14 July (Shoalwater Bay military training area)
The action in a nutshell: basically the point is to disrupt the Talisman Saber exercise because it’s a preparation for unnecessary evil, and to get some media attention about the issue because the Australian public is far too apathetic about it (more info on the website and in the media). We understand that when civilians are present inside the base, it’s the army’s policy to stop the exercise (at least in the immediate vicinity of the civilians), so our basic strategy is for a small group to get into the base and for other Peace Convergence people to contact the army and tell them we’re there. This necessarily involves breaking the law by trespassing on Commonwealth land, and so getting arrested and going through court.
We got onto the base at about 5am and very soon hit a few hours of trudging through wet, freezing swampland with only a vague idea of where we were. The sun didn’t make things any warmer until about 9am, when we found a nice spot next to a creek and hung our footwear out to dry.
The swamp was done, the terrain was basically all dry after that, and the creeks were quite easy to cross. But of course the entire area got flattened by a cyclone a few months ago, so heaps of our walk was through bushland of massive trees that had fallen over. Very slow going. We had a map and a compass (which the court destroyed afterwards) and were initially looking for a specific road, and we spent a fair bit of time resting in the sun.
Since about 6am we’d been hearing a few choppers flying at various distances from us, and we assumed they were just doing the exercise rather than looking for us. While we were at our 9am resting spot one of them flew directly over us (which was very unnerving), and then much lower a bit further away a few minutes later, but evidently didn’t see us. We heard choppers pretty consistently throughout our time on the base, and we soon learned when we needed to hide and when we could ignore them. Realistically one or two choppers might well have seen us, but I don’t think they were really concerned about our presence at that point, and why would they bother sending soldiers through ridiculously slow terrain to get us anyway?
The dominant nature of our time on the base was a beautiful bushwalk in a really peaceful environment with good friends. It was wonderful to spend some time in nature, there was heaps of laughter, and we had enough food.
But it also provided some time and space to contemplate the fact that this beautiful part of the country is a military training area, where Australian and other troops prepare for wars that we think are just a really bad idea. And there’s the fact that no Darumbal elders have ever given permission for a military base to exist on their land…and these are the people who were displaced by the same kind of invasion that our army is now helping the USA hit Middle Eastern countries with…more people are coming here to escape that terror, but our defence forces help keep those people out too…meanwhile our government is afraid of Australia being invaded, and ironically I think the likelihood of that is higher as long as we’re helping the USA provoke terror with terror…war, the indigenous plight, refugees…all “the issues” are so tied together.
Around sunset we finally gave up on finding that road before nightfall – even though we felt we’d been walking long enough and surely should have hit it by now – so we set up camp as soon as we found a place that was dense enough to hide us a bit but clear enough to camp in. The night was a bit less enjoyable because AJ didn’t pack a tent…that’s not quite as stupid as it sounds, cause he did bring these plastic shelters which we’d thought were a lot more “sheltering” than they turned out to be. So we unfolded them and slept on top of them, fully clothed and enveloped by our sleeping bags, but still shivered through the night (the dew covered our sleeping bags pretty early). Apparently it got down to 3 degrees.