of Australian
Women, too. I was there at the inaugural meeting.
A strong nationalist feeling came in Australia after
the war, an interest in Australian literature and films. There was that
wonderful play that has never been properly shown. It was a musical, "Reedy
River", written by somebody called Dick Diamond, I think. There was a
strong peace campaign. There was some contradiction
between where we had been fighting fascism and peace. It was very difficult
for some, that issue, because it was very important fascism was defeated.
I think people generally, even those who would be strong antiwar activists
like Joan Coxsedge, would have been out there in campaigns against Hitler.
- In 1956 I was elected
by my workmates to represent them at the Second World Peace Conference.
The workers at my factory helped to pay my fare. Peace was something these
girls understood - many of their people had been killed in the war.I
nearly did not get back to Australia. On arrival back in England, I, with
two other delegates had to go to Court at the Old Bailey to contest the
Australian Menzies Liberal government's Order of Deportation. The
English judge told the Australian government that they did not want us
- so we were allowed to come home. We had our Australian passports taken
from us in Perth.
Most of the people in Australia were opposed to going
to war in Iraq. Even when war commenced, still more than half were opposed
to it and nothing that has happened since then has made them change their
minds. That war has not made the world safer. There
has been a lot of spin-doctoring about the reasons why we went to war.
But there are enough intelligent people in this country - even though
they are informed by this biased media - who have come to their own conclusions.
That again is the role of the left, the dissidents,
the activists in our society. To stimulate people to look outside the
arguments put before them and to come to intelligent conclusions.
At the moment I am working with the Victorian Peace Network.
I am also the national spokesperson for the Greens for refugees, but even
if I weren't, I see myself as one of the many refugee activists. Some
of us are aligned to groups and some of us are not. We are all in communication
through email. This is a campaign that has been connected through email.
to go to work. Jim had become a tram driver. The pay was not very big
and we had a lot of expenses with 4 children, as a result of my involvement
in the peace movement, through the Party, I became involved in the Unitarian
James was the minister of the church at the time and I was involved in
the planning of the big meeting with the Red Dean at the Exhibition Building.
I became very involved with Frank Hartley, Victor James and Alf Dickie
- who were the three ministers who worked together in the peace movement.
As a result
of working with them, Frank Hartley offered me a job in the Victorian
Peace Movement. So I worked for the peace movement for quite some time.
Early on there were some great campaigns there. It was interesting.
The 1980s was the
era of women's peace camps and I was very privileged to take part in three
of them. The Women for Survival Peace Camp took place in 1983 outside
the gates of Pine Gap near Alice Springs to draw attention to the presence
of this very secretive electronic surveillance base which is run by and
for the United States. Part of a global network, it sucks up information
like a giant vacuum cleaner and operates completely outside normal governmental
and legal constraints.
The camp lasted for
a week and was creative and colourful and full of determined women prepared
to have a go. I would have dearly liked to stay longer but had to return
to Victoria to take part in an 'Equal Opportunity' debate! Earlier
in that same year, when I was in Washington DC visiting some anti-snooping
comrades in CounterSpy, I was invited to join a weekend of protest at
a women's peace camp at Seneca Falls in New York State. The governor had
declared a 'state of emergency' and called out the national Guard, so
I saw the US security state at first hand and it wasn't a pretty picture.
The following year,
I went to Greenham Common, the famous Women's Peace Encampment. In 1981,
a group of gutsy women had marched from Cardiff to this US cruise missile
base in Berkshire and set up a permanent presence around its edge, quickly
becoming a symbol for peace activists around the world. Greenham Common
was non-hierarchical and and had no traditional structures. There
were various gates around the perimeter named after the colours of the
rainbow, each with its own political flavour, allowing women to join the
grouping of their choice. I took along a swag of food and ciggies and
a great deal of admiration for their incredible courage. Apart from police
brutality and cruel harassment from local yobs, the weather conditions
were often horrendous. And yet, these women, ordinary mortals like us,
stayed there for years.
like the women of Greenham Common, we must continue working for a better
world. I want my grandchildren to live in a society that has a spirit
of independence, that puts people before profits and looks after the environment.
They were very volatile times, in Poland in the 1930's.
My older brother escaped and came to Australia. I remember his German
work- mates speaking of their envy at his 'going away' party.
I came out later, landing at Brisbane on the 23rd August
1939. The rest of my family perished. I joined
the Country Women's Association. They weren't really interested in peace
issues at the time, but there was nothing else until the Women's International
League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
This picture was taken at a WILPF demonstration when
I was visiting a friend in Melbourne in 1953. We
still have religious and ethnic hatred and war, why? I believe most people
want to live a peaceful life, but they don't have the structures to work
through, such as, for example, a Department of Harmony. Not that, necessarily,
but something similar. OPAC 2004
Health in the North
- OLDER WOMEN'S DISCUSSION - We are in the middle
of a revolution of the most pernicious kind which is trying to undo the
culture of peace and justice put into place by the likes of us.
To develop a culture of peace, you must first develop
resistance against those who create monopolies, oppression and war. To
peacefully (even though we're angry) exist, we need to set up alternatives
- to peacefully undermine the pyramid.
The older women who participated in the focus group saw
the notion of peace in global terms: I asked my group yesterday what
their idea of peace was, said one woman, and nearly all of them
said world peace. Community, both local and
global, was a crucial element in the women's definition of peace. Peace
to me means safety - my children, my home, my community, offered one woman.
If I feel safe personally, I will be at peace. And if everybody I know
and love is safe, then I have peace. If everybody in the community was
safe, then how peaceful would that be. For
this group of women who equated their personal peace with global peace,
a sense of disempowerment was the main issue that prevented peace.
To become a peaceful person, you need first to sort
out the problems confronting your everyday life, said one woman. I'm
not sure what's happening to me, said another, but I can't accept
that all the bits and pieces that we do individually and locally for peace
or on behalf of peace make a difference. Women's Health in the
- Education, information and a sense of injustice will
prompt action in the individual, then in the community and ultimately
instigate social change. Peace is made and it
is fought for. It is not something you can just sit back and expect. We
are a complicated species and we are both competitive and cooperative
and we need to keep these two parts of ourselves in balance. Political
action needs to be appropriately activated.
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