Well thanks all around, to the Traditional Owners of this land, to Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, to Knitting Nannas, to mom and dads and children, locals and travellers, farmers, business people, hippies and ferals, freaks and queers, gay and straight, young, old, all the individuals who showed up in common cause. To simmos and buddies who spent hours on the frontline in rainy weather and hot dry afternoons, to police liaisons and traffic, safety/security and first aid, to kitchen that cooked with love, to the coordinators, the infrastructure people, black wallabies, to info desk and meet and greet….and then beyond us to the local police who showed us some care and showed that they care, and to any politicians out there that actually listened and took a stand (before the decision was made lol).
And then to Metgasco and the politicians who approved the Rosella Exploration project. We thank you for creating such a grave situation, a true crisis for the Northern Rivers that gave us the opportunity and impetus to join together, heads and hearts and hands, to stand up for our rights, to stand up for clean water and to protect country. The seriousness of the threat that you have posed to our region brought us out into new territory, taking time out from our jobs and our families, spending time on the land away from the comfort of showers and computers, TVs, gardens and kitchens.
And now victorious, it is time to leave dear sweet Bentley. This incredible experience of community comes to an end much like the end of a great festival or party; yet no, those words cannot adequately describe what happened here. What happened here was a beautiful dream come true as a plethora of people came together in common cause and loved each other as best we could as we worked together to protect the land, the water, the region for our children and our children’s children’s children’s future. As Antoine de Saint Exupery said in the Little Prince, “love consists of gazing outward together in the same direction.’ And this we did well. We hunkered down at Bentley. We put aside our lives outside of here, we squeezed them as much as possible into a manageable box and somehow we found the time and energy to create an inspiring engaged presence that grew from one day to the next.
We leave here now filled through and through with joy, relief and gratitude. Still, we may find ourselves experiencing a range of other emotions including sadness and anger, loss and pain. We may find ourselves experiencing a range of emotions in the days to come. Many of us are depleted energetically, we have been hyper alert, hyper vigilant, for many days on end, awaiting a potentially traumatic event to take place. Were the police going to ambush us from this gate or that, in the middle of the night or the wee hours of a rainy morning? Many of us have been in fight-or-flight mode for many days, weeks and even months on end. This has an impact on our adrenal glands, on our emotional and psychological well-being as we were amped up without the time to slow down and to truly relax in the comfort of knowing that our home is protected. We may find that our dreams are still filled with anxiety or that we are a bit more easily startled or upset than usual. We may feel a bit flat or directionless. We may find that we are again facing problems that had faded away during the course of our strong and passionate activism.
So it is important that we take some time for self care now, be that sleep, reading, gardening, friends, cuppas at the café, videos, walks in nature, the beach, surfing, sport….time with children and family and so on. We must go gently gently from Bentley in the next few days, gently forth, gentle with ourselves, with a curiousity about what comes next. It can be a bit of a bumpy ride to integrate back into our family lives, our homes, our jobs. Perhaps we are going home to people who were not there to share in our experience and we must bridge to them, be patient as we work to reconnect with loved ones. For we are no longer the same and we will never be the same.
We have begun to get to know each other and now we know what we can do together; the power of people is enlivening. As Martin Luther King stated, “The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community”. So we will continue to meet and many of us will continue to work together as much work still remains to be done both here in the Northern Rivers where we will not stop until the Northern Rivers is declared gasfield free and we will continue to work to halt this destructive industry in the Pilliga and Gloucester, throughout NSW and even then we will not stop until we have no further unconventional gas drilling projects being developed in Australia. Must we wait 10 or 15 years to see the true impacts of these practices? No, we will work together and we will know that this gives us the great opportunity to continue to forge the gorgeous social tapestry that was woven during our days at Bentley. We will continue to meet up with each other, with that glimmer of recognition in our eyes. When I see you in the street and you see me, let us continue to give each other a hug as we have done here so many times in days gone by. Let us continue to chat about our work together and to smile together as we reminisce and scheme, strategise for how to keep country well protected and keep water clean and work for the wellbeing of all people and all species.
We showed up. We showed up at Bentley. And it feels darn good. I am deeply grateful to one and all.
Much gratitude to the local custodians who stood with us and helped us to find our way.