Walk against Warming – 4 November

(See also reports on Melbourne Indymedia here and here, and video on YouTube.)

Thousands marched from the Town Hall to the river at Birrarung Marr in Melbourne’s contribution to an international Day of Action on Climate change:

View of gathering at end of march

It seemed organisers had not been expecting such a huge turnout – police were reported to estimated the crowd at 30,000 – when they chose Melbourne’s Town Hall as the assembly point, rather than the deep lawns in front of the State Library, which have become customary for such purposes in recent years, and where passing trams are less of a hazard. Fortunately, there were no long speeches to hold things up; drummers from MelSamba did the warming up and Tricia Phelan from Environment Victoria, launched the march with a call for everyone to make as much noise as they could for five seconds …

As can be seen from the photos, there was a strong anti-corporate and especially anti-Howard current to the protest, and amongst the many groups working the crowd there members of the StopG20 collective handing out leaflets in preparation for the forthcoming neo-liberal bun-feast on November 18-19 (see http://web.archive.org/web/20061104224333/http://stopg20.org/,and the banner featured below. Events planned to coincide with the conference range from a street party and ‘really, really free market’ to a 24-hour meditation at Birrarung Marr, starting at sundown on 17 Nov – details on the website.) Greens, and to a lesser extent ALP supporters, were also in evidence, as well as environmental organisations, as was only to be expected.

From the website of Environment Victoria:

Leaders invited to ‘Walk the Talk’ Against Warming

Environment groups have invited Premier Steve Bracks and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu to speak to a crowd of thousands this weekend at the Walk Against Warming – so long as they announce a policy to cut Victoria’s greenhouse pollution 20% by 2020.

Walk Against Warming organisers Environment Victoria and Greenpeace have issued a challenge to both major parties to address the crowd – a prime opportunity for a positive announcement – if they commit to introduce legislated targets to cut Victoria’s greenhouse pollution 20% by 2020 based on 1990 levels.

It’s probably unnecessary to add that neither took up the challenge.

Those who did attend, however, included Wurrundjeri elder Joy Wandin-Murphy, who delivered the traditional ‘Welcome to Country’, well-known TV presenter and environmentalist Rob Gell, Cath Smith, CEO of the Victorian Council of Social Services, actor Magda Szubanski, and Anna Mazetti, a ‘mum from the eastern suburbs’ who explained how she had become actively engaged in organising in her community – ‘because when you are concerned about your children’s future you are driven to do things that you wouldn’t necessarily do for yourself.’ As another ‘mum’ had said to her ‘I don’t want my kids to say “If you knew how serious climate change was back then, Mum, why didn’t you DO something about it?”‘

Magda Szubanski also thought it worth explaining her participation: she was there representing herself, but also ‘I know that a lot of these events can start to look a bit like “Rent a celebrity”. The reason we came along is because we provide a voice for people who don’t necessarily have a voice and who can’t get their voices heard in the media …’

It was a long wait before the last of the marchers arrived at the destination under the bridge at Birrarung Marr, but lively entertainment was provided by the Counterfeit Gypsies, and the weather was kind. After the speeches, Vox Bandicoot made an appearance, presenting amongst other things a demonstration of a ‘rising C’ – not the water variety.

There was disagreement among media outlets as to the numbers who attended, with some giving 30,000 and others suggesting a much smaller figure. As often the case, not all who took part in the march stayed for the speeches, but having watched the march and viewed the crowd from bridge, I should say the police estimate quoted above sounded quite credible.

MelSamba at the Town Hall

MelSamba at the Town Hall

Walk against Warming banner at Town Hall

Banner at the Town Hall

Walk aganst Warming banner on balcony at Town Hall

Head of the march – a reference to the Victorian State Governemnt’s plan to have 20% of all motorised trips taken by public transport by 2020:

Banner calling for 20% greenhouse pollution cut by 2020

The following shots were taken on the march, in no particular order:

Anti-Howard feeling – collage of placards:

Assortment of anti-Howard placards

Greens triangles popping up everywhere – this one was determined to get in the picture:

Greens triangle above Teachers for Forests banner

Various banners hanging from the bridge at Birrarung Marr:

Banners on bridge

Joy Wandin Murphy … spoke of the difficulty of living ‘between two worlds’, preserving what we have been given and keeping up with change. Holding up a branch of a gum tree, she said: These leaves that bring you this “welcome to country” are about you and I sharing what we need to preserve, so that when you share these branches … it means that you and I come together, we join together just as we have today, we unite symbolically to fight for what’s right.’

Joy Wandin-Murphy

Weatherman Rob Gel

Weatherman Rob Gel

Cath Smith, CEO of Victorian Council of Social Services – Acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and ‘any Indigenous people present’, she thanked them ‘for working through the many changes that our community needs to work through.’ Leaving aside the economic and scientific arguments, as CEO of VCOSS she concentrated on the social impacts of changes facing the community. Recallng the 90s she reminded listeners that tens of thousands of people lost their jobs under the reforms [sic] of the Kennett Government. If we don’t plan for and manage change it has a very serious effect on those who are not able to insulate themselves. Individuals are responsible for doing what they can, she said, but governments also are responsible. ‘The sorts of issues I’m concerned about are that for rural Victorians, for people on low incomes, for the two million Australians that are living below the poverty line, they’re not as well able to buy a water tank, they can’t afford to put in a solar cell in their home. This is a social issue … Society is more unequal now that it was ten years ago … Today, a senior corporate CEO earns [sic] more per hour than the average worker earns per year, which means that some people are better able to deal with the change ahead of us than others. Which means that for a resilient society we need to have a more equal and a fairer distribution of resources …’

Cath Smith speaking

More photos from Birrarung Marr: