Last week rebels from South Australia travelled to Canberra for The Peoples Climate Assembly. One of those rebels, Mai, has written the following about their experience.
“I witnessed a powerful Welcome to Country ceremony conducted by William Tompkins, a Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri elder, and it made me reflect upon the fact that Aboriginal people have a long and continuing relationship as custodians of this land stretching back over more than 40,000 years whereas European settlers have less than two and a half centuries of history with this land and in that time exhausted almost every resource this bountiful land once offered. I participated in the Red Rebel Brigade and as we passed the Sacred Fire for Peace and Justice in the Tent Embassy and I was brought to reflect upon the role of fire in all of our lives – the sacred fires central to Aboriginal cultures, the use of fire as an ancient land-management practice which brought both safety and renewal to the lands, but also the use of fire which has fuelled industrialisation and brought us to the brink of a global ecological catastrophe and, in a much less abstract sense, the imminent threat posed by the bushfires which were looming over the lives and livelihoods of people living in the Australian Capital Territory and across Australia at this time. I was also prompted to reflect on how Aboriginal people have suffered a great dispossession from their traditional lands and ways of life while it seemed to me that on the day that the land itself was threatening to inflict a great dispossession of its own upon the people as a direct consequence of pervasive and sustained mismanagement of the land and the environment.
The Peoples’ Climate Assembly came together to hold workshops, to share knowledge, and for guest speakers to take the floor. This grassroots and truly democratic assembly took place with the backdrop of a fenced-off Parliament House, where the decisions that directly affect the people and the environment happen in a closed-off manner through backroom dealings. It is clear that the sort of democracy we enshrine in our government is an anaemic and very shortsighted one which does not permit the people’s input on the climate crisis but instead seeks to subvert and criminalise the actions necessary for us to spare our people and the entire world from the worst consequences of unmitigated anthropogenic climate change. The people protesting outside of Parliament House were steely in their resolve and unwavering in their commitment to forcing immediate climate action through democratic processes. There was a strong sense of solidarity amongst the crowd as people from all over Australia drew together in common cause, fully aware of the urgent situation and of the power in numbers which we had generated. Outpourings of sorrow and outrage flowed from the people during speeches with people being brought to tears and to outbursts from the powerful words spoken at the Peoples’ Climate Assembly.
Politicians received a colourful welcome of protestors who brandished signs, and waved, shouted, sung, and chanted slogans to drive a critical awareness of the fact that the people who are going to suffer from climate change are real people who are unafraid of taking action and holding politicians to account for their inaction and their denial of the scientific consensus on climate change.
This was the largest climate action protest Canberra has ever seen and the week of demonstrations, the growth of our numbers, as well as the threat of an increasingly hostile climate throwing disaster and destruction upon us all are a sign of things to come. The people will continue to rise up, resolute, joyful, and determined, to demand meaningful and immediate action on climate change from the politicians who are charged with the duty of representing us.”