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Successful blockade of Swan Island

February 28, 2016

What better way could we spend our short lives on this beautiful planet?


2016 marks the seventh straight year of nonviolent direct action at the secretive Australia Secret Intelligence Services (ASIS) base. From Swan Island trained Special Air Services 4 Squadron troops go international to do the bidding of the USA, under the command of the US Special Forces control agency Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

Swan Island base has had hundreds of millions of dollars poured into it since 2001. It is a centre of Australia’s training for subservience to US war making. Since 2010, protestors have trespassed on the island in protest of the war, blockaded the gates, shut down communications systems and even been victim of some of the torturous anti-interrogation techniques that “the best of the best” are trained on the island, so they can go and do likewise to other people overseas.

Like any dark operation, festering corruption, abuse, death and destruction in its murky shadows- the trainers and trainees of Swan Island run from the light. The several years of direct non-violent action, the recent media spotlight after four of us were assaulted are too much accountability for the vicious nature of Australia’s top secret military regime.

With too much exposure, there are too many questions to answer. Questions like, how many people have Australian Special Forces executed in war zones and other places? How many people have they tortured? How much has Australia following US tactics increased the risk of a terrorist attack on Australian soil?

From 620 in the morning, 12 of us stood in front of the gate. Australia is spending 500 million dollars a year fighting in Syria and Iraq and a billion dollars a year imprisoning the refugees who flee these conflicts. Moved, some of us decided to take a snap blockade of the secretive base. Normally we plan ahead, announce and advertise for more people. This time, to be more effective, we did no public planning or calling.

We were keyed up, ready to be arrested, but so scared of the spotlight and accountability, the military and the police just let us block the gate unchallenged. We stayed until 1pm, so people who work on the base would not be able to get to work. It was a successful blockade, slowing down Australia’s aggressive war making for one day.

After being violently assaulted by the base’s military personnel in 2014, I was a little nervous about blockading the gate on the day. But my concern for potential personal impacts was outweighed by feeling a need to take responsibility for my country’s recent 15 years of war making, including the invasions of Afghanistan, Iraq and the bombing of Syria, Australia has killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, destroyed communities, and created millions of refugees.

We can’t change the world individually, but as small committed groups who regularly turn up to nonviolently disrupt war making and the destruction of our ecosystem, we can slow down the destruction.

Our hope is to change the narrative from one of economic growth at all costs, to one where all of us in the human family are cared for, valued and given space to find our life’s potential. And, who knows, we might even have fun and joy on the way.

Such a vision is surely worth working for. Such a world is worth fighting for by putting ourselves on the line from time to time. On Thursday, it cost our time to slow war making down, but we invested in a more just and peaceful world. Whilst there were risks, they were small compared to the daily risks of those who live on the edge of our Empire, at the mercy of our economic god.

Those of us in the countries where activists and reformers have gone before us to make dissent easier, have a responsibility to use the space given. We have a responsibility to those in the countries we have invaded and destroyed. We have a responsibility to the natural world around us. We have a responsibility to future generations who deserve a fair share of the Earth’s resources and a peaceful, just world. Lastly we have a responsibility to ourselves. Once we were all kids who questioned the world and dreamed of something better. As adults we can use our time, bodies and spirit to make those dreams come true.


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  1. As Politicians like to say. “I am sure all Australians agree!”
    I can’t lie for very long. That is why I am not a politician
    The truth is, some of us do anyhow!
    Well done!
    And great inspiring upbeat writing, Greg!


  2. Helen Bayes permalink

    Strong words, Greg, and peacemaking. Thanks for putting it on the record.

I would be honored if you espoused your narrative here.....

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