by Nick Chesterfield
The core of fighting for country lies with getting behind the people who care for it.
This issue contains references to Aboriginal people who have passed.
Welcome to Chain Reaction’s Strong Blak Resistance, the full BlakOut Takeover Issue. This issue showcases the voices of real change from the First Nations organisers, community leaders, and warriors. Voices fighting for Country at the coalface of resistance to coloniser plunder extractivism, rejecting the false solutions of Green Capitalism, and leading in asserting and adapting sustainably sovereign Blak solutions to the two centuries of damage to our ancient Land and climate.
We dedicate this issue to the warrior Mr Wilson, the late chair of Nurrdalinji mob protecting country from fracking in the Beetaloo basin, who died suddenly on August 29. With the graceful permission of his daughter Joni, we have been able to publish his powerful interview that examines the injury to his Country & countrymen, a call for active solidarity and his vision of a gas free future.
Uncle, may your spirit rest in power with the ancestors, and inspire new generations to lead the fight to stop fossil fuel destruction on Aboriginal Land.
We also acknowledge the elders past and present on all the unceded Lands that this issue was produced on, and the legacy of our elders and warriors who came before in paving the way of our Strong Blak Resistance & Protecting Country. We also honour and hold close the memory of all the other First Nations souls that have passed in the time we've compiled this edition – parents, cousins, children, aunties, uncles, grandparents, siblings, friends – we hear your strength, we mourn your loss, and we dedicate ourselves to abolish and heal from these colonising systems, in your memory.
Fighting for country is fighting for all of our survival.
Scars rip across unceded Aboriginal Land wherever we walk. An ancient Land nurtured by loving kinship, the oldest continuous scientific land management system in Earth’s History, and interconnected experiences and obligations to every single being that exists in harmony with each other. All life on our Land and Sea Country is our family, and we are bound to it, for all of time.
Scars to our spirit, our bodies and our Land, scars inflicted by settler-colonialism without let-up since they arrived, destruction and plunder being all they know what to do. Scars inflicted by a people that think they actually understand the stolen land on which they stand, arrogantly thinking they know better than us how to repair the Land and Sea Country they've destroyed
As far as the eye can see, these are the scars of surviving a Stray-Alien culture of rape and pillage. But our warriors resisted, survived and are reborn, guided by our Elders and those who came before, a resurgence of Strong Blak Resistance – a seed that is constant in this ancient Land, and being watered by a new generation of mob finding new ways to resist and heal.
We face incredible threats – a vast machine of manufactured consent; public affairs for plunderers masquerading as journalism, yet silencing real reporting on the threats to the health of the continent we all share. We survive in an economy made from artificial scarcity, and false solutions put forward by greenwashed capital exist to plunder our ancient Land in a thousand new innovations. All these are being challenged from the best place – the grassroots of the people with their toes in the soil.
It is an honour to amplify and weave together powerful voices of this Land, of frontline defenders of country and warriors of resistance to the extractivist colony, inspired by sixty millenia of care, community and custodianship of all beings across Land and Sea Country Still standing strong against coloniser’s brutal plunder of 250 years, and in living their sovereign solutions, adapting new ways and new allies to heal the damage caused by a terminally broken system of the invaders.
Time for Settlers to listen up, show up, & stop yelling at us about your Referendum
In a time where many settlers are beginning to wake up to the issues raised by Land Rights and Land Back movements, yet conversely a time where white-saviour solutions to First Nations demands still refuse to listen to real voices from our communities (causing yet another layer of deep trauma through the Referendum process), we are saying – it is time to listen up, and stand alongside us, or simply get out of the way.
When I was asked to canvas Blak feeling about the upcoming referendum for guidance to settlers trying to be allies for mob, I audibly groaned “here we go again – the colony has another wondrous idea it wants to impose on us.”
Once again,the cultural load of educating whitefellas again falls to mob. For years we have been asking you to educate yourselves. The coloniser’s referendum imposed brutal trauma, with the waves of racism from both Yes and No, once again. Not just from racist colonisers opposed to any form of Aboriginal representation, but from people meant to be allies. Just more harm with real impacts on the lives of those on the frontline.
This has been a very hard issue to curate, not just in outreach to the voices fighting to protect their country. The most dedicated fighters are the most under pressure, and simply don’t have time to do pages of writing.
This issue was originally focused on showcasing the campaigns of caring for country, but the imposition of the referendum changed the tack. Navigating the insidious and casual violence of the colony at every step in the process, with the responsibility to cultural safety always borne by Blakfullas (still unheeded by settlers in the conservation movement), the trauma imposed by the Referendum process meant that many people approached simply felt too unsafe and unlistened to by? the colony, to contribute. Putting aside the cynicism of decades of experience fighting extractivism, we reached out to grassroots Land Defenders in favour of Yes. But our requests were ignored, refused or unable to be met.
We have asked a simple question: “Does the Referendum provide any utility for Aboriginal People protecting Country from destruction?” As a result, whilst there is a significant bias towards dismissal of the referendum as a coloniser-imposed sideshow, the focus of this issue is demonstrating the continued need for growing practical allyship for Land and Sea Country protectors & decolonisation in the environmental movement.
Strong Blak Voices in this issue aren’t here to be polite. You stand on Aboriginal Land,you are here to Pay the Rent. Connection to land only comes from listening to those whose Law has maintained this land for 65,000 years. These are steps you already take, in a small way by wanting to decolonise your daily practice of fighting to protect country, and so Blak voices here will be demanding to Step Up and Show Up, and centre the people on whose land you are part of the theft. Hard truths will be confronted, a take-it-or-leave-it call to settler-coloniser Greenies who consider themselves allies to First Nations resistance to extractivism. Uncomfortability creates change.
We present some big yarns – yarns that are so big we are also producing this into podcasts – and allowing for extended reads in the digital version of this magazine. A theme runs through Blak resistance: we are still quarry – and a quarry - for empire, capitalism and colonialism. Boe Spearim speaks strong that the Frontier Wars have never stopped, just transformed, and examines the history of Blak resistance up to today. He says allies must respect the first environmentalists, to learn from the history of constant resistance, work with mob, and show up in places like the Pilliga.
Dr Amy McGuire writes about the inescapable connections between coloniser violence, criminalisation of protest, and environmental defence and the violence that extractivists, and white men, still impose on Blakfullas – especially the violence against Aboriginal women, and the Disappeared. As greenies you all know the extreme violence that extractivists impose on land defenders. In the eyes of the plunder-state, if you side with Blakfullas, then you must be violently punished. So it is incumbent on greenies to fight alongside Blak Women to dismantle the carceral violence system as a key tactic in fighting for environmental justice.
Yaraan Couzens-Bundle tells the story of Land and Sea Country protection bringing together defence of the Sacred Djap Warrung trees from a needless highway, and the fight to defend sea country against the ravages of seismic blasting and extractivism.
Jennetta Quinn-Bates examines the struggle to Save the Darling Baaka from industrial water theft and corruption, and also why the Voice cannot be trusted to deliver justice.
Powerful use of art as a changemaking medium for expressing survival & resistance in the colony, and protecting country, is shown and explained beautifully by Kerry Klimm.
Kado Muir illustrates that at every turn of the colony, the plunder never ends. The myth of the so-called Green Revolution in the transition to renewables shows it is just the same old plunderers in charge – and they are uninterested in degrowth. Uncontrolled Rare Earths and “Critical/ Strategic” Mining show that more than ever, allies need to step up to ensure that the process to mine more battery components doesn't sacrifice massive swathes of Aboriginal Land.
It’s not all doomscrolling. Alana Marsh shows the beauty of interconnectedness into the story of the Dingo and connection to their dreaming, and the regenerating songlines nurtures the hope that is necessary to create change. Auntie Rissah Vox offers a call-to-arms for caring for our elders in their homes.
There are some wins in the movements as people are becoming more educated to our impact on this land. Small wins such as the victory of the Bangarla people in stopping the National Nuclear Waste Depository that was being put on their Land without consent near Kimba. The big win of stopping Native Forest Logging in Victoria; and a temporary win at Binybara/Lee Point in Darwin, with Larrakia mob & allies stopping the Gouldian Finch habitat destruction for the time being through direct action.
White environmentalism has worked extremely hard over the last decades, especially in issues around illegal logging, and of course in anti-nuclear work – and it has achieved significant wins. Those wins have all had one thing in common – working closely in support of traditional owners to maintain country. Allies are spread so thin. There is a call to pool resources, to drop the white egos in greenies movements and to drop the gatekeeping.
Blakfullas have made it clear they want all settlers in this country to show they have earned the right to live on our ancient continent – by stepping up to defend this land, in order to come the right way and pay the rent. Because if you aren’t going to work with traditional owners to defend the ability of this country to sustain life, what even is the point of you? Lessons need to be learned, urgently. As Boe Spearim makes clear:
“At the end of the day, if we don’t resist and continue to occupy, and re-speak our languages, and ceremonies, and be seen within this colony, then they get a continent for free.”
Nick Chesterfield is a man of Kaurna, Nunga, Kulin & Celtic Nations heritage all impacted by extractivism of the British colonial System. He is a journalist with several decades of experience of walking alongside & reporting for First Nations led, grassroots resistance movements against extractivism and resisting militarism & genocide in West Papua & First Nations across so-called Australia, and Melanesia.