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Australia's first forestry blockade

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Bill Lines, author of the book Patriots, discusses some of the early history and evolution of Australia’s conservation movement.     
Milo Dunphy dubbed the battle for Terania Creek as the Eureka Stockade of the Australian forests and the doyen of conservationists, Judith Wright, described the Nimbin protestors as true patriots.

Nimbin, in northern NSW, became home to many young Australians (read hippies) who flocked to the area following the idealistic Aquarius festival of 1973. They formed communes and other communities on the ex-dairying properties that they acquired, often growing dope along with other crops. When the Nimbin communities discovered that the surrounding land was under threat from logging, their determination to prevent logging at Terania Creek marked the beginning of politically astute protests.

The protestors set up camp on Hugh and Nan Nicholson’s property, where they organised to defend Terania Creek using direct, peaceful action. When the loggers arrived, the protestors formed a human blockade, lying on  the road. When the loggers returned the next day with police in tow, the blockade had increased to include cars.

The confrontation quickly escalated, but the media savvy protestors were well on the front foot, making headline news around the country.    

Neville Wran, then Premier of NSW and somewhat sympathetic to the cause (his wife Jill was openly sympathetic), tried to bring Cabinet around while the protests continued.

Media images of the police receiving massages from protestors did little to help the loggers’ cause. However, the protestors received little help from the established Sydney greenies, who operated on a larger agenda and did not really support the idea of a grass roots campaign.

The longer the protest took, the better the grass roots campaign became. Finally Neville Wran called an inquiry, having achieved the numbers he needed in Cabinet.

The delay was a victory for the protestors and Terania Creek became the symbol for all rainforests in NSW and a powerful model for further green protests around the country.

Text: V.B. December 2008

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