Pull the Pin on Child Beauty Pageants – rally in Fitzroy Gardens, 30 July 2011

'Betty Grumble' drawing 'handgun' surrounded by children and others

(Not sure what the TV cameraman was filming ...)

Betty Grumble, aka Emma Maye Gibson, was the answer to US “Pageant Princess” Eden Wood when Pull the Pinheld a family fun day in the Fitzroy Gardens in protest at Universal Royalty’s child beauty pageant at the Northcote Town Hall on Saturday.

Some elements of the media had claimed that violent protests were planned, with alleged death threats eventually leading the star turn’s mother to refuse to allow her to appear, all this in spite of repeated insistence from Catherine Manning, Pull the Pin’s coordinator, that causing distress to children would be the opposite of what protesters stood for, but in the end a reporter for the Nine Network’s A Current Affair, which had exclusive rights to the pageant, had to admit on air (Friday evening, live from Northcote Town Hall) that talk about protests at the venue were ‘just that, talk’, and media reports from the day were unable to find anything of the kind to fasten on to.

Some links to media coverage are given at the end of this post – see also previous entry on this site 24 May 2011.
Catherine speaking - surrounded by microphones

Catherine Manning was the first to address the large media contingent that joined the Fitzroy Gardens event after spending some time in Northcote. She reiterated what she had said before in a series of interviews over the previous week or so (see for example, the segment on Channel 7’s Sunrise program 29 July , which also features Betty Grumble): she works with girls in schools and in workshops where she asks them about their ‘self-talk’ a constant recurring theme is that they feel they are not pretty enough, this being a message they get from popular culture and the media. So when she heard about the planned beauty pageants she could see the same applying to little girls, pitted against each other and being told that one is more physically attractive than the others. She was concerned about what this was saying about our culture. There was nothing wrong with competitions as such, but it was a different matter when they were based on beauty. There was great concern in the community about what was happening in Northcote, with over 4000 supporters on the Pull the Pin Facebook campaign page. She was worried that it would not be long before boys also were drawn into it. The message was harmful, and it was necessary to stand up now before it was took late to stop it.

The speakers field questions from reporters

The reporters had come prepared with a range of questions they could hardly wait to get in, particularly around the supposed intention to disrupt the pageant. As mentioned already, Catherine emphasised once more that they had always been determined not to protest at the event, ‘it would be a poor reflection on us to be seen harassing children.’ Protesters were often painted in a negative light [by some sections of the media]. It was put to her that some children love to perform, and that some would be loving the pageant, to which she countered that even if the child didn’t mind, ‘the message behind it [was] their looks were their currency.’ She noticed the size of the prizes, especially the cash, and added that the participants [ie the parents] were themselves the victims of this culture. Challenged on the presence of children at this protest she emphasised that all those who were there fully understood what was going on; some had made their own signs with their own slogans.

Colleen Hartland speaking

Greens Upper House MP Colleen Hartland had spoken at the previous rally and was here again to voice her concern. She said she had known nothing about these pageants until she spoke to Catherine. She had been able to bring herself to watch only few minutes of the TV program ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’. She raised the issue of whether children were able to give ‘informed consent’ in this case, and mentioned other areas such as piercing where age restrictions are enforced. She intended to refer the question to the Child Safety Commissioner Bernie Geary [who was reportedly due to attend the pageant at the request of the Victorian government]. She felt the photos of contestants no longer looked like children, more like Barbie dolls. Kids should be running around blowing bubbles, not being waxed and fake tanned.
She was asked if there was a danger that such contests might be driven underground if they were banned, and responded that it was therefore important for the legislation to get it right. Sexualisation was a major issue, and the Greens would be putting pressure on Children’s Minister Wendy Lovell.
Catherine Manning mentioned at this point that there was a danger that the kind of media attention the pageant had been getting might lead to their spread; it was therefore all the more important to nip the business in the bud.

Jenny Mikakos answering reporters' questions

Jenny Mikakos, ALP Upper House member for Melbourne’s Northern Metropolitan Region represented the ALP Opposition at the protest. She said she was appalled at what was taking place in her electorate, and also at the reports of death threats. (Pull the Pin categorically denies having anything to do with any such threats: this has been a tabloid beat-up.) She was appalled at reports of waxing, of little girls behaving like Lady Gaga. All children were beautiful as they were, they didn’t need to be made up like adults. The Opposition had raised the question of Working with Children checks with the Baillieu government, but had had no response. They would continue to press for regulation and control of such contests. They were not opposed to the ‘shopping centre’ type of contest, but the style of this pageant was of a different nature. She noted particularly the offer of Photoshopped images of contestants. Asked about the hiring of Darebin’s Town Hall for the event she said she was ‘extremely concerned’ [although it was clear that under present regulations there was no basis upon which the Council could have refused] and that they would be looking into the question of the relevant guidelines.

'Betty Grumble' reading her 'CV'

Betty Grumble, seen here reading from her spoof ‘CV’ introduced herself as ‘former child pageant star, and beauty queen’ but soon moved to a more direct critique. She said she was concerned to celebrate the ‘beauty within, what cannot be bought and sold’. When the word ‘flirt’ became part of a child’s vocabulary, it was something very sinister. Universal were not about children, they were about money. It was part of bigger issue for women, a question of equality. (See the ‘manifesto’ on Betty Grumble’s blog. She rounded off the protest by leading a chorus of boos for pageants and cheers for Pull the Pin.

'Betty Grumble' listening to the speakers
Some more photos from the Gardens:

Two of the children holding placards looking up towards their Mums?

Young girls with placard - 'Keep you Tiaras of our Toddlers'
Children writing messages on a 'Pull the Pin' banner
Protesters line up with placards for the cameras

Another view of the lineup

Another lineup, featuring 'Betty Grumble' and her assistant, with children in centre
Several dogs put in appearances during the protest, much to the delight of especially the smallest children:
Little girl patting very little dog

'Kennedy' - the very little dog

Life's very exciting when you're a seven-week-old puppy ....

… and this not-so-small one was also evidently enjoying it all:

Large dog watching from behind bushes seems to be enjoying the sight

"... the not-so-little dog laughed to see such fun"

Some links:




Media coverage:







23 July 2011 – Commemoration of murdered security guard Steve Rogers at Fertility Control Centre, 16 July 2001

On 23 July, pro-choice activists commemorated the tenth anniversary of the murder of Steve Rogers, security guard at the Fertility Control Clinic in East Melbourne, by anti-abortion extremist Peter Knight on 16 July 2001. For the last six years the Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights has organised a defence of the clinic on the fourth Saturday of each month to counter harassment by the so-called Helpers of God’s Precious Infants – see, for example, http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/pc/videos/clinic-engage.avi/view and on Melbourne Indymedia (this includes a downloadable flv clip of a physical confrontation on one occasion, see also http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/pc/videos/28july-ph_steps_engage.avi/view).

A range of speakers included members of Radical Women, who have supported the campaign from its beginning, and representatives of people with disabilities, the transgender community, a feminist mothers group, as well as Kieran from Albury Choice, who explained what has been going on there (see http://www.bordermail.com.au/news/local/news/general/sheets-out-in-abortion-faceoff/2234554.aspx).

Police were aware of the significance of the date and were present in some numbers, escorting the Right-to-Lifers to and from their ‘vigil’ and intervening decisively at the provocation offered by one elderly individual.

Anthea addressing the rally

Click on thumbnail to view video

The footage here is necessarily selective, and much has had to be omitted, including unfortunately the address by Alison Thorne of the Freedom Socialist Party (but see the 22 August 2009 report mentioned above). On the other hand, a low-resolution streaming version of the whole event (65 minutes) is available at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16179764

From Campaign for Women’s Reproductive Rights:

Ten years ago Steve Rogers was killed at work, defending the Fertility Control Clinic. On July 16, 2001, Peter Knight, an anti-abortion terrorist, stormed the clinic’s waiting room. A terrifying melee ended in Rogers’ death. The Fertility Control Clinic remains the target of an ultra-right movement intent on revoking Victoria’s legalisation of abortion and stripping back women’s choices. Every month, on the fourth Saturday, reproductive rights activists defend the clinic and its neighbourhood from a contingent of anti-choice crusaders.

At the July defence, pro-choicers will commemorate this anniversary, remember Steve Rogers and say “Never Again!” Come rally for full reproductive rights for all women and join in building a movement that will stop the anti-abortionists and secure real choices for women.

Added 28 July – There are photos from the rally and of a memorial service held later by clinic staff on the Freedom Socialist Party Facebook page here.

Speakout against gag on Lex Wotton – 20 July 2011

One year after Palm Island Indigenous leader Lex Wotton was released on parole two years into a six-year sentence for riot, the Indigenous Social Justice Association in Melbourne (ISJA)called a speakout to protest at the gag imposed on him as part of his parole conditions. Lead speaker was prominent criminal lawyer Rob Stary; others included musician Ezekiel Ox, Cheryl Kaulfuss from ISJA, and representatives of Radical Women, Anarchist Black Cross, Socialist Alliance and individuals declaring their support for for the campaign.

A slightly cut version of Rob Stary’s address has been posted on YouTube, along with extracts from the rest of the action, which culminated with a symbolic removal of gags from participants to chants of “You can’t gag the movement”.

The video also shows a police patrol which came past just as one speaker was finishing, and a young officer stopping to take a few copies of a “No Room for Racism” sticker from the table:

From ISJA:

Speak out for Lex Wotton’s Political Freedom!
Lift the unfair gag — let Lex speak!
Build the movement to stop Aboriginal deaths in custody

One year ago Lex Wotton was released from jail after serving two-years behind bars as a political prisoner. Lex got a 6-year sentence after being found guilty of riot with destruction by an all-white jury. He took part in a justified community protest against the death in custody of Mulrunji Doomadgee. In contrast, Chris Hurley, the police officer responsible for the death in custody, has been promoted and compensated. The whole response to the 2004 death in custody has been scandalously flawed.

While Lex is free, he remains politically muzzled by harsh parole conditions, which deny him the right to speak to the media or to attend pubic meetings.

Lex Wotton is an inspirational advocate for the people of Palm Island whose voice is needed to expose the shameful truth behind the death of Mulrunji and everything that followed.

Attend the lunch time speak out outside the Bank of Queensland. Demand the Queensland Government lift the political gag on Lex Wotton now! Stop Aboriginal deaths in custody now!

Wednesday 20 July, 2011
12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Outside the Bank of Queensland
163 Bourke Street Melbourne.
(Near the corner of Russell Street)

Organised by Indigenous Social Justice Association – Melbourne
PO Box 308, Brunswick, Vic 3056


LIVE Deckchair Democracy on steps of Parliament – 12 July 2011

Adam Bandt and members of LIVE on steps of Parliament House

During May 2011, LIVE (Locals Into Victoria’s Environment) held a daily vigil on the steps of the Victorian Parliament in Melbourne, with guest speakers at 1pm each day, under the banner of ‘Deckchair Democracy’. (See, for example, a presentation by Ben Courtice on Friends of the Earth’s Wind Energy Campaign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jTK5yYalvA) The group also collected signatures on a petition “Our children and grandchildren deserve a safe climate” and presented the results to the Federal Member for Melbourne and Multi-Party Climate Change Committee (MPCCC) member, Adam Bandt MP, on the steps of Parliament House on Tuesday 12 July.

LIVE also issued a statement in response to the Clean Energy Future plan announced by the Prime Minister on Sunday 10 July, see below for full text.

The actual handover of the petition was appropriately enough done by a group of children:
Adam Bandt receives copies of petition from school children

Some of the children had also prepared individual messages for the Prime Minister, including this one:
Message from 12-year-old Hugh to Julia Gillard

Accepting the petition Adam Bandt congratulated the group for their work in countering misinformation, observing amongst other things that recognition of the need for action on climate change was practically taken for granted amongst younger people:it was their elders who needed the education campaign.
Adam Bandt and children give 'thumbs up'

Statement issued by LIVE:

12 July 2011
Clean Energy Future Plan: the historic first of many steps towards a safe climate for our children and grandchildren
Port Phillip climate action group, Locals Into Victoria’s Environment (LIVE) welcomes the Clean Energy Future plan announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Sunday 10 July 2011. LIVE congratulates the members of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee for negotiating an agreement that takes a step in the right direction for Australians, particularly young Australians. LIVE acknowledges the enormous pressure that the MPCCC has been placed under by self-serving fossil fuel interests and thanks the members for their courage.
The Clean Energy Future plan is just a beginning but it is a plan that lays the foundations to enable Australians to play their role, alongside the citizens of other countries, in leading the way to tackling dangerous global warming. As the largest per capita emitters in the developed world, Australians must take responsibility for reducing our carbon footprint and this plan offers us the opportunity to get started.
Unlike the CPRS, which was riddled with loopholes for polluters, this new plan is more flexible and allows for quicker responses to new climate science information. It opens the door to innovation, voluntary pollution reduction actions and a nation building renewable energy industry with great opportunities for investment and jobs in local communities. We acknowledge the MPCCC for recognising the many opportunities that avoiding dangerous global warming presents.
This is only the first of many steps needed for a safe climate future for our children and grandchildren so LIVE will still be working hard, along with other climate action groups, to continue the push for the closure of Hazelwood and to stop HRL’s proposed new coal fired electricity generator, with a fair transition for coal industry workers. As we face the enormous challenges of climate change, we cannot afford to waste time, money and energy propping up dirty energy systems which would be at the expense of the real solutions: renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.
LIVE will also work to highlight the real cost to ordinary Australian’s of the Coalition’s so-called ‘direct-action plan’, and the fact that not a single legitimate economist has come forward to support it.
LIVE thanks all those people who have supported our community actions including the more than 4000 people who formed the human sign on St Kilda Beach in 2009, and the month long Deckchair Democracy vigil in May 2011 on the steps of Victoria’s Parliament House. People power is an important and vibrant part of a healthy democracy and has contributed to the first positive news for some time. We will continue our role in working closely with other community groups and community members to tackle dangerous global warming for the sake of our children and grandchildren.
Deborah Hart LIVE Board member
On behalf of LIVE