My name is Billy and I am a volunteer with the AYCC in Victoria. I first heard about the AYCC through a friend during a discussion we were having about potential volunteer opportunities. She recommended them highly, and with climate change being something I already had an interest in, I was soon signing my first petitions and then expressed an interest to volunteer.
At the sound of the King’s shell horn, 200 people jumped into kayaks and followed the Pacific Climate Warriors into the Port of Newcastle to block an outgoing coal ship.
Many of these people had never taken this sort of action before - but felt compelled to take to the water to stand in solidarity with our Pacific Island brothers and sisters. Their land, culture, their futures and their identity is being taken away because the fossil fuel industry refuses to take responsibility for the destruction their coal is having on people’s lives.
300 people gathered on Horseshoe Bay beach in Newcastle on Friday, ready to look the fossil fuel industry in the eyes, stare down the coal ships and stop them from operating for a day. The Pacific Warriors were danced and welcomed into the Bay by Seed volunteers from across the country. A beautiful moment of frontline communities standing together and celebrating their culture.
Together we blocked 10 coal ships from entering and leaving the port. Together, we stood up for climate justice and showed the fossil fuel industry that we will fight until we win. Boats were broken, oars were taken from people's hands, a 93-year old was capsized into the water, but still our spirits remained high on what as an incredibly emotional and powerful day.
Just days earlier, Prime Minister Tony Abbott opened a new coal mine in Queensland and said “coal is good for humanity.” This was contrasted the Marshall Islands having their biggest king tide in decades on that very day, causing widespread damage to important infrastructure and many homes. Communities in the Pacific know more than most that coal is bad for humanity and took to Newcastle coal port to fight for their right to a brighter future.
When we paddled our kayaks out into the water, no one was sure what to expect, all we knew was that we were going to stop that coal ship from leaving the harbour with our Pacific Island brothers and sisters. And when the towering ship passed us, it was hard to see it go by knowing that the ship represented the power that stands in the way of a safe climate future.
As young people, many of whom got involved because they were moved to action by stories from the Pacific Islands, it was a powerful moment to be part of. The Warriors were always reminding us that our futures are intertwined. I was reminded of this quote from an Aboriginal activists group from Queensland in the 1970s -
“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
This is a turning point for the climate movement. No longer will we be comfortable with doing what is easy or convenient, we will do what is right and necessary. Because those with power are not going to give it up easily and it is our duty to take it back.
Big ups to the teams at 350.org Pacific and Australia, to the outstanding individuals who made the whole event happen and to the always inspiring Pacific Climate Warriors. We can't wait to be part of what comes next.