[I’m warning you this is going to be a loooooooooooooooooong post. Lots of stuff happened this weekend that I am trying hard to deal with]

Save Lake CowalAs some of you might know (or not know) this weekend I headed to Lake Cowal to support a 5 year running protest against Barrick Gold (gold mining company from Canada tragically) who has been exploiting the land at Lake Cowal in several ways.

My time at the camp during the three days was beautiful once we finally got there as it was spent with beautiful people from all over Australia and the world! These included a few different family of fun kids, indigenous people, and others from around Australia and the world. Tragically, Maurice, Andrew, & I received a few (read: 20 I believe was the last count) flat tires on our ride out to the site and finally gave up and had to call in backup vehicle support to come get us.

“Our Aboriginal People are being denied access to our sacred ground. Protestors from around the world are here to support our claim for access to our ancient lands. Australian Aboriginal Peoples have the oldest continuing living culture in the world. We Wiradjuri People are also being denied the right of spiritual and religious freedom under s.116 of the Australian Constitution,” Mr Williams said.

“Barrick is desecrating our sacred site and Dreaming Place and denying us access to our traditional lands. The company has moved or destroyed more than 10 000 artefacts including marked trees, damaging the integrity of the area forever.”

“Despite Barrick’s assertion that we are misleading people, what we are doing is our ancient cultural duty to protect our sacred Country for the generations to come. We are also raising awareness of the dangers of cyanide leach gold mining and the mine’s excessive use of precious water in the middle of the worst drought on record. The fullest dams, in the very parched countryside between Condobolin and the mine, are the toxic tailings ponds west of the open cut pit, which extends into the lakebed.”

I went there to help represent the indigenous people of this country (read: each area that is occupied by a different indigenous country in Australia is called a country here..which I love) .

The actions of the day were quite successful in bringing awareness to the fact that this issue is still taking place. I spent my day performing native dances, doing a sit outside the gates, and supporting other protesters who were entering the mines. Oh and at one point I became the food man bringing food around to people that I had stocked up before we left our camp. It would have been nice to see more people out there but I still think we had an impact (have a look at this rad video of the Tranny Minors that performed). I saw some really fuckin brave people out there getting arrested for what they believe in. It was kinda unfortunate I couldn’t have participated more although I feel my actions were useful too.

But really folks did you realize that cyanide is waste product in the processing of gold. It’s tragic that on such a special lake we would want to introduce a poison that will threaten many different species of birds. Especially, when this lake is recognized as a special place recognized as being one of Australia’s Important Wetlands. Alright so what can I do? Write a letter (pre-made and handcrafted right here!) to these folks here and make sure that your investments are contributing to this destruction. Barricks doesn’t care that they have depleted loads of the water on this lake already even during a massive drought or that indigenous people of this area don’t agree with the settlement made.

[Warning: This bit is quite long and more about the traumatic experience that happened to me while there…I’m still trying to deal with it all actually]

UteUpon returning to camp two groups divided and one of the groups headed off to be with the 14 that went to jail. Another half remained back to stay at the campsite to await their return. About 20 minutes later a man arrived in our camp driving in a ute. If you have never seen one of these things there pretty scary vehicles (at the least the rural ones are). They have huge kangaroo bars on the front to ram kangaroos that run in front of the vehicle and large tires that are pretty tough for off road travel (see picture on the right).

The man was carrying a large piece of meat in his hands around camp and no one seemed to know him. At first impression my gut said not to trust this man. He started using his pitch fork on our fire in an attempt to dig a hole to create a hangi. When I came over to the fire he started ordering a Maori man that was at the camp around to get him fire wood. Several times he kept pointing out that no one was retrieving him wood as that he had asked (more a direct command considering it wasn’t polite and no one really knew this guy).

“Why won’t anyone get me some fucking wood. I’m trying to cook something for you.” – the man said.
“Just grab some yourself man there’s lots around to get.” – Maori man’s response back (not really aggressive more honest). Note: Other people were doing other things around the cooking area.

No one knew this fellow. He was drunk.

I don’t think I can fully express how I felt at the time or how I feel from what happened next. It was pretty fuckin traumatic and disturbing.

Scary Wheels

The man (now named Bogan) became extremely mad at this comment. He started telling us how he was just trying to make us some food. The Maori man replied simply by stating that we didn’t really know him and repeated that there was wood around for him to snag. The Bogan then told us all how this was his land & that the Maori guy & us didn’t belong here. Bogan walked right up to the Maori guy (1 foot between & just near me) and yelled at him right to his face.

At this point one of my friends secretly snagged his pitch fork and hid it in fear that it would be used as a weapon on our friend. Tensions were high.

When he realized that it was gone he drew out a knife from his pocket, waved it around, and screamed, “If you don’t give me back my pitch fork I’ll cut you all up right here. I WANT IT BACK NOW! NOOOOW!”

He was then told that we would retrieve it for him and during that process he threw insults to the people now surrounding the situation. After getting his fork back he yelled at us that this was his “FUCKING LAND”, that he would see us in his cross hairs (read: when he has his gun scope on us), and a bunch of other random shit. He threw his pitch fork into his vehicle, yelled more, and commanded that his dog get onto his truck, and got inside.

He started gunning the ute (see above) through our camp at uncontrolled speeds taking out the tent covering our food.

“EVERYONE GET OUT OF YOUR TENTS!” – someone screamed out.

He then gunned his vehicle right for a parked vehicle and rammed it’s side removing a rear-view mirror and severely denting the car. Let me remind you — for those that don’t know utes are indestructible. The dog had flown off several times during this situation and I felt so bad for it as it was commanded each time to get back on. The two womyn that had come with children put them in one vehicle, started the engine, and waited to determine whether to speed off/stay/flee/what was her children thinking/…. It was fuckin scary I can’t really explain.

Bogan drove 500 yards away and parked his vehicle. He started to dig a hole (I suspect for a hangi) and continued to scream insults loud enough I could understand him. He then ran a few yards up and drew a line in the dirt and said, “I’ll fuckin kill any one of you who crosses this line. Do you hear me? FUCKIN KILL YOU! This is my fuckin land. MY LAND. Do you hear me? Get the fuck of my land!”

One guy in our group started walking towards him to talk to him. People started asking him to stay behind & the farther he walked the more people screamed for him to come back.Bogan saw this and literally started to charge the camp at a full speed sprint. At some point he stopped, ran back to his truck, and started the engine of his car.

I got scared at this point because I could see he was driving really fast (at least 60 – 70 km/h) towards our camp. Everyone started to run and I ran with another womyn behind a nearby tree for protection. After he entered the camp I ran from that tree & within 30 seconds of me leaving it Bogan ran over a tent, and hit the tree. Bogan backed up & ripped through the camp again swerving between the tents that were setup. He got out of his truck and ripped a tent out of the ground.

At this point he threatened to kill people. Someone told him we called the cops & he said he’d see us later that night. Bogan jumped into his ute & sped off. We were all sacred of his return. When the cops rolled up 10 minutes after he left I ran towards the vehicle & explained what had happened. They sped off to apprehend him.

I later found out that they sent two police vehicles to nab him. One heading in each direction to which he rammed one of them. Our friends at the prison spoke to a police officer there that told us that he was the most violent person she had ever dealt with. After the police retrieved him he had actually continued to scream through the police vehicle all the way to the station. In an attempt to be more innocent he got rid of his knife, booze, keys to his truck, and pitch fork while being chased by the police on foot.

Luckily for us he was not allowed out of jail until long after we had left the site. On Monday he was still being denied bail.

The anger…extreme anger and uncontrolled rage he had reminded me of past violent experiences I have been around or experienced. I’m still reeling in anxiety from time to time over what happened. It was fuckin scary. Like that from a horror movie or something. Like I was in some kind of car accident. That night all of us kept checking to see who was coming up the road as vehicles passed. Frankly, we were all scared. We were on a vigil that night guarding & one (or two) guys got up early in the morning to guard the camp as well.

– Twisting in the wind

PS – One friend found his car just up the road from our camp where he was apparently “waiting” for us to get sleepy at night.

PSPS – Another friend checked inside the car to find bullets on the passenger seat.

PSPSPS – The dog was taken to the pound and if this guy doesn’t show up within a week (hopefully he’s held in jail that long) he can’t get the dog back. Crossing my fingers.