Friday, December 23, 2022

In Memory of Wendy Jenkins

We are very sorry to have to note the passing of poet, editor and writer, Wendy Jenkins. Wendy was a friend with whom we both went way back — she edited our early Fremantle Press books, and was deeply loved and respected by many poets and writers. Wendy was also a remarkable poet of great poise and imagistic intensity. She spent much time perfecting the balance of her poems, and shaped lines down to the very morphemes and phonemes of words. She was an immensely generous and committed editor. There is so much to say about her, but for now, here is an elegy I have written for her:



            IM Wendy Jenkins



Rivers brought balance

between sea and The Hills —


filaments, fibres, arteries.

And wetlands were at your


feet so you dipped your toe

and said the machines


of destruction can go

no further. We remember.


For us, it’s burnt orange sunsets

and quail through the stubble.


And though it’s up & over

from your milieu, we know


where you stand, where

you walk past limestone,


water moving through,

the heat arraigned.



            John Kinsella



Monday, December 5, 2022

Free Climate Activist Immediately!

I write in support of the climate activist who has been jailed in New South Wales for blocking a lane of traffic on Sydney Harbour Bridge. Such sentencing is the sign of an authoritarian regime using all the tools of oppression it has to hand to enforce its will. 

The very fact that the legal system is being used to target those who 'incite' or cause 'economic disruption' says it all — this is purely and utterly a protection racket for industry, mining, exploiters of the environment, and the wealthy. To jail a non-violent activist because they 'disrupt' is another deeply disturbing sign that the unrestrained destruction of the planet is going to continue apace, no matter how many people oppose it and try to both articulate their opposition and bring the rapacity to a halt. 

This jailing is a crime of the state, and an abuse of basic humanitarian and civil rights. 

This individual has acted unselfishly on behalf of a deeply wounded biosphere. We must stand with them. They must be freed immediately.

Non-violence is non-violence, and this is someone at least trying to stand up against the 'economic' juggernaut, the consumerism and polluting behaviours that will leave the planet a barren wasteland if it is not halted. Many of us demand the immediate liberation of this climate activist, and further demand that such draconian 'sentencing' never be allowed to happen again. 

In solidarity with the activist!

Note: On a micro level, and as a complete aside, I remain opposed to the use of 'devices' such as flares and glue because of the environmental damage that arises from their manufacture, and further, they readily operate as symbols of the state in themselves; even the reverse irony of a 'flare' being a call for help under great duress fails because of the materials that go into making it. However, this concern regarding activist modes and approaches has nothing to do with the justice (and injustice) in this case. The wrong is entirely the state's and its proxies'.

    John Kinsella

Friday, October 28, 2022

Statement Against Racism in Western Australia

 Racism in Western Australia


The murder of a Noongar teenager by an assailant said to have been uttering racial abuse as he attacked is horrifically and sadly part of a broader issue of racism in Western Australia that needs addressing on every level until it stops. This is an overt example of hate and its consequences, but for many Aboriginal people, and a significant number of non-white Western Australians, the spectre of racism is evident in many said and unsaid ways.


My entire life has been witness to racism perpetrated by smug, self-satisfied bigots who declare they are not racist when they are, and particularly when I was in my youth, by overt racists. For many years my associates and I spent our time removing racist posters and protesting against organisations such as the ANM white supremacists which had such a foothold in Perth and WA in general.


But it was really the school ground where I first saw racism towards Aboriginal kids first-hand. A lot of it was driven by ignorance and regurgitation of parental attitudes, for sure, but there was also a gross materialism underpinning much of it — a fear that these kids might actually have a connection to land beyond their own connection. There was an anxiety and doubt that led to abuse and put-downs.


Another tragic thing about such 'certainty' of colonial 'belonging' centred around migrant kids who had just arrived, who also copped bigotry because they ‘didn’t belong’. So there were those who weren’t allowed to belong, and those whose belonging stretched back tens of thousands of years were considered to belong too much.


The root causes of these issues are varied, but one in particular is the core narrative of colonialism itself. Colonialism isn’t migration. Colonialism is a system of violent occupation, theft and exclusion, and systematising of this occupation through generations and into any imagined future. Colonialism is what we live under in Australian still — the ‘state’ itself, but also private companies that replicate exploitative ‘trickle/flow up’ models of wealth.


How can Aboriginal people in Western Australia feel safe and secure in love of their land, in their deep connections, with mining companies and government agencies over-riding their belonging? It’s their country. Hate projected by ‘whites’ (or those who proudly identify as such — why anyone would, other than to own up to a sad truth, is beyond me) is very much tied up with control of property, goods and ‘ownership’. Even those ‘whites’ who are impoverished still function within a discourse that places their colonial ‘rights’ above all others. It’s a false idea of ‘first’ and ‘entitlement’ that often brings disturbing anger and resentment. The system makes racists. The colonial subtext is violence. This is not to exonerate individuals, but to say there is a broader responsibility in this.


I can scarcely begin to comprehend the pain that the family and community affected by such an act of brutality can be experiencing. I can only extend my condolences and love and support and best wishes, and hope that speaking out by many can bring change. This is a racist place and the racism/hate needs to stop. It can be stopped by ALL implicated in colonial society standing up and being held accountable. I honour the memory of the deceased and extend my hand to all those who suffer racism in any form.


            John Kinsella

Thursday, October 27, 2022

On Scott-Patrick Mitchell's Poetry Collection Clean

 Launch Speech for Scott-Patrick Mitchell’s Clean


            by John Kinsella


I first met Scott-Patrick during a workshop I was giving in 2006. Well, that’s true and not true. I had read their work as part of the pre-entry submissions and had been astounded at the freshness and verve of the work — that its language seemed so alive and yet had something haunting about it as well. But I had encountered their work prior to this as part of the ‘world-building’ Interactive Geographies project for Poetryetc listserv back in the late 90s. As that project was made of so many voices, I hadn’t separated any one voice off in particular. Texts were offered and absorbed into a kind of polyvalent rhizome and the whole work pulsated with many lives, many places.


At a tangent to this, one of the many interesting and even exciting things that came with a first reading of Scott-Patrick’s book Clean was to encounter who they’d been in the sharing of their voice with the many, and to see it reworked into the language of the city it geographised. In Clean (Upswell, 2022), Scott-Patrick’s ‘interactive geography’ moment becomes part of a personal synthesis, part of the thesis/anti-thesis sub-structure of this remarkable work of addiction and recovery. Boorloo/Perth in the context of an ongoing journey that came close to consuming and even destroying the poet.


So, in a vicarious kind of way, I realised that I had in fact ‘known’ them for much longer than I’d been fully aware, and apropos of this, that I needed to question what it is that suggests we might know someone in the first place. We can never know anyone completely, and Scott-Patrick’s poems also show us that we spend our lives trying to know ourselves.


These reflections came from a first encounter with Clean and intensified as I reread the three sections of a book that gathers into a life. The many levels of affect the poet engages us through are compelling, troubling, addictive and in the end, liberating — personally, and also collectively as people implicated both in the very place of writing, the city it is being launched in, and in our embodiment of the poems as readers. We, the readers and hearers of this remarkable collection, are constantly asking ourselves what we should and shouldn’t do, where we might and might not appear, and where we should or shouldn’t fuse our own experiences through what is mapped and unmapped. This is an act of immersing ourselves in a life, and in a city — an act that carries responsibilities.


I want to say something about the nature of addiction which, I feel, my twenty-seven years of sobriety, of being ‘clean’, have suggested to me — that an addict never stops being an addict, and that if we are able to channel our addictions into generative and healing actions, that mark(er) of our lives can improve rather than destroy them. Further, it means we can hopefully bring joy and support to other people’s lives rather than damage or even destroy them, too.


In the poem ‘Reworking slurs I was called from when I was using’,  Scott-Patrick makes use of expressions of contempt meted out by non-addicts towards addicts which I could strongly identify with — they flip them linguistically of course, and there’s a harsh reflection to be cast back on the social condition delivering them, but ultimately the responsibility comes back to the addict, and the poet — “DO US ALL A FAVOUR AND (graft saplings/to rock face/at the edges/of the compass)’. This is a tough equation that doesn’t map onto any other personal-social dynamic. It’s also a brilliant fusing of rhetoric in the form of insult, and figurative slippage into a layered perception of being, of quiddity.


Society’s bigotry is never acceptable, and normative ways of controlling difference are always damaging, always, to my mind, wrong. Witness Scott-Patrick’s superb ‘This Is Not a Manifesto’ in which they begin: ‘Because I am still manifesting. At the age of/ 42, my gender identity is more fluid than ever’ Inside, I am aqueous...’, which many of us in different ways will either identify with or understand. The ultimate beauty and generosity of this poem is exemplified by these words near the end: ‘Until then, weep at the bravery of/ those who are younger, so much more certain/ of how to speak uncertain’.


I’d like to riff off the issue of ‘beauty’ in Scott-Patrick’s work. Beauty is lost in the grimmest and sludgiest moments of the early section of the book, ‘Dirty’, and this lack of beauty creates a ghostly residue, a haunting that grows with sobriety. The haunting is complex — it is both the loss of self that comes with addiction, but it’s also the loss of the world addiction brings. It’s the grimness of scraping up stuff to feed addiction and it’s the anti-performance of getting through the day and the night and the day. Being clean is remembering what it was like not being clean. But beauty is always somewhere to be found, and as the book ‘journeys’, the nature of this potential beauty shifts focus.


Inhabiting a city empirically and also inhabiting it conceptually as Scott-Patrick does, doesn’t conceptually (and maybe even physically) mean the same city. The city seen through the heightened, expectant or dulled senses of the addict is very different from the city seen while ‘clean’, and, even more so, through the stages of getting clean. It’s hard to shake the residues of the addict city, and they have to be reinvented, rewritten as a part of seeing it fresh.


It took me years to return to inner-city ‘Perth’/Boorloo... I could not walk past certain hotels, nightclubs and doors that went up to Northbridge rooms without feeling ill. Scott-Patrick has remained in the city, and has rewritten their relationship to it, adding to their world and all our worlds. Consider the poem in ‘Dirty’, ‘This Town’, that goes: ‘Funny how this drug is anything but chill. A storm rolls into curtains, threatening to arrive. It never does. At least, not in the sky.’’ The travel through to ‘Ghost City’ of the ‘Clean’ section near the end of the book: ‘Bird song fills the void/ where once fumes coiled: each squall and call/ amplified off these walls.’ Bird song is beauty.


Now, the irony remains, as does the ‘street-smart’ locution that is steeply immersed in figurative perception, but there’s a shift in register. The ghost city is the city of addiction, and it haunts, but it is something distinctly different. It is better than the fumes of the pipe, even if the city throws up other pollutions. And the growing urge across the collection towards environmental positions takes up this haunting: an addict pollutes their own body, and society pollutes the planet. What is the difference? We can hopefully cure our addictions; we can hopefully cure pollution.


It’s a simple equation on one level, and the most profoundly difficult on another. Oh, it’s not coincidental that I have quoted from prose poems — these are magnificent and tonally inventive examples of the form, and tell stories as well as create intense lyrical and anti-lyrical contestations as ‘poems’. Scott-Patrick has always been a unique wielder and breaker of the line in poetry, and compacts a mythology and satire into a love poem, into a poem of connecting and disconnecting with others, in profound love poems, but their prose poems complement those dynamically lineated poems, and work as a major counterpoint in this book. The middle section’s ‘The Sleep Deprivation Diaries’ sequence shows the prose line at work (day by day) with electric poetic sensibility, and the erasures and breakdowns of lines contest sentences which only healthy sleep can bring — which the addict never really attains, and the recovering addict struggles after.


This book is full of confronting images and situations, and also full of hope. It has to be. There’s an essential dialogue that goes on with the mother, that has its inevitable pain and grief, especially come out of loving an addict, and the earth’s pain is elided with her own because of her generosity of spirit. It’s an interaction of sublimated wit — linguistically generative, compassionate, sharing, knowing, respectful, sensitive, tolerant and sometimes difficult. It’s one of the book’s complex beauties.


As is the increasing presence and engagement with the natural world, even if it’s as harried rural foxes or crows picking a living in city streets. Flowers appear and have quiddityIn the end, the book has a positive ectoplasm in the haunting that the poet carries with them through the many-layered city.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

How Not To Be An Activist

I am appalled at this effort to bring attention to the horror of the oil industry, a truly worthy focus of activism. But violating the artwork of Van Gogh who suffered to much in his life and received little financial 'benefit' from his visionary art is a contradiction in terms. 

That capitalism's art marketeering has made a mockery of his vision(s) is a terrible fact, but a work on public display that brings the hope of consideration and contemplation is worth more than a can of soup thrown over it. To say that the 'activists' and their campaign choose 'life over art' is fatuous — art is part of life, unless they are denying all culture and disrespecting all that this might entail. To say: 'Human creativity and brilliance is on show in this gallery, yet our heritage is being destroyed by our Government’s failure to act on the climate and cost of living crisis.' I might add that painting in truth has nothing to do with their government (beyond 'ownership' which is a meaningless 'quality).

'Heritage' is misused in their statement, or there is little understanding of its myriad complexities, and the photo op speaks significantly of advertising a 'moment' in itself. This 'spectacle' is not détournement but an act of hype-group speak that does little to serve any cause. The t-shirts (provenance?), the posing (consider the implications of the phone and its support systems and the fossil fuels it consumes.... and the nuclear fuel!), the choice of soup (additives... did it contain any animal by-products... ? all relevant considerations), the demeaning of one of the purposes of 'human endeavour' — creativity — make this 'life' a very lopsided thing. 

Whose life? I guess their life. In all these things cause and effect have to be weighed up and the potential for hypocrisy considered. Sometimes there's no avoiding a certain amount of contradiction 'in order' to make a major and urgently necessary point, but it always needs minimising. Reduce, not maximise the hypocrisy. 

These 'activists' have 'targeted' their protest at such a tangent, the act becomes, indeed, that very spectacle without emotional or ethical resonance — it is about them, and about their campaign, and about their collective 'thinking' made into the moment. To have done the same thing against a piece of imperial propaganda, or a work celebrating capitalism and environmental destruction, would have been a very different act (at least... though, in reality, it would also be an act of violence), but instead they chose an image that represents the complexity of hope under duress, of the paradox of joy in life when the flowers are in essence dying in the vase. It's a popular and very famous image, so they went for it — buying into the capitalist promo handbook and fetishising it as product.

But in 'targeting' (a military act) one of Van Gogh's 'Sunflowers' paintings, they demeaned the hope and also 'distress' the image purveys, and also the depth of its insight re the condition of human celebration and admiration of beauty: it's a picture with more questioning than is often realised. 

Activists should surely always be asking how best to reduce MY/OUR impact on the planet. In the same way that to stop the sale of a luxury car is different from stopping an ambulance, both fed with oil products (as fuel and in plastics etc.), so is being activist in the street to stop the tyranny of oil as opposed to wrecking an 'oil' painting that was not created to fuel the capitalist state and its warlike appendages. Art is part of life in all cultures, across many heritages. Social media is exhausting the world — energy that runs it comes from somewhere, people, and the hardware relies on the destruction of much of the world. Is this blog entry worth it? Maybe. Maybe not.

    John Kinsella

Monday, September 26, 2022

Two Poets Paint: John Kinsella & Glen Phillips art exhibition at Sandalwood Yards Gallery, York

 By Tracy

Saturday 24th September saw the opening by Will Yeoman of an exhibition that will run for 2 weeks (till 8th October) containing works by John Kinsella & Glen Phillips, as part of the York Festival. This exhibition is located on Ballardong Noongar Boodja.

Glen's works feature wheatbelt landscapes; John's are interpretations of scenes from Dante's Divine Comedy.

Entry to the exhibition is free, and the artists' works are for sale.

Sat 24 Sep – Sat 8 Oct (Wed – Sun, 10am-4pm)

Sandalwood Yards Gallery, 179 Avon Terrace, York

You can watch & hear John reading a poem from his Divine Comedy: Journeys Through a Regional Geography at the launch here

Some photos from the gallery:

Glen Phillips & Rita Tognini in front of some of Glen's works

John Kinsella & Tracy Ryan with some of John's works

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Blank Signs

Russian anti-war protesters were arrested for displaying blank signs. A British lawyer displayed a blank sign yesterday and a police officer threatened arrest should he write 'not my King' on it. Fascism has various faces, but always the same rule book. Monarchism is a particularly honed form and tool of fascism. Many media outlets in Australia are directing and controlling what is essential a colonial reassertion via the death of one monarch and the raising of the next. Those who do not communally participate are judged, and those who fail to participate in the public eulogies are frequently excoriated. The state is the state is the state, and an absent 'head of state' who functions through a proxy suits a colonial realm that purports not to be colonial, but is as much now as it ever was. It just has more effective propaganda and often unwitting propagandists to call on.

A Most Gracious Speech to Demi-text in the Fallout of Lèse-majesté

Blank signs are deadly signs

and any failure to switch the porch light on

is marked down as a location

of those refusing to mourn

the postage stamp of empire.


And wide-angle lens crowds

assisting police

to impose the new order

which is the old order,

as we know, as the apophthegm

goes and goes in whoever’s



But this is protocol.

The face on currency

will face the other way.

It’s like a nuclear submarine deal.


In the colonies the delusion

is an amusement park ride.

Coconut shies at the fair,

a monopoly on copra.

Cheap labour.


Blank signs are deadly signs

as phantom limbs threaten arrest

before a protest, before the letters

take shape. Monarchies love mobs

that dance in their favour,

especially when the extras

are voluntary. Those

they touched and put to heal.


A failure to put the porch light on

leaves a myth of origin in the dark.

All those reigning memories.

All those entertaining scandals.

All those sporting occasions.

All those Royal Command Performances.

All those Victoria Crosses.

All those struggles for Independence.

The science of cortèges.


Commander-in-chief. Regalia.

All those deaths.  All those.


And porch lights on down in Australia

with eyes out for dissenters:

‘those grubs’,  those anarchists.

A Funeral for the earth

whose rain we celebrate.


Mourning glory in the republic

of conscience. I was bullied

under the monarch’s portrait.


Blank signs are deadly signs

and any failure to switch the porch light on

is marked down as a location

of those refusing to mourn

the postage stamp of empire.




            John Kinsella





Saturday, August 13, 2022

Chalice Mining's Relentless Efforts to Influence Locals

What's the correlation between Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Chalice Mining's ongoing attempts to buy a place within local community? The company's concerted efforts to inculcate itself into the region are part of its 'fait accompli' approach to asserting a mine in Julimar before the mine actually exists. This would be as much about reassuring markets and investors as it is about actualities, but the ease with which they have gained a foothold is disturbing and a very real threat to Julimar forest and the world ecology. Claims that it will help the planet through 'green metals' mining while destroying (then 'rehabilitating'?... euphemism!) a native forest are ludicrous and very much part of the 'reset' of environmental values in which an either/or scenario is being foisted on us: i.e. 'green tech' as our saviour, even if it means the (extensive) loss of natural environment. Of course, loss of natural environment damages climate and means rapid extinction events. Where people are making profit (and vast profits at that), you can be guaranteed the well-being of environment is not their primary thought!

On the Scales of the Dragon: the Metamorphosis of Chalice Mining as It

            Sweet-talks Toodyay in Preparation for Its Conquest

                        of Old Environmental Values with the New

                                    ‘Environmentalism’ of Capital


‘Apply Now’ written over

            ‘green metals’

                        low-carbon-tech scales

of the dragon



            each beast of burden

and predator,

            each declaration

of ‘We will...’;

                        behold each


to local causes,

            each contribution

                        to the bigger picture:

ergo, playground equipment

            for child-citizens. Take

                        the spirit of occasions,

take Chalice mining —

                                           new values

            ‘environmentalists’: witness

that advert

            for ‘local employment’



                    to protect

            and rehabilitate

                                         the environment’:

rehabilitate prior to erasure

            of forest

                        takes initiative...

a child-like


                        Ahead of the game.

Cart before the burden.

That’s the spirit?



            John Kinsella


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Save Gelorup Forest Corridor and Ecology from a Rampant Main Roads and a Brutal Assault on the Environment by State and Federal Governments

The clearing of the corridor resumes. Speak now, act now, contribute in any non-violent way you can to stop this horror!

In the poem below a ringtail possum speaks to people. Why not? Why shouldn't it speak out before it is deleted by the machinery of 'progress'?! The Bunbury Outer Ring Road does not need to happen. Innumerable jarrah, marri, tuart and other trees will be lost forever along with all they sustain, protect and live with in the forest corridor.

Gelorup Ringtail Possum Speaks Against Ring Road and Destruction of its Home

I am sure among the piles of woodchips

you’ll speak of geometry and soil density,

of run-off and traffic flow, I am sure

you’ll eye off what you’ve haven’t yet

taken of the forest and speak of people

and industry, speak development

and traffic flow. Ringtails/ringroads

are interchangeable? You might even say

congestion and connectivity, and I am

sure the word ‘relief’ will come in there

somewhere. I am sure you can’t or won’t

believe that possums speak, or if you

are willing to accept we speak among

ourselves, then likely you won’t realise

that we translate all you say within earshot.

And even if you understand that we

understand every word of destruction

you utter, you’d likely blame us

for not acting to protect each other.

Try speaking against a machine

coming down on you, or knocking

your head off. Brutal, isn’t it? You humans

don’t fare too well against machines either.

You’ve a sad history of treating people

like you treat the forest. A sad history

of abusing all life that knows the forest

as home. There’s not many of us left here,

we ringtails among the cockatoos

and myriad other ‘species’ you don’t

bother acknowledging. And the great trees

of great span and welcome, even

the dead ones which live through

our occupancy, share a knowledge

of languages you don’t dare add

to your databases, to your pocket

translators. It would shock you

to hear what was said about you

and your activities, what we

say of you before you kill us.

Murder has many degrees,

doesn’t it? Not for us. Not by you.



            John Kinsella

Monday, July 25, 2022

Short Play for the Protection of Native Forests Under Assault by 'Green Metals' Miners in Western Australia


After Deductions: an interventionist play for Julimar Forest

            by John Kinsella for open and free use


Three figures: two protesters and a reporter who lifts a mask (one side Tragedy and one side Comedy) to his/her/their face as he/she/they speak/s.


Reporter: Only two of you? Where are the rest of you?


Protester 1: Out of sight out of mind.


Protester 2: The town has been bought with water slides and the promise of jobs.


Protester 1: Not all of the town... not all of the district.


Protester 2: No... and more will join us in time... it just needs a seed... a nucleus for the protest to form around.


Reporter: And you’re it... looks like you’re setting up and in for the long haul.


Protester 1: Yes. We stand with you, forest.


Reporter: Why do you address the forest as if it’s a person?


Protester 1: It is an entity, an organism. It lives and breathes and is full of the living and the breathing...


Protester 2: and the transpiring... The CEO suggests the forest’s death will be a ‘net positive’ for the environment.


Protester 1: All those rare earths down below the root systems...


Protester 2: be unearthed.


Reporter: The paper will say that it’s good for jobs good for the state good for business and an act of...


Protester 2: ...decarbonisation.


Protester 1: As easy as that... forest gone and more machines more consumables all weighed up...


Reporter: ... you means the feather against the heart...


Protester 1: No, that’s a ritual from ancient Egypt and this is Noongar boodjar and if you don’t listen and learn, if you don’t understand the stories of this country you’ll never find the language of care...


Protester 2: ...or loss.


Protester 1: The language of country the languages of an ecosystem are not fiscal are not profit and loss are not the triumph of capital as the biosphere collapses...


Protester 2: ... it is of the life you would erase would excavate would convert into batteries so the consuming can be eked out a little longer.


Reporter: So, you are saying what? That we should give up phones and cars?


Protester 2: We could... at least give up some of them cut back make do with a local life more and more...


Protester 1: I am for changing how we live entirely... minimising impact on what’s left of the world’s ecosystems... reducing the hypocrisies of our lives.


Reporter: Seems easy to say out here, with the cockatoos calling across the treetops, and the wattlebirds making comments.


Protester 1: Which is the point, really, isn’t it?


Reporter: The police will remove you when the time comes.


Protester 1: They will come and they will do the state’s bidding which is in the company’s interest. It’s always the same.


Reporter: You’ve done this before?


Protester 2: We have to... some of us have to be witnesses... people will come when there’s media attention and get roused up and then drift back to their phone-screens, the pressures and pleasures of their own lives... only a few of us will stay and then no one will see the last patch of forest vanish other than the miners themselves.


Protester 1: Who witnesses Alcoa eating the jarrah forests at an horrendous rate...? The bauxite craving... it’s as if even the most committed of us give in, fatigued. And the company recruits zoologists and ‘environmentalists’ [the protester exaggerates scare quotes in the air...] to exonerate them, to make it all okay, to let governments and their departments pretend they care... while those apologists convince themselves they are making the best of things... that if it weren’t for them, it’d be worse...


Protester 2Worse being such a flexible word....


Protester 1: ...and then no one is there to see us witnessing... we become vulnerable... we are disposable. We have been shot at by logger and miners. Fact.


Reporter: That would have made a story... something to latch on to. You should have recorded...


Protester 1: There were no mobile phones when that happened... and we wouldn’t have been carrying them anyway.


Reporter: Which goes to show how vital technology can be in bringing attention to environmental issues. But this story needs that kind of human interest... otherwise it just sounds like a rant.


Protester 1: And easy to dismiss because it’s ‘just a rant’. But it’s all chicken and the egg...


Reporter: What do you mean?


Protester 1: The tech is why the forests vanish, why the mines are made in the first place.


Reporter: But you’ve got to get your story out there.


Protester 2: We have to stop the mine. The forest is an organism made up of innumerable organisms. It is part of the lungs of the earth. It is the home of so many creatures... and it has its own spirit as well.


Protester 1: And we destroy ourselves by destroying it.


Reporter: The CEO of Chalice Mining would disagree.


Protester 1: Well, as someone once said, ‘He would, wouldn’t he.’


Reporter: You mean Mandy Rice-Davies regarding Lord Astor, that seems a bit inappropriate.


Protester 1: No, I mean Tree Climber, a protester from the Hawke Block protest decades ago who was referring to a logger who said that a felled old growth tree served people better through what it provided than a standing one. These trees are entire ecosystems within ecosystems... they support much more than the human... and people can’t quite accept that they’re also essential to the human wherever and however that human might be living.


Reporter: Seems like a bit of a long-term profession, this protesting... I mean, it’s just opinion, really... it’s not an exact science...


Protester 2: ...unlike, say, journalism, mining, making weapons, being a politician, running a business, playing footy? And when we do present the ‘facts and figures’, they’re dismissed or manipulated... money and power control the science, control the data and how it’s used. Many of the people we oppose weren’t so long ago denying there was even such a thing as human-induced climate change.


Protester 1: They are opportunists...


Reporter: Who? Name names?


Protester 1: Speaking in general... about the mining lobby... especially the coal miners, but not exclusively.... their arguments... their declarations adapt to fit market circumstances and the ‘sensitivities’ [again, those exaggerated scare quotes in the air] of investors. You’re not dragging us into that trap... you do the research... isn’t that your job?


Reporter: Really, what bring the attention of mums and dads and families is people speaking they can identify with...


Protester 2: ...I am not sure what that means... no mum or dad is the same as any other and whatever anyone’s identity or beliefs or ethnicity the well-being of the biosphere is their right and their concern... we are not trying to appeal to a particular demographic, we are trying to save the forest.


Protester 1: ...we’re only speaking for the forest because there’s no one else to speak for it... we do not possess it, we don’t want to recolonise it... we want it to have rights and we want the traditional owners to have a say over country they know how to live with and preserve and respect. We learn respect from their respect.


Reporter: Sounds like someone’s shooting in there.


Protesters [together]: We hear it all the time... we see the four-wheel drives with spotlights... the shooters threaten us, yell abuse.


Reporter: You’re both poets, I am told.


Protesters: We are.


Reporter: Maybe you could read a poem about chuditches? I am told this is the healthiest and most robust population — or repopulation programme — of these carnivorous marsupials?


Protesters: That’s true, and they are incredible animals... but the forest is full of so many incredible animals and plants.


Reporter: Well, will you read something for me to share with our listeners?


Protester 1: There are so many ironies and contradictions in doing this.


Protester 2: But we’ve got to speak, haven’t we?


Protester 1: Yes... this is the season Makuru... the wet and cold months... and we would like the seasons to stay as close to what they were as possible... for the damage done to the biosphere means a breakdown of the seasons... only the nights remain as they were... and days as long as they were.


Protester 2: And the argument that the destruction of this 28 000-hectare conservation park or any section of it will be for the benefit of the environment is specious. Every miner of rare earths makes this argument to suit their balance sheet and their hope of wealth.


Protester 1: They pat themselves on the back that they’re doing it for the good of humanity when they greatly benefit from it personally.


Protester 2: Accruing wealth...


Protester 1: ...and power.


Protester 2: After deductions, they will live their lives in a denuded world quite well. They will meet their goals.


Reporter: The wind is lifting... it’s quite biting...


Protester 2: But the days have been much warmer and there’s been little rain this ‘winter’. The forest is stressed and the miners have been diamond-drilling deep, working their colonial patches: Hartog...


Protester 1Janz, Dampier...


Protester 2: Baudin... not that they give a toss for Baudin’s cockatoo... that little bit of colonial renaming isn’t going to stress them...


Reporter: Anyway, poem, and I will leave you to it... I have another assignment to get to down in the city... gee, it really sounds like the sea, doesn’t it... I mean the wind through the wandoo and marri trees...


Protesters: ...through the forest... it does, doesn’t it... an inland sea full of life... and right now they are drilling to ascertain the boundlessness of their claim... of their gift to the planet... their climate coup de grace...


Silently into the sea of the forest

‘soft’-tracked vehicles will creep,

no wheels to crush undergrowth

they hope in future to delete.


Silently into the sea of the forest,

gently gently off-track — no tyres

pressing their case, just metal expecting

what’s flattened to shoot back into place.


Silently into the sea of the forest

those drilling rigs are determined to go —

to reach down further than roots

and mirror the hollow of sky.