Sunday, 31 May 2009

Kanyini Retreat at Monsalvat

Yesterday I was in retreat - a Reconciliation Week event - 
at the grand and beautiful Monsalvat.
We were situated in the expansive Barn Gallery.
Uncle Bob Randall spoke to us, entertained us, and
themed us into Kanyini.

Barn Gallery, Montsalvat
Exterior, above; Interior, below

Aunty Joy Murphy, senior Elder of the Wurundjeri Nation
gave an emotional and heartfelt welcome to country.

Uncle Phil represented the Torres Strait Islander people
This was a great privilege.
Australia is blessed with two indigenous cultures.
Melbourne is at the opposite end of the country
from the Torres Strait Islands
so we don't often have an opportunity to 
personally acknowledge people from there.

If you go here, you will be able to get a glimpse of the people and program that cast information, light, entertainment, and blessing into our lives yesterday.

I can't speak about everyone - not enough space.  But the ones who particularly impacted me were Dan Schreiber of earth imagineeers; Giselle Wilkinson; Russell Hibbs and Liam La Kelle.

Liam La Kelle
looking every inch the Warrior of the Didj

Blessings - heaped up and piled high - 
to all those who blessed us yesterday.

For more information:

Further reading:


The measure of our values?

Click to enlarge
Gross national product (GNP) per capita is the dollar value of a country’s final output of goods and services in a year, divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country’s citizens. Countries with low GNP per capita tend to be located in Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. Countries with high GNP per capita tend to be located in Europe, North America and parts of Asia.

In 1968, Robert Kennedy made the comments below on Gross National Product

For too long we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product now is over 800 billion dollars a year, but that gross national product, if we judge the United States of America by that, that gross national product counts air pollution, and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic squall. It counts Napalm, and it counts nuclear warheads, and armoured cars for the police to fight the riots in our city. It counts Whitman's rifles and Speck's Knifes and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet, the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play; it does not include the beauty of our poetry of the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate for the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country it measures everything in short except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.


Saturday, 30 May 2009

More about Twynams

Steve has sent me this anecdote from his personal experience:

This is just an anecdote but it interesting given the prominence of Twynams in the current water debate.


A few years ago, maybe five, maybe more, I was in Melbourne dealing with a water control gate to the Yarra River from an industrial area. I was the supplier. The government purchaser turned out to be a contract worker. Call him CW. The conversation went something like this:

CW: Had to come down here to get some money. Got some problems on the farm because we’ve got no water

Me: Where are you from?

CW: Not too far from Hay, up on the Lachlan

Me: You should be pretty right now mate. We have some gates to deliver for a fishway at Condobolin on the Lachlan and we can’t deliver them because of flooding.

CW: That may be so but none of that gets to us. It just gets sucked out before it gets that far.

Me: That’s amazing because I know that there is a lot of water there.

CW: That’s not the half of it mate. We had Twynams move in next door. Over the past 50 years we have not seen the water table vary by more than about a foot. Twynams turned up and dropped it 30 feet in year. They know they can only get a year or two out of it but that doesn’t matter. They make so much money that they give the land back to National Parks and bugger off. National Parks then lock it up and all sorts of noxious weeds grow and the seeds blow onto the neighbouring property. We can’t control them and we have no water left. Seen it all before. It’s a bloody disgrace.

The conversation shocked me at the time but after many thousands of kilometres with my kayak it doesn’t shock me any more. CW is right though, “It’s a bloody disgrace!”


I can tell a story similar to that about the Black River just norther of Townsville: a story of the Yabulu Nickel Plant and, perhaps, some farmers as well.  If this was a solid substance, we would call the extraction process mining, wouldn't we?  But it seems when it is water, it is irrigation - and that is more respectable, isn't it?


Friday, 29 May 2009

Get Up and Human Rights

It's not every day we get to turn our online movement into one with real world presence. What if you could get together face-to-face with other GetUp members near you to help advance a whole host of your shared concerns with just one piece of legislation?

The Government is currently canvassing community opinion on whether Australia should formally protect our human rights - so we're inviting you to host a GetTogether in your neighbourhood on June 11th, to make sure your community's voice is heard in this historic consultation.

It's your chance to create change from the grassroots up - while meeting others who share your concerns and your postcode:

Some powerful voices in Government are hoping there's no community interest in protecting human rights - but we already know that's not the case.We know of hundreds of Australians who've been turned away from the official Consultations around the nation because they were full.

We don't think that any Australian should miss out from having their say - that's why we want you to host your own. If you missed out on the official consultations, went but had more to say, or just want to work for grassroots change in your community - this is your opportunity.

It's fun and easy - we'll provide you with everything you need on the night (even the guests!). All we need from you is to pick a venue (a local cafe, library, or your living room) and sign up now:

Our rights are not an abstract concept - they're about our everyday lives; education; health; climate change and water. Likewise, the GetUp movement is not an abstract concept either - we're real people, in towns and cities around the nation, willing to work together for change.

That's a powerful thing, and we have a unique opportunity to use it - by pushing our Government to join the rest of the democratic world with legislation to protect our rights. Your GetTogether will be tasked with creating a submission to tell them exactly what you want that to look like.

Thousands of Australians will be lining up to take part on June 11 - but first we need you to host an event for them to come to.

Thanks for being a part of history,
The GetUp team

PS - Thousands of Australians have already taken part in our GetTogethers over the last couple of years - and found them a great experience... Check out ourGetTogether page to find out more.


GetUp is an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group. We use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues. We receive no political party or government funding, and every campaign we run is entirely supported by voluntary donations. If you'd like to contribute to help fund GetUp's work, please donate now! If you have trouble with any links in this email, please go directly 

Authorised by Simon Sheikh, Level 5, 116 Kippax St, Surry Hills NSW 2010tracking


Senate Inquiry: Economics and CPRS

Another interesting day at a Senate Committee on APAC for those of you who have Foxtel or Austar.  This time it is the Senate Standing Committee on Economics.  More in their Inquiry into the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 and related bills 

Some interesting appearances coming up:



10:00am – 10:45am

Australian Council of Trade Unions 
Ms Sharan Burrow, President

10:45am – 11:30am

Australian Landfill Owners Association
Mr Max Spedding, Secretary

11:30am – 12:15pm

Australian Industry Group (teleconference)
Mr Peter Burn, Director Policy

12:15pm – 1:15pm


1:15pm – 2:00pm

Brotherhood of St Laurence
Mr Damian Sullivan, Manager
Equity in response to climate change

2:00pm – 2:45pm

Minerals Council of Australia
Mr Mitchell H Hooke, Chief Executive
Brendan Pearson, Deputy Chief Executive

Dr Brian Fisher, Chief Executive Officer, Concept Economics

2:45pm – 3:30pm

Climate Institute (teleconference)
Mr John Connor, Chief Executive Officer

3:30pm – 4:15pm

World Wildlife Fund
Mr Paul Toni, Program Leader Sustainable Development

4:15pm – 5:00pm

Australian Conservation Foundation 
Mr Owen Pascoe, Climate Campaigner



Currently, I am listening to the man from the Australian Landfill Owners Association who is also the Sustainability Manager for Veolia.  Interesting, huh?

Further reading:


Leadership: from irrigation to the dry land

Large agricultural and pastoral landholders in Australia have always made their fortune by following the water.  Now, this sounds like a truism.  What grower of crops or grazer of cattle and sheep would not ensure access to water.  

I'm talking about more than this.  I am talking about strategic planning; long range strategies allowing for different emphasis on crops according to changes of season or the movement of livestock because of seasons or to maximise grassland use in breeding, fattening, finishing before market.

The great exemplar in the history of Australia in this regard was Sid Kidman, the Cattle King with whom my grandfather was a regular correspondent .  Kidman battled major droughts; he maximised his land use through stock movement; and he  ensured through widespread holdings a sort of insurance against the seasons.  His ideas have been continued by many others.

Kidman became corporate and the company continues to-day.  Almost seventy-five years after Kidman's death, Australia is in its biggest battle with significant areas in prolonged drought; the recognition that climate change is chipping in with its contribution to unpredictable climatic conditions; iconic and important rivers in a mess of our own making; and water policy across the country in tatters.

The changes in water policy (i.e. unbundling of water from land; water trading of allocations; water accounting) is leading Water Worriers and Warriors to look closely at the corporates to see what they are up to (i.e. amassing of large water allocations away from smaller family farms and corporates).  Some of us fear a future of allocations for the rich and inaccessibility for the poor.

It is, therefore, refreshing to read this article in The Age this morning.  Twynam is big and it has been built on river strategies.  It's financial interests are widespread.  The Australian Government has purchased massive water allocations from Twynam using our, the taxpayers, money.

Now, I feel certain that Twynam has done a canny deal on this or it may not have happened.  However, it is a deal that is noticed - and is noticed for the message it gives.
The group is selling its entitlements in its strategy to move from irrigated agriculture to more dry-land farming.
When small family farmers are living on their land without working it or walking away from their land after selling water allocations to the neighbours and their land for next to nothing;  when small corporates are assessing their situation, Twynam's decision to rethink irrigated agriculture is significant.

Because Twynam is such a significantly large landholder, this is leadership stuff.  It sends the signal question: How do we manage our land to provide agricultural and pastoral production and a sustainable income with it?  If a major corporate is asking these hard questions, shouldn't those further down the food chain be doing a re-think too?

I do hope that the Australian Government's plans for the water achieve their aims - healing and health for the Darling system.

Further reading:

Ash to ashes

Tree ferns and mountain ash 
in a cool, temperate rainforest in Victoria
CSIRO from here

After natural disasters have visited humanity and departed, we are encouraged as normalcy returns and nature returns to its usual state.  Never is this so important as after fire, particularly after the horrific bushfires that struck Victoria on Black Saturday, 7 February.

Therefore it is great news to read this morning of the aerial re-seeding of the Mountain Ash forests.

The Mountain Ash forests are one of Victoria's glories.  The towering source of ships' masts looming over rainforest valleys of tree ferns is magnificent.  The Dandenong Ranges near where I live are populated with such trees, ferns and valleys.  

The Mountain Ash, Eucalyptus regnans, is the world's tallest flowering plant.  Mountain Ash can live for up to 500 years. Other than old age, wildfire is the only other common cause of death in Mountain Ash. Characteristics that cause this tree to be fire sensitive include the long ribbons of hanging bark and the extreme combustibility of the foliage. After a fire, the area will regenerate to Mountain Ash as the burnt ground and direct sunlight serves as an ideal seed bed for seed that falls from the scorched crowns.  Mature trees will leave seeds that regenerate after fire.  Young trees do not leave seed - that is why the aerial re-seeding has to occur.  The forests risk depletion of new growth otherwise.

I look forward to seeing pictures of the green shoots and the young trees that will emerge from the re-seeding and I pray that those who live close to the Mountain Ash forests and have survived the bushfires will find hope in their hearts to enjoy life again.


Thursday, 28 May 2009

As we work to liberate others, we liberate ourselves


Animals Australia goes to Mind Body Spirit

This psychedelic cow came from here.

The Mind Body Spirit Festival is on in Melbourne again and Animals Australia will be there.  Miss Eagle is on the roster so if you want to come and say g'day to me I will be there on the Animals Australia stall on Friday 5 June from 10am to 2.30pm.  If you pop across here, you will see the sort of things we will be talking to people about.

When we volunteers are rostered on, there is also an Animals Australia staff member rostered on as well - you know the sort of thing, handling the trickiest of questions, etc.  On my roster, I get Jesse and I am just tickled pink.  Jesse is co-manager of the Animals Australia activist network and he is so gorgeous, talented and energetic.  Jesse has even done time overseas with PETA.  Jesse has brought to Animals a range of ideas and techniques which stimulate us to activism.  

 Jesse demonstrated for us early last yeartelevision monitors that strap on to one's chest.  Wonder if he will have them at the Mind Boyd Spirit Festival?  These monitors can play a DVD so a person can stand there in public view with one of these on and the story goes on without the person having to do all the explaining.  Marvellous!

Look forward to meeting your there!


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Barricks, Lake Cowal and Cyanide.

Further to the recent post on Lake Cowal and Barricks Gold, Steve has written to me with some interesting information. He writes:

I was delivering 3250 letters to Peter Garrett by kayak. The letters were protesting Traveston Crossing Dam in Queensland, an abomination that would most likely send the lungfish (older than the dinosaurs and only native to that region) extinct. The journey was from Brisbane to Sydney and I had reached Newcastle. The rain was flogging down and the wind was howling but some keen bloke was erecting flags on the pier.

His name was Graeme Dunstan and he told me about Lake Cowal and the cyanide. He told me that 6000 tonnes per year is transported from Gladstone to the mine. He told me the miniscule amounts of gold extracted from each tonne of earth. But cyanide is a very efficient way of getting the gold out, it is just that it is not that flash for anything else, including life. But hey, we need industry, mines, gold, that give us jobs and an economy. Bugger anyone else who might think the Lake, the undergraound water, the natural environment, are important. Graeme and his mates are having some wins though. It seems like many people have had a gutful.

Steve Posselt

Thanks for this Steve. Appreciate it. As a North Australian, I recall back in the 1980s/90s when people turned up in Charters Towers to work over the mullock heaps with cyanide leeching to get any gold they could out of the heaps. Not that Charters Towers was new to "cyaniding". In 1899 there were 96 cyaniding plants in The Towers goldfields - so the link with gold comes from an old technology. Time we found a new and better one?


Reconciliation 2009

To kick off Reconciliation Week,
Aren't they beautiful?
Saw them perform in March at the Two Fires Festival in Braidwood, NSW.
You can see them in Melbourne on  Sunday 31 May
at the Reconciliation Concert in Williamstown
Special guests One Fire Dance Troupe 
A Free Family event in support of National Reconciliation Week 2009. 
LOCATION: Seaworks , 82 Nelson Place, Williamstown 
CONTACT NAME: Ilona Rayson  PHONE: 9932 1000

National Reconciliation Week starts to-day.
It is a time of memories, celebrations 
and staking a claim for the future.
That's what the word 'reconciliation' means - 
but it's a two-way street.

My own experience is that there is a lot of blackfella effort goes into reconciliation but there needs to be increased whitefella effort.  Most importantly, there needs to be more widespread whitefella understanding of what is going on in the lives of blackfellas - their successes, their failures, the places where uplift and a fair go is needed.  So, my dear whitefella friends, take the opportunity this year to draw up a chair or sit on the grass or bring a blanket and listen, have a yarn, a cuppa - and have a good time.

Pop over here to learn more about Reconciliation Week.  The theme for National Reconciliation Week (NRW) this year is ‘See the person, not the stereotype’. The theme links with Reconciliation Australia's national advertising campaign that challenges perceptions and debunks Indigenous stereotypes. The campaign proposition ‘if you knew the truth you would think differently’ was designed to force everyday Australians to judge stereotypically by posing a question against a backdrop of two faces. The provided response then suggests that people shouldn't really be answering the question at all and points viewers to the Reconciliation Australia website for more information.

Now pop over to the Reconciliation Victoria website and, before getting to the good times of what is happening this week, we have the non-conciliatory information about RecVic's de-funding by the Brumby Government and attempts to fight a rearguard action in defence of RecVic's continuation beyond 30 June 2009.  Please, dear Reader do what you can to assist.  Another resource is the ANTaR Victoria site. 

Reconciliation Week beings on the 27 of May because this is the anniversary of the 1967 referendum and ends with 'Mabo Day' on the 3rd of June.

On the 27 May 2000 national leaders gathered for the 'Corroboree 2000: Sharing our Future' ceremony at the Sydney Opera House-marking the end of the ten year 'Process of Reconciliation' which had begun with the establishment of the Council for Reconciliation in 1990, and marked the release of the Council's Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation and Roadmap for Reconciliation.  
And, dear Reader, your Miss Eagle was there.

On the next day over 250 000 people -
and, dear Reader, your Miss Eagle was one of them -  joined the Walk for Reconciliation across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and many others joined in on walks and events in other cities. Each year since, the week has featured activities across the country.


A bundle of joy? Not.

Click to enlarge

Yesterday, I was - unfortunately - reminded of the urban/rural divide when it became apparent that a well-educated colleague did not understand what "water bundling" was. It occurs to me that he would not be the only one - so here is the simplistic lesson in water bundling. This explanation touches only the surface of the matter and I am sure that people will write to correct me for any sins of omission or commission. Please note, that bundling is something that can be transposed to other utilities such as electricity and it has the strong purpose of allowing privatisation of the particular utility.

In 1994 COAG (the Council of Australian Governments) approved the unbundling of water. This was the beginning of the commodification of water and water trading in Australia. This was the deliberate privatisation of what a significant part of the Australian population, if not the majority, regard as a public good and a public trust - water.

People who live in urban areas may not understand what the unbundling and rebundling of land and water means. However, people living in a farming area, particularly an irrigation area, know precisely what it means.

Unbundling goes to the very heart of current water problems. It is not the only problem but it is highly significant. Pick up a copy of The Weekly Times and see the water prices quoted like stock exchange prices. There are people living in capital cities who trade in water who would not know a farm if they inherited one. Tandou (a major stock-exchange listed property on the Darling River in NSW) over the last financial year decided not to harvest. It is a large property with mixed primary production. It decided the best it could do for its shareholders was to trade its water allocations.

What we now see is that when a farmer leaves the land, the first thing he/she sells is not his land. It is his water allocation. Frequently, the water allocations are purchased by neighbours who profess to be helping the farmer out. Well, they are also helping themselves at the same time. Then the farmer sells the land - which, without the water allocations, is not worth much.

Australia has entered the land of rich and poor with water allocations. We have these days the phrase "social water" . There are numerous communities which have no access to "social water". This includes the water for sporting grounds. I have had reports that one can drive along sections of the Murray where there is brown, brown, brown. No water. And then one can come to miles and miles of crops which are verdant. This is where there are corporate holdings of land and extensive matching water allocations.

This is also central to a major hold out by Victoria who has refused to lift its 4% cap on interstate water trading.

Under pressure from the Commonwealth, NSW & SA, Victoria has had to give in during the last few weeks- but it put up quite a battle.

Coupled to this is the non-accounting or poor accounting of water. Australia does not know what it has. There has been poor record keeping and we have had over-allocation of water by govts at all levels and of all persuasions. The Australian Govt has set up the National Water Accounting Model but this is going to take a long time to crank up and give meaningful and somewhat accurate reporting.

I could also talk about the corporatization of water management in the hands of State Governments which came about as a consequence of all this. For instance, the Victorian Govt is the only shareholder of the public water corporations and there is no requirement for it to report to Parliament.

For more information, please go here.


Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Joseph, Maude and the Goulburn Murray

Maude Barlow
Patron Australian Water Network

Now Blogger doesn't let us upload sound files.  What a pity!  So what I have done is uploaded it to and this allows me to give you a link.

So please go here and you can download to play on your 'puter.  The file is approximately 5Mb.


Boos not barracking for Barricks

In that great network of Water Worriers and Warriors to which I belong, I learn lots of stuff - not least is the geography of my own country.

In the email box to-day is a note from my friend in Picton. She had wanted me to come to the Rivers SOS gathering there at the weekend and I seriously considered it. How wonderful to see her and network with those wonderful activists. In the end, I couldn't do it. I was up to my eyeballs in environmental human rights. But here's the note:
At our Rivers SOS weekend we had the pleasure of the company of Uncle Chappy Williams, Wiradjuri elder from the Save Lake Cowal group. The Canadian mulitinational Barrick Gold is spewing cyanide into the lake, near Forbes. Chappy and co. hold a protest every Easter, last March some student supporters were arrested for invading the mine site. Thought you would be interested!
Well, I haven't rushed back to reply. Did not want to display my ignorance. Off to Google Maps and there is Lake Cowal dead bang set in the middle of New South Wales, the Premier State. And the lineup of Google searches clicked into place right behind with campaign related sites ! Thank you, Google.

Here you will find Barrick saying all the "right" things on sustainability.   Here is a wonderful parenthood quote:
The success of Barrick’s Cowal Gold Mine, located in New South Wales (NWS) [sic], Australia can be attributed to a strong sense of responsibility to the community and the environment. Upon acquiring the undeveloped Cowal project from Homestake in 2001, Barrick recognized the importance of maintaining the support of the community and investing back into the region. To address this need, the Company embarked on an extensive program of community engagement, beginning during the project’s earliest days. During this process, Barrick gained a clear understanding of the interests of the farmers and other residents located in the communities around Lake Cowal, as well as members of the Wiradjuri indigenous community.
Well, Barrick, looks to me that perhaps you haven't done a great job.  No mention of polluting, devastating cyanide here.  No mention of adverse environmental impacts.  No mention of community concerns.

Governments need to recognise that miners are not always good neighbours for human beings, other species, and other living things, and - needless to say - our precious water.  

Miss Eagle's suggestion of a CaD Code is designed to bring governments and corporates to dialogue (or should that be trialogue) with communities.  There is too little dialogical input into governance in Australia.  It's about time communities jacked up and did something about this and began work on the human right of consultation and dialogue with governments and corporations.  If governments and corporations refuse - then, they are CADs.


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