FoE Australia was founded in 1974 at a meeting on French Island in Westernport Bay, Victoria, which was then the site for a proposed nuclear reactor. From its creation, FoE in Australia has identified itself as a radical ecology group that recognised the need to move to sustainable and equitable social systems to be able to protect the environment in the long term. This meant that from its beginnings, FoE has placed considerable effort on achieving this change rather than simply lobbying existing governments.
The first Friends of the Earth (FoE) group in Australia was formed in Adelaide in 1972, one of a number of organisations that grew out of a group called Social Action. In early 1973, FoE was established in Melbourne. These early organisations, based in the broad social movements that were forming across Australia and around the world, were products of their times. FoE was established in the early stages of the social transformation happening across Australia that had been influenced by similar movements elsewhere in the 1970's.
There was a growing public awareness of ecology, the land rights movement was becoming increasingly militant, and the NSW Builders Labourers Federation (BLF) under the leadership of Jack Mundey was profoundly changing roles of trade unions as it took a leading position on a range of social and environmental concerns. The alternative lifestyle counter culture had held a number of enormous gatherings and the women's and gay liberation movements were prominent and dynamic. Against this social backdrop, FoE, based on the concept of radical grassroots environmental action, took off like wildfire. For many, the new network structure of FoE was important because it offered an alternative to the often hierarchical structures of many other 'establishment' styled national environment groups.
Over the last 40 years, FoE has evolved into a diverse and vibrant network of groups that are working at the local, regional, national and international level.
Timeline of some significant campaign victories and organisational events
1972 − The first FoE group in Australia forms in 1972 at Adelaide University, campaigning on issues including waste, pollution, Coca Cola and French nuclear tests in the Pacific. Following a high profile campaign against Coca Cola, a PR firm infiltrates FoE Adelaide to encourage the group to stop campaigning against the steel company BHP. BHP gives FoE Adelaide $3,900 to make a film about recycling, which FoE Adelaide turns into an exposé of the company itself.
FoE's origins contrast to some of the slightly older environmental organisations that FoE activist Neil Barrett describes in 1976 as the "establishment, government-funded group(s) which sprang out of an older style, middle class movement".
1973 − Peter Hayes writes:
"As soon as I arrived back in Australia in late 1973, I began to organize or rather, activate Friends of the Earth in Australia. A couple of tiny groups had already begun to use the name − one by a high school student in Melbourne somewhere, and one in South Australia. I was inspired by the concept of a loose, networked federation, based on the notion of ecological autogestion, or green self management."
1974 − First meeting of FoE Australia, held on French Island in Western Port Bay, Victoria, the proposed site of a nuclear power reactor.
Through the 1970s, FoE campaigns extensively to protect Antarctica. FoE publishes 'Antarctica: World Law and the Last Wilderness', and with other groups forms the Antarctica and Southern Oceans Coalition. The campaign − waged in the public realm in Australia and through international negotiating meetings − succeeds. The Madrid Protocol bans mining in Antarctica for at least 50 years.
FoE releases a video of BHP dumping steel at sea with resulting national media coverage.
Peter Hayes writes:
"In early 1974, I went to Tasmania to meet with Leigh Holloway who had established the Tasmanian Environment Centre. ... We had already helped take over the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) in October 1973 at the ACF's annual general meeting in Canberra as payback for a series of catastrophic decisions by the ACF's conservative establishment board to not back environmental causes, including Lake Pedder. ...
"Not unreasonably, while I was in Hobart Leigh asked me why we needed FoE when we had taken over the ACF? I answered that they were not competitive but complementary; that by its very structure ACF would always be slow and relatively muted by virtue of its relationship with governments. We needed a network that by its very nature could never be stopped by the powers-that-be. ... Leigh agreed; and eventually became one of FoE's most effective organizers, bridging the gap between grass-roots social campaigns and ACF as a councillor (along with FoE's Strider and Frank Muller). ACF was reconstituting itself to respond to Green Bans, land rights, and other structural issues such as energy supply that ACF had previously shunned."
FoE Melbourne has its first victory − saving Baw Baw frogs from a proposed ski run development.
Chain Reaction magazine starts − initially as Greenpeace Pacific Bulletin. Peter Hayes writes:
"FOE Melbourne's first order of business in 1974 was to organize a "Greenpeace Action" in the form of supporting an Australian vessel to sail to Moruroa in mid-1974. This was before Greenpeace existed as an organized entity in Australia. In 1972, a "Greenpeace" vessel captained by David McTaggart had sailed to Moruroa, and Greenpeace in Canada was just starting to get organized. I did not want a Greenpeace entity, but rather, a Greenpeace action that would embody FoE's mission and exemplify our style. This took the form of Rolf Heimann's Tahiti ketch that left from St. Kilda pier of a speech by Jim Cairns and to the sounds of a jazz band. ... To support Rolf's voyage, we began to publish Greenpeace Pacific Bulletins and raising money. I think there were a couple, likely one at start of 1974, and a second in winter 74. This morphed into the FoE magazine Chain Reaction ..."
In 1974, FoE Adelaide is involved in discussions with the Australia Party and the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union and establishes the Campaign Against Nuclear Energy (CANE), which is formally launched in March 1975.
1975 − By 1975 there are FoE groups in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, the Illawarra, Tasmania, Queensland and WA.
FoE Melbourne's food co-operative is established − and is still going strong 40 years later!
FoE organises a Ride Against Uranium − 250 people ride from Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide to Canberra, where Bill Liechacz from FoE NSW burns the coffin of the "ALP Conscience" with a flame kindled by his solar cooker. In 1976, 400 riders participate. The ride built FoE's profile to such an extent that, in the words of Chain Reaction editor Richard Nankin, "we now work in overcrowded offices, with people coming and going at all hours, the phones always ringing madly".
FoE anti-uranium activists track the federal government's Ranger uranium inquiry (a.k.a. Fox inquiry) around the country, by train and hitch-hiking. The Age says that it is the 300-page FoE submission that "mostly shaped the major qualms expressed by the Fox report" and that "at the moment, FoE could rightly claim to be the most potent environmental group in the country".
FoE Melbourne conducts a much-publicised "lavatory sit-in" at Melbourne Airport to protest against Concorde aircraft, complaining about "super-expenditure for a super-luxury". Peter Hayes writes:
"We felt that humor was an important weapon which we tried to weave into many of our protests, and this was one of them." The British Aircraft Corporation maintains a "bemused upper lip". The Australian Transport Minister threatens to sue FoE for $1 million in relation to the FoE pamphlet, 'British Airways is Taking Australia for a Ride'. An editorial in The Age urges FoE to step out of the toilets and to worship at the shrine of technological progress.
FoE campaigns against massive high rise developments in inner Sydney, in support of the famous Green Bans. Robert Tickner is the convenor of FoE's urban campaign and later becomes the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
FoE Melbourne campaigns on the problem of lead in petrol. The oil industry fights back, but with strong community education, this issue is won in the mid-1980s by a campaign for lead-free petrol led again by FoE.
1976 − The Age newspaper describes the FoE Melbourne office as a "barely furnished terrace house in Carlton … there is no obvious indication that FoE lives in at least 16 other countries, is represented on the UN Environment Program, and ... has so far gained support of not just the left wing unions but professional organisations and church groups ... the office workers are fairly young, well educated and poor".
FoE Sydney hosts a speaking tour by Dale Bridenbaugh, an engineer with General Electric in the USA, on GE's nuclear safety problems and in particular problems with the boiling water reactor design. Thirty-five years later, those design flaws are exposed in the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Early editions of Chain Reaction carry generic appeals from FoE's 'Leak Bureau' asking corporate or governmental whistle-blowers to provide information. In 1976, a whistleblower from Mary Kathleen Uranium Mining leaks documents to FoE revealing the existence of a global uranium cartel, leading to protracted international scandals and fines totalling hundreds of millions of dollars.
FoE sets up the Atom-Free Embassy outside the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (Lucas Heights) in November 1976. A gun-shot is fired over the Embassy one night. A tepee is established at the Embassy to function as the local branch of the FoE Leak Bureau (oddly, information is leaked about secret solar energy research at the Lucas Heights site). Vege and herb gardens are established. Lock-ons and truck blockades.
1977 − A "vast influx of active and angry people" to FoE groups.
FoE does extensive work on renewable energy options for Australia.
Ride against uranium: Melbourne to Canberra.
FoE is involved in actions preventing the loading and shipping of uranium from wharfs in Sydney and Melbourne. Chain Reaction publishes an apology for its lateness: "Absenteeism reached 100% during the Swanston Dock actions where mounted police led a charge over the top of protesters sitting on a wharf beside a ship loaded with Australian uranium. Commenting on the police's heavy-handed tactics at the protest, Chief Police Commissioner Miller says: 'I'd use elephants if I had them.'"
In Port Pirie, 200 kms north of Adelaide, a group of concerned people get together to campaign on the radiation risks from the Port Pirie Uranium Treatment Complex and set up a FoE group. In 1981, exceptionally high tides breach the wall of the tailings dam, and some materials are flushed out to sea. As a result of FoE's lobbying of the Minister of Mines and Energy, the dams are eventually stabilised in 1982 by being covered with a metre of slag from nearby mines. FoE then turns its attention to lead, as the Port Pirie smelter is too close to the town and poses a considerable health risk.
In 1977 the barricades are thrown up on Alexandra Parade in the inner suburb of Collingwood (Melbourne) to oppose the construction of the F19 (later renamed the Eastern Freeway). With strong community support, this campaign is a key activity for FoE. Dozens of protesters are arrested and several are seriously injured.
Almost all FoE groups are working on nuclear and whaling issues (among others). Peter Hayes writes: "FoE Melbourne also mobilized in 1977 to organize protests around the International Whaling Commission in Canberra in June, in coordination with FoE Canberra and the separate Project Jonah. Barbara Belding who had worked with Project Jonah in California attended for FoE International. She first came to Melbourne and we travelled together to Canberra. ... The meeting was held in a hotel near the lake and close to ANU. ... The event itself was a lot of fun, with Project Jonah inflating a giant plastic Willie the Whale in the corridor housing Japanese delegates, trapping them in the rooms. The police slashing of Willie generated global publicity for the protest."
1978 − A Women's Edition of Chain Reaction has articles on sexism in the environment movement; women at work; and several articles on feminism, sexism and the nuclear industry. A letter in Chain Reaction says FoE Sydney and Melbourne are mostly male but "joyfully non-oppressive".
FoE leaks draft Bills to amend the Atomic Energy Act. The Act allows up to 20 years prison for releasing 'restricted information'.
FoE is among the few official parties to the Inquiry into Whales and Whaling in 1978. Following the announcement that the last whaling station at Albany (WA) is going to close down, FoE campaigns for a whale sanctuary in Australian territorial waters, a ban on the import of whale products, and for Australia to take a proactive role in international forums to secure global protection for all species of whale from commercial operations.
Author and cartoonist Rolf Heimann is jailed after protesting the visit to Australia of a nuclear submarine. Several years earlier, Heimann took his yacht to join the flotilla protesting French nuclear tests at Moruroa. His book, 'Knocking on Heaven's Door', is published by FoE and gives an insightful 'activist travelogue' of opposition to the testing and deeper issues of cultural and political independence in the Pacific. FoE also publishes a book of cartoons by Heimann with a foreword "by our old friend Spike Milligan".
1979 − Due to intense campaigning by many groups, including FoE, the federal government places a total ban on whaling in Australian waters.
Chain Reaction reports that Joh Bjelke-Peterson supports nuclear power, having previously advocated the use of nuclear weapons ('peaceful nuclear explosives') to halt the progress of the Crown of Thorns Starfish on the Great Barrier Reef. "Fortunately, the starfish seemed to have slackened off of their own accord − possibly tipped off by somebody!"
There are 46 FoE groups spread throughout the country.
1980 − In the 1980s, there is a shift to more targeted solidarity campaigning with the rise of the Food Justice Centre, the struggle against apartheid, links with liberation struggles in Latin America and elsewhere, and growing campaigning on Australian indigenous issues. With the backdrop of the cold war and nuclear proliferation, peace and disarmament issues receive greatest attention during the later 1980s.
FoE Melbourne establishes a Food Justice Centre to work on plant variety rights at a time when patenting of seeds begins to pose a grave threat to subsistence farmers around the world. Other concerns include the use of harmful chemicals in Southern nations and corporate ownership and control of food. FoE hosts the Politics of Food conference in Melbourne.
FoE sponsors a visit to Australia by US consumer advocate Ralph Nader.
A Nuclear Free Embassy is set up in a small park near Lucas Heights, but stays for just one week − a brick is thrown at a tent so the Embassy moves to Glebe Island at the invitation of wharfies.
FoE Melbourne starts Musicians Against Nuclear Energy (MANE) including dozens of musicians and bands such as Redgum, Australian Crawl, The Angels, Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, Atilla and the Panel Beaters, and the Incredible Shambles Band.
FoE helps fund the 'Dirt Cheap' film exposing the manipulation of Mirarr Traditional Owners by the Fraser federal government and the Northern Land Council.
The ALP government in Victoria signs a joint venture agreement with Alcoa over plans to build an aluminium smelter at Portland. A site is selected adjacent to the town itself. This area is of significance to the local traditional owners, the Gournditch-Jmara people. FoE participates in an occupation of the site from September 1980. Despite a successful High Court challenge, the site is bulldozed. Aboriginal artefacts are destroyed and the smelter is built.
1981 − FoE, the Merchant Services Guild and other unions highlight the trial of offshore dumping of waste from paper mills. Offshore dumping is subsequently banned.
In 1981, a faction of the Chain Reaction editorial collective moves office in the middle of the night to 'save' the magazine from those they regard as not having the "responsibilities we had to the wider national FoE and environmentalist constituency". This may have been due, at least partly, to the size of the editorial collective − a 1981 edition of the magazine credits 45 people as being involved with editorial decisions. Those credited include people who go on to become Senators, local councillors, authors, an adviser to Paul Keating, and the first energy minister in the Victorian Bracks' Government.
1982 − In 1982 there are 20 local groups and FoE Australia adopts a new constitution acknowledging local groups as the focus of operations. This seems to mark a shift in the way FoE operates, away from a focus on national collaboration and towards more locally focused activity and greater strategic engagement with other social movements.
A recycling campaign is established in Melbourne, aiming to introduce national beverage container deposit legislation.
FoE Brisbane is involved in community protests against retrogressive land rights legislation.
Atom Free Embassy established in Canberra.
The world bike-ride for peace, from Canberra to Darwin, highlights Australia's involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle.
Blockades at Honeymoon uranium mine in SA in 1982 and Roxby Downs in 1983 and '84, organised by an umbrella grouping called the Coalition for a Nuclear Free Australia. These actions concentrate on 'hindering and frustrating' work at the mines, in order to delay their completion and to raise community awareness. The Australian Mining Journal notes that FoE plays a 'leading role' in these blockades.
In a series of letters and articles in Chain Reaction, many women express opinions like that of Margie Kaye, who says "the environment movement over the last 10 years has continually failed to examine sexism within its internal structures". In 1982, Denise Chevalier writes on behalf of FoE Collingwood: "We, the women at FoE, have fought hard for what we have achieved. We have far more women than men working with us. The women are now at the fore in the decision making in all our campaigns".
1983 − Waste minimisation in general and recycling in particular grow as issues, involving FoE groups in Victoria, SA, NSW and elsewhere. The dominant campaign focuses on demands to legislate for deposits to be paid on drink containers.
FoE campaigns on the die-back of native forests on New England tablelands, NSW.
Fruit and vegie co-op is established in Melbourne as a project of the Food Justice Centre.
In 1983, plans are floated for leach mining of gold in Victoria. FoE Melbourne works with the Aboriginal Mining Information Centre as part of a successful campaign to stop this destructive form of mining.
FoE is involved in the Hazardous Chemicals Collective, which campaigns on issues including the bulk chemical facility located at Coode Island in Melbourne's inner west and undertakes ground-breaking work on the threats posed by dioxins.
FoE's strong and growing emphasis on social justice is not appreciated by everyone. "I am dismayed at the shift in Chain Reaction from environmental towards social/political issues such as feminism and homosexuality", wrote one reader in 1983. However, in general there is a clear sense that social justice issues form a part of the 'core business' of what FoE should be doing.
1984 − Victory in seed variety rights campaign; the ALP policy stops short of allowing plant patenting for cereals.
FoE campaigns to halt a sewerage outfall into Wimmera River, Victoria.
FoE tours international author Jim Harding ('Tools for the soft path') to raise awareness of alternative energy sources.
FoE Willunga is set up in the coastal town south of Adelaide in 1984. It helps ensure protection of the Aldinga Reef (from runoff from adjacent farmland and roads) and Aldinga Scrub, a significant pocket of remnant bush in an area with very limited original vegetation. Through co-ordinated work with the Kaurna people, the local traditional owners, FoE Willunga works to secure protection for sections of the Tjilbruke Dreaming track that are threatened by development and other forms of interference.
1985 − FoE Ryde (Sydney) discovers radioactive waste from a CSIRO complex in drains in a recreation park in Sydney.
Campaign against uranium mining in Kakadu.
1986 − Campaign against visits by nuclear-powered ships to Victorian ports.
FoE Oakleigh saves a 14 hectare strip of heathland (part of a system that once spread across Melbourne's sandbelt region) from being turned into a soccer ground.
FoE and the Movement Against Uranium Mining (MAUM) occupy the Uranium Information Centre in Melbourne.
Peter Milton, Labor MP for the seat of La Trobe and later a long-term FoE member, is one of the MPs who causes an uproar by walking out on Paul Keating's budget speech when the treasurer announces the government's decision to resume uranium sales to France.
1987 − FoE campaigns for a moratorium on the release of GMOs.
1988 − Australian Bicentenary − FoE supports actions against the celebrations, including the 45,000 strong march in Sydney on Invasion Day.
FoE campaigns against food irradiation and organises a national tour by irradiation expert Tony Webb.
FoE produces 'soft energy' booklet on renewable energy.
FoE Collingwood moves to Brunswick St, Fitzroy, where it operates a community arts space for the next five years. This gallery provides an early foothold for Indigenous art from central Australia and the western desert region before it is widely available.
1989 − FoE campaigns on the use of dioxins in paper and other consumer products.
Campaign against photo degradable plastics (a short-lived fad).
A victory against mineral sands mining in Victoria.
FoE hosts a series of national waste minimisation conferences during the late 1980s.
A campaign led by FoE leads to the introduction of Australian-made recycled paper.
In the 1980s, FoE Adelaide set up a 'slow food' café in Torrensville. In 1989, the group establishes itself as the Green Party of SA. Subsequently, a new FoE group is established in Adelaide and gets involved in green city activism, including the Green City Program, which focuses on city-wide sustainability issues for Adelaide, and helps initiate the Halifax urban development in inner Adelaide.
1990 − Uranium shipments from Roxby Downs blockaded in Adelaide.
First FoE Radioactive Exposure Tour in SA. These continue to this day, educating people about the social and environmental impacts of the nuclear industry.
Alliances with various Indigenous communities campaigning against issues such as sand mining on North Stradbroke Island (Minjeribah) in Queensland, and blockades of logging operations in western Victoria.
FoE Maryborough plays a leading role in the year-long blockade on Fraser island against logging of old growth forests. Rainforest Action Group plays a significant role in ending logging operations on the island.
FoE Melbourne starts to Pay the Rent to Aboriginal traditional owners (as does FoE Australia in 1993).
Soft energy group starts in Melbourne, researching and advocating for renewable energy.
Climate change campaign starts.
FoE launches a proposal for national waste strategy (aiming at a 50% reduction by 2000).
Clare Henderson and Larry O'Loughlan are prominent national advocates of Right To Know (RTK) legislation in the early 1990s. RTK refers to the right of people to access information on the existence, quantities and effects of emissions from industrial activities.
1991 − FoE supports a campaign to stop the establishment of a McDonalds restaurant in the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne.
In November 1991, the Australian International Defence Exhibition (AIDEX) is held in Canberra. This is a trade fair for weapons manufacturers, and several thousand people demonstrate outside the National Exhibition Centre. FoE does much of the organising of events, and people from Melbourne help co-ordinate actions at the blockades and run the camp established for the duration of the exhibition. The following year, FoE works with a range of groups under the umbrella of the Disarm the Skies Campaign Coalition to organise actions outside the Aerospace Expo at Avalon, west of Melbourne ('AIDEX on wings').
FoE is heavily involved in community mobilisations against Australian involvement in the Gulf War (FoE Melbourne building ransacked in a night-time break-in).
In August 1991, the bulk chemical facility at Coode Island in inner western Melbourne suffers a major fire and a toxic cloud descends over much of the city. An inquiry is held into the possible relocation of the facility to Point Lillias, a headland on Port Phillip Bay near Geelong. The situation is complicated by plans to locate a naval arms complex on the same headland: the East Coast Armaments Complex. FoE works with a range of other groups throughout the parallel state and federal inquiries into the relocation of these facilities under the banner of the Combined Environment Groups. In the end, neither facility was moved to Point Lillias.
FoE Maryborough begins on the mid north coast of Queensland and continues to monitor threats to Fraser Island and the broader region. Although a number of green groups have laid claim to 'saving' Fraser Island, the role of FoE Maryborough has not received the recognition it deserves in the successful campaign to end logging. Activists Ross and Karen Daniel and Zephyr L'Green are pivotal in the group that keeps the base camp on the Island running for a whole year of blockading. Without the blockades, there would have been far less pressure on the state and federal governments to end logging on the island.
1992 − FoE Sydney report 'Bring Back Returnables' is a significant contribution to the debate on recycling.
Water campaign is established at FoE Melbourne. GMO campaign starts in Melbourne.
FoE collaborates with the Arabunna People's Committee in an (unsuccessful) effort to gain World Heritage listing for the Lake Eyre Basin. The SA Liberal government offers to host a national radioactive waste dump in the region if the federal Labor government drops the World Heritage proposal.
The East Gippsland Forest Network (EGFN) merges with FoE Melbourne. The EGFN had itself grown from Melbourne Rainforest Action Group in the late 1980s. The creation of the FoE Melbourne Forest Network and the energy of a new generation of activists results in more than five years of intense campaigning to protect Victoria's forests. Over the summer of 1993−94, FoE Melbourne joins the Wilderness Society and Concerned Residents of East Gippsland to form the East Gippsland Forest Alliance. On-the-ground blockades and campaigning continue and have helped win considerable gains in terms of forest protection.
The years under the Victorian Kennett state government (1992−99) mark a time of significant community politicisation and unprecedented resistance at the grassroots level in Melbourne and across the state. FoE plays a significant role in many struggles, both in terms of physical involvement of staff and members in picket lines and campaigns, and also behind the scenes in the training of non-violent action, police liaison, and other aspects of community organising.
1993 − FoE is involved in the national protest action held outside the Nurrungar US base near Woomera in SA. The campaign work involves close cooperation with the Kokatha traditional owners, and increased public debate over the nature of the alliance with the US and the deployment of troops to secure the base. Nurrungar is closed in 1999, with protest actions cited as one reason for the closure.
In 1993, FoE Melbourne begins working with Wadjularbinna, a Gungalidda woman from the Doomadgee community in the Gulf country of north Queensland. Many within the Gungalidda community are opposing plans by CRA to develop the Century Zinc deposit at Lawn Hill, 250 kms north-west of Mt Isa. FoE Melbourne holds actions outside the CRA AGM in Melbourne and raises the issue in the AGM itself as part of a campaign that runs for several years. Largely through the efforts of Lee Tan, these campaign links develop into a broader informal alliance. FoE Melbourne activists subsequently help establish the Bugajinda/Moonlight outstation project which includes the construction of basic facilities that allow members of the Moonlight clan to visit their country on a more regular basis, and form the beginning of an eco and cultural tourism business.
A forest campaign is launched in Victoria; blockades are launched in East Gippsland through an alliance of FoE and other groups.
National waste minimisation strategy launched.
FoE Melbourne establishes a Water Collective to work on big-picture infrastructure developments, a Melbourne Water review of its sewerage strategy, and many local issues. The Collective is explicitly bioregional in its approach, concentrating on the catchments of Port Phillip and Western Port Bays. It produces the book 'Not Just Down the Drain', focusing on domestic re-use of grey water.
1994 − FoE Melbourne works with the Kerrup Jmara community to set up a tent embassy in the main street of Portland, to protest endemic racism against the Aboriginal community and specific incidents of discrimination around policing and the provision of health services.
Campaign to stop an oil terminal in Western Port Bay, Vic.
FoE is a pivotal force in the Coalition Against Freeway Extensions (CAFE), Victoria. CAFE activists blockade road building operations on Alexandra Parade for over a month. FoE Melbourne and other activists join in a series of arrestable actions that obstruct road works. Eventually all but one of the arrestees have their charges dropped.
FoE hosts Shripad Dharmadhikary of Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement), as part of the '50 years are enough' campaign, aimed at radical reform of the World Bank.
FoE launches a national wetlands campaign.
FoE Melbourne helps establish the Otway Ranges Environment Network (OREN). In 1996, it achieves the first prosecution for a breach of a logging permit on private land in Victoria. With the support of the Environmental Defenders Office, FoE Melbourne takes a case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, successfully targeting a timber company with links to a minister in the Kennett government. This victory highlights the scale of problems from logging on private land across the state. FoE activist Anthony Amis spends much of the rest of the decade working to highlight often disastrous logging regimes on private land. He also relentlessly monitors forestry operations on the estate of the Victorian Plantation Corporation once it was privatised and sold by the Kennett government in 1998 to Hancocks, a US-based insurance company.
1995 − Successful campaign against re-siting of the East Coast Armaments Complex.
French nuclear tests in the Pacific – FoE plays a key role in community mobilisations.
FoE blockades a train carrying logs to highlight the ecological and social costs of the woodchip industry.
1996 − Following the election of the Howard Coalition government in 1996, FoE campaigns against the privatisation of Telstra and speaks out on the blackmail inherent in linking funding of an essential portfolio (in this instance the environment) with the partial sale of a public asset (Telstra).
Ramsar conference on wetlands held in Brisbane; marks the beginning of a much greater involvement of FoE Australia in the FoE International network.
North East Conservation Alliance launched in Victoria after FoE initiative.
'Streets for People' transport campaign launched. Campaign analysis shows need for more inner city bike paths − when local governments refuse, FoE paints its own, quickly followed by formal recognition.
Paper boycott starts to build pressure for the production of Australian-made 100% recycled paper.
More than 50 direct actions are organised by FoE Melbourne in 1996. One of the more dramatic is a blockade of the 'extinction express' – a train carrying whole logs from Bairnsdale in Gippsland to the Midways woodchip mill near Geelong for export to be used in paper production. FoE Melbourne works with community activists from Geelong and the Otways to occupy the Midways woodchip mill on many occasions. A less successful direct action takes place in 1996 − activists accidentally occupy a rice ship in Geelong harbour after scouts identify it as being a woodchip ship. Oops.
FoE Brisbane re-forms in 1996, after a core group of activists involved in the campaign to stop sandmining on North Stradbroke Island decide they want a long term organisational base for their work. In recent times, FoE Brisbane has campaigned against genetic engineering, food irradiation, on nuclear and indigenous issues, coal and coal transport, CSG, and much more.
1997 − Alliance Against Uranium mining forms in Alice Springs. The Aboriginal-led alliance, now known as the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance, is still going strong. FoE serves as the secretariat for the Alliance for many years, and has played a major role in organising many of the Alliance's annual meetings and in other ANFA projects.
FoE and other groups oppose sand mining on Minjeribah / North Stradbroke Island, Queensland.
Goolengook forest in East Gippsland becomes the focus of a national campaign.
FoE plays a key role working with the Mirarr people to oppose the proposed Jabiluka uranium mine in Kakadu.
FoE plays a leading role organising the Roxstop festival at the Olympic Dam mine in SA and the township of Roxby Downs, to highlight community opposition to uranium mining.
FoE is involved in the campaign for ozone protection.
FoE hosts a tour by exiled Ogoni person Komene Famaa from Nigeria, highlighting the impact of Shell's oil operations on the Niger delta.
1998 − FoE Brisbane initiates Reverse Garbage Queensland Co-op, a cooperative that collects and sells industrial discards that would otherwise go to landfill.
FoE Melbourne hosts the Indigenous Solidarity Conference, a ground-breaking gathering of Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists from around Australia.
While FoE Melbourne had enjoyed intermittent contact with the Yorta Yorta Nation for many years, from 1997 onwards this connection becomes stronger. After the 1998 Indigenous Solidarity Conference, many delegates travel to the Barmah forest to an Indigenous-only strategy session hosted by the Yorta Yorta community. FoE participates in a Yorta Yorta occupation of the Dharnya Cultural Centre in Barmah State Park in 1999, and elders request that FoE assists them further in their main objective of regaining management of traditional lands. Thus FoE Melbourne's Barmah-Millewa campaign is born.
FoE begins working with the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta, senior Aboriginal women fighting the federal government's plan to build a national radioactive waste dump in SA. In 2003, FoE successfully nominates the Kungkas for the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award, commonly referred to as the 'green Nobel prize'. FoE launches the Nuclear Freeways Project to generate awareness of proposed radioactive waste transport through NSW and SA. In addition to widespread media coverage and community support, 16 of the 18 councils along the transport route oppose the transport of radioactive waste through their communities. This work leads to a NSW Parliamentary inquiry which issues a strong report. In July 2004, the Howard government abandoned the SA dump proposal.
Jabiluka uranium campaign − FoE helps build mass protests at Jabiluka and in cities/towns around Australia. FoE activists take on a variety of 'behind the scenes' roles like co-ordinating buses for travel to Kakadu from capital cities, and working in the kitchen at base camp. Another successful campaign − Rio Tinto / ERA later gives up and rehabilitation of the Jabiluka mine site begins in August 2003.
FoE joins with the Electrical Trades Union, the Australian Nursing Federation and others in 1998 to launch the Earthworker alliance − a forum to allow for greater co-operation between green groups and trade unions. Despite building considerable momentum in its first few years, a conflict over forest issues later causes a loss of momentum.
FoE hosts the annual FoE International meeting in Melbourne – more than 40 countries are represented.
1999 − Water campaign focuses on logging in Melbourne's domestic drinking water catchments.
FoE supports traditional owners in blockading logging operations in the Cobboboonnee forests, western Victoria.
Railtrack, the company responsible for railways in England, cancels millions of dollars of contracts for Jarrah timber following a FoE report showing that forestry operations are unsustainable.
FoE initiates work on herbicides and plantation forestry.
Streets for People is established as a new transport campaign at FoE Melbourne, focusing on proactive, positive and creative action. Transport issues are also prominent in the work of FoE Sydney. In 2000, FoE Sydney works with other groups to successfully advocate for the $1.4 billion publicly-funded Parramatta to Chatswood rail link.
2000 − Wildspaces film festival becomes a FoE event.
FoE's Climate Justice campaign is launched, focusing on the human rights and equity dimensions of global warming. In 2001, FoE hosts an international seminar on the themes of climate justice and globalisation. A series of street events, public meetings and direct actions are held to highlight the human dimensions of climate change. FoE starts combining the concepts of ecological debt into its work and begins advocating for recognition of and support for environmental (climate) refugees.
From 2000 onwards, FoE devotes more attention to the ecological and social impacts of the establishment of plantations, including the use of herbicides, impacts on ground water and other negative elements.
On a global level, as neo-liberalism enters a new phase with a systematic liberalisation of trade regimes, FoE's focus on trade issues grows through the 1990s, reaching a high point with the massive protests against the World Economic Forum meeting held in Melbourne in 2000. FoE Melbourne is active in the successful campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which would have established a set of rules restricting what governments could do to regulate international investment and corporate behaviour.
With the Green Institute and Heinrich-Boll Foundation, FoE organises an international conference in Canberra to assess how far global environmental co-operation has developed since the first 'Earth Summit' was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Delegates represent almost 60 countries.
2001 − FoE organises a radiothon and other fundraising for communities impacted by an earthquake in El Salvador.
Whites creek wetlands start to be re-established in inner Sydney after a FoE campaign.
FoE joins with various community alliances to oppose the shameless racism of the federal Coalition government.
FoE's Environment and Population project seeks to broaden the population debate beyond a fixation on numbers of people by offering an internationalist perspective on ecology.
2002 − Responding to the threat of a second Gulf War, FoE becomes a founding member of the Victorian Peace Network and is involved in anti-war rallies and organising throughout the subsequent invasion of Iraq.
Pangea leaves Australia after attempting to win support for a high-level nuclear waste dump. The proposal came into the public domain after a promotional video is leaked to FoE in the UK.
The Dharnya Alliance, a collaboration between the Yorta Yorta Nation and green and social justice organisations, is formed. FoE organises the first 'Barmah summit' and acts as secretariat for the Alliance.
2003 − FoE joins with traditional owners and others to oppose a large open-cut gold mine in the Lake Cowal region of mid-west NSW.
FoE publishes 'Population, Immigration and Environment', generating considerable feedback, both positive and negative, especially from other green organisations.
2004 − FoE organises a climate justice tour, traveling the east coast of Australia to highlight the impacts of global warming on Pacific communities.
FoE's Radioactive Exposure Tour meets up with senior Aboriginal woman from the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta days after the Howard government abandons plans to impose a nuclear waste dump in SA.
2007 − 100th edition of FoE Australia's magazine, Chain Reaction.
Ceduna-based Kokatha-Mula woman Sue Coleman Haseldine from FoE affiliate West Mallee Protection wins the 2007 SA Premier's Award for excellence for indigenous leadership in natural resource management.
FoE's Nuclear Freeways campaign visits Canberra, Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Lithgow.
FoE Adelaide's Clean Futures Collective initiates a volunteer work program with the Adnyamathanha community in Nepabunna, near the Flinders Ranges. Tasks include working in the community's bush tucker garden, saving seed of local species and helping with local eco-tourism ventures.
On World Environment Day, FoE Australia joins with the Rainforest Information Centre, Borneo Orangutan Society, and the Australian Orangutan Project to launch the Palm Oil Action Group, calling on Australian consumers, retailers and manufacturers to play a role in curbing massive deforestation in south-east Asia.
FoE climate campaigners host a speaking tour featuring Ursula Rakova and Bernard Tunim from the Carteret Islands, holding forums in Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne to hear the Carteret story of climate-related dislocation and relocation.
2008 − FoE works with the Latin American Solidarity Network and a range of other groups to hold an Indigenous Solidarity Gathering in Melbourne. The focus is on Latin America, Asia and the Pacific. It is well attended with Indigenous representatives from Australia, Aotearoa (New Zealand), North America, Latin America, Melanesia and the Pacific Islands.
Mukwano Australia joins FoE Australia as an affiliate member. Mukwano works with organic farming communities in Africa to establish health care facilities. A health care centre building is completed in Uganda.
2009 − FoE Adelaide, in partnership with the Conservation Council of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, hosts Australia's first conference on Earth Jurisprudence in Adelaide. Earth Jurisprudence (a.k.a. Wild Law) calls for a radical shift to our legal system, from a human-only orientation to an Earth-centred approach.
PNG non-government organisation Tulele Peisa is welcomed as a new FoE affiliate. Tulele Peisa supports climate refugees from the Carteret Islands who are in the process of migrating to Bougainville.
Environment groups applaud the Victorian government's announcement of its plan to create a chain of new River Red Gum National Parks along the Murray, Goulburn and Ovens rivers in northern Victoria. FoE worked for almost 12 years alongside Traditional Owners to help secure this outcome.
2010 − The Big Melt tour: FoE organises a national climate change speaking tour featuring people from Nepal.
FoE Adelaide coordinates the South Australian Food Convergence, 'From Plains to Plate: the Future of Food in South Australia', drawing together 750 participants. FoE helps establish the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, a growing national network of small farmers, community, environment and health organisations, social and business enterprises to assert the need for a sustainable food policy for Australia.
A delegation from the global peasant's network La Via Campesina makes an historic visit to Australia. The Adelaide leg of the visit is hosted by FoE Adelaide, with farmers from Korea, Japan, Timor-Leste and Indonesia meeting local farmers and community organisations to strengthen links across the Asia-Pacific region for just and sustainable food systems.
Nuclear Freeways campaigners travel from Sydney and Melbourne through northern Victoria and SA, ending up at the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance meeting in Alice Springs.
2011 − FoE Melbourne ramps up its Yes 2 Renewables project − initially a website, 'Y2R' becomes a significant campaign.
'Leave it in the Ground' ride against uranium: FoE Adelaide organises a cycling trip from Port Augusta to the Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary. Plans for mining in the Sanctuary are later banned by the state government.
FoE Brisbane activist Derec Davies locks on to a Gladstone port corporation dredge after being ferried in by a Zodiac inflatable speed-boat, unfurling a banner which read "Save the reef, halt dredging".
FoE holds a series of forums in western Victoria (Warrnambool, Colac, Ballarat, and Geelong) to highlight the threat posed by the expansion of coal seam gas, coal, and shale gas in the region.
FoE and the Inland Rivers Network release a report on the environmental water needs of major wetlands, lakes and river reaches in the Murray Darling Basin.
FoE organises an east-coast speaking tour of Indonesian environmental activists, highlighting dodgy carbon 'offset' schemes.
FoE affiliate Mukwano Australia supports the Katuulo Organic Pineapple Cooperative to build, staff and maintain a health care centre in Katuulo, a remote rural community in Uganda.
2012 − FoE activist June Norman is joined by a growing number of people during her 29-day walk of almost 500 kms from Kumbarilla to Gladstone in Queensland. The purpose of the walk is to highlight the impacts of the coal seam gas industry and it follows the route of a proposed gas pipeline to the port town of Gladstone. The walkers arrive in Gladstone the same day that UNESCO is meeting to assess the impacts that the coal and gas industries are having on the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding Marine Park.
Four members of FoE Melbourne's Quit Coal campaign climb onto the roof of Parliament House in Melbourne and unfurl a giant banner about the effects of coal on the climate. Nine others lock onto the pillars at the front of the building. Quit Coal activists are also working with local communities in Bacchus Marsh and Anglesea.
After many years of campaigning by FoE campaigner Anthony Amis, the timber treatment chemical copper chromium arsenic (CCA) is designated as being a restricted chemical by the federal regulator.
The Safe Sunscreen Guide produced by FoE's Nanotechnology Project attracts widespread interest and media coverage. The Australian Education Union passes a resolution to protect school-children from nano-sunscreens and provide copies of the Safe Sunscreen Guide to every state school in Australia.
2013 − Chloe Aldenhoven and Dom O'Dwyer, activists from FoE Melbourne's Quit Coal campaign, scale a large cooling tower at the coal-fired Yallourn Power Station in the Latrobe Valley and remain there for 30 hours. It is the longest occupation of a power station in Australia's history.
CounterAct is welcomed as a new affiliate member of FoE, supporting communities to take effective, creative, strategic nonviolent direct action on issues of environmental and social justice.
FoE Brisbane campaigns on the problem of dangerous dust from coal wagons. Coal is transported from Acland in the Darling Downs through Toowoomba and Ipswich, then through 21 residential suburbs of Brisbane, passing within 100 metres of many properties.
Building on successful campaigns to protect River Red Gum forests and secure environmental flows through the Murray Darling Basin Plan, FoE Melbourne's Barmah-Millewa campaign focuses on developing an advocacy campaign for Indigenous water rights. Two 'Cultural Flows' films are completed with Traditional Owners along the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers, highlighting Indigenous people's deep connections to the rivers and waterways in their country.
FoE's 'Nature: Not Negotiable' project campaigns to stop the Commonwealth handing over environmental powers to state governments.
FoE's Nanotechnology Project reveals that two Australian sunscreen ingredient manufacturers have been marketing nano sunscreen ingredients as non-nano. The scandal generates extensive media coverage, and creates industry pressure to develop genuinely non-nano products.
FoE hosts two members of FoE Indonesia (WALHI) who travel to Australia to raise awareness about the push to expand export coal mining in Central Kalimantan.
2014 − The 2014 Radioactive Exposure Tour is an epic adventure from Melbourne to Muckaty (north of Tennant Creek) in the NT, the site of a proposed national radioactive waste dump. Participants come from Australia, India, Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, England, New Zealand and France.
Soon after, FoE activists celebrate with Muckaty Traditional Owners after the federal government abandons plans to impose a radioactive waste dump in the NT.
FoE's Barmah-Millewa campaign successfully mobilises community pressure to stall damaging 'scientific logging trials' in River Red Gum national parks.
FoE activists hit the road for a seven-day tour of the Galilee Coal Basin in Queensland. Coal companies plan to build nine new mega-mines in the Basin.
Robin Taubenfeld and other FoE Brisbane activists play a leading role in the Brisbane G20 Peoples Convergence.
FoE Melbourne's Yes 2 Renewables campaign launches a fact-finding road trip at the Hepburn Wind farm, the first stop of an 11-week trip to get a real understanding of the impact the Renewable Energy Target has had on communities in south-eastern Australia.
Beth Cameron, co-ordinator of the FoE Melbourne food co-op, and Cam Walker, FoE Melbourne campaigns co-ordinator, celebrate 25 years of working for the organisation. Beth and Cam are acknowledged at the Yarra Sustainability Awards.
FoE publishes a report on the high levels of chlorine disinfection byproducts in water supplied by Westernport Water to Phillip Island and surrounds in southern Victoria.
FoE Melbourne puts the issue of unconventional gas firmly onto the state political agenda, and makes renewable energy a significant issue in the lead up to the state election.
In just its second year, FoE affiliate Market Forces has an impact on the lending policies of large institutions such as the Big 4 Banks.
• FoE Australia history blog
• FoE Australia - a short history from the early 1970s to 2014 (from Chain Reaction #123, April 2015)
• FoE Australia, 2004, '30 Years of Creative Resistance' (PDF)
• Peter Hayes account of the early years of FoE Australia and in particular FoE Melbourne: 'Founding Friends of the Earth Australia: the Early Years'
• FoE International, 2001, 30th anniversary publication: Sparks of hope, fires of resistance (PDF)
• FoE International at 40 - 40th anniversary publication (PDF)
• FoE International at 40 - 40 Years of Struggles and Successes (PDF)