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Acting up! Recording FoE's 45 years of creative resistance

Em Gayfer – As part of Friends of the Earth's 45th birthday celebration in 2019, members of FoE Melbourne's Dirt Radio team came together with 3CR staff to host a retrospective hextory* radio series: 45 Years of Creative Resistance.

Protesters blockading the extension of Alexandra Parade in Melbourne in the early 1990s

Inspired by the book of the same name that was released to celebrate FoE's 30th birthday, the series took a look back into some of the stories, issues, people and creative actions that have made this wonderful organisation what it is today. Over five months and 18 episodes, myself and my co-host Megan Williams took a deep dive into FoE's interesting and eclectic hextory. We wanted to investigate our campaigns over the years: what tactics we have used, how technology has changed, how we have acknowledged country and to take a look at some of the more quirky and interesting stories that have coloured our hextory. Through interviewing a range of people from the early years of FoE in the mid-70s to current volunteers and staff, and everyone in between, we were able to capture some snippets and stories that are truly special.

For myself, some highlights of the series included getting to connect with older generations of former FoE staff and volunteers who were campaigning on radical, intersectional issues in a time before I was even born! Their long-term commitment to fighting for a just and better world gave me hope and made me realise that we have so much knowledge and experience within our networks, we just need to reach out and connect with people to find it.

The series covered a wide range of topics including our core, founding issue ‒ anti-nuclear, FoE's early start working on climate justice in the late-90s, solidarity with unions working on anti-capitalism, FoE's hextory with queer and feminist politics and the connection to Melbourne's gigs and bands scene over the years. And so many more of the campaigns and issues that have made us who we are today. It has been amazing to speak with former FoE staff and volunteers who are still kicking goals in their respective fields and have so much fondness and respect for the work FoE did and still does. 

Megan Williams, co-host of the series, said: "My favourite part of the show was hearing about the S11 protest in the year 2000 from Cam Walker, who was explaining the different blocks at the protest that surrounded Crown Casino ‒ from Green blocks to union blocks. And long-time union activist Dave Kerrin said that for some people there, they were more than just one group! It really got to the heart of solidarity, intersectional politics and building communities."

We are hugely grateful to everyone who gave their time to come on the show and share a piece of themselves and their hextory with us and our audience. A big thank-you also to Cam Walker and Beth Cameron for their help with formulating the series themes and connecting us with guests, as well as 3CR staff for their support over the series.

Our activist communities are growing and changing all the time, with waves of young fresh energy coming in and older members of the community passing on. As I age, I am reflecting on the importance of sharing stories and connecting with older generations who have such a wealth of knowledge that often goes unrecognised. How we listen to, record and share these stories will be essential in ensuring the longevity and connectivity of our communities. Sometimes as a young activist it can feel like you're the first person coming up with radical ideas or putting your body on the line ‒ but really there are so many hextories of radical action put there ready for us to listen to, and thinking you're the first one is sort of like trying to reinvent the wheel! 

After this series, I am considering how we can keep these conversations going and share these stories far and wide. I hope this series can provide you with some food for thought and inspiration to draw on in our current political climate. If you have any ideas or think we've missed anything, feel free to reach out! We'd love to hear from you, continue the conversation and keep sharing stories. 

You can listen to the podcast for the series at 3CR or on Apple Podcasts: Acting Up! Read more about FoE's history.

* The word hextory is here used to replace "history" or "herstory" in order to acknowledge queer, trans and non-binary legacies and stories and separate the telling of these from the gender binary.


Published in Chain Reaction #138, May 2020. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia. 

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