Breeza Harvest Festival

Postad i: Mining den 9 December, 2015 av Johanna Dahlin

Workshop at Breeza Harvest Festival photo: David Torell

Workshop at Breeza Harvest Festival photo: David Torell

In early November 2015 a Harvest Festival was held on a farm outside Breeza in north western New South Wales, Australia. This is on the Liverpool plains, rich black-soil farmland which produces two crops every year, and on the fields around Breeza the winter crops of wheat are ripe and ready for harvest. However, the harvest is not the main theme of this festival, despite the name, instead, this gathering is a rally against plans for a coal mine in the area. Breeza farmer Andrew Pursehouse hosts the festival on one of his properties, the Ridge station, which is farmed by his son. Breeza Harvest Festival gathered a diverse crowd of farmers, environmentalists and indigenous groups. During the weekend, a number of workshops and plenary talks were held. The workshops focused on issues such as water, koalas and aboriginal heritage. And the invited speakers for the plenary sessions, (politicians, farmers, aboriginal elders) are all in agreement with one another. This is the wrong mine in the wrong place, as one of the weekend’s slogans went.

The festival was organised by the Liverpool Plains Alliance, an organiser as diverse as the crowd at the festival. Rallying around slogans such as “Dining not Mining”, the organisers are enthusiastic about the size of the crowd and keen to get the festival to “trend” in social media, promoting the hashtags #harfest #diningnotmining and testing the participants patience by endlessly retaking and rearranging photographs in blazing sunlight to get perfect exposure of the message. The festival did manage to attract some media attention, most notably from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which in their report from the event also managed to capture some of our project crew!

The Liverpool Plains are sometimes called “Australia’s food bowl”, and the rich farmland has produced rich farmers. The areas the farms and stations comprise are enormous. And many families own not one, but several stations. This is a well established and well connected group, and several people tell us they have been reluctant to side with “greenies, hippies and aboriginies”. But as the backstage lobbying has not yielded the desired results, they are seeking new allies. While the union largely seem happy, tensions does surface during the weekend. These are groups between which there has previously been quite a bit of animosity, and their coming together is an interesting moment for rural Australia.

The farms themselves can be said to be the result an enclosure process. (Others would call the land stolen.) They are fenced off and surrounded by a “no trespassing” ethos (quite alien for a Swede). But the threat of extraction the proposed coal mine entails, would be enclosure taken a step further.  Most importantly, it threatens another common that land enclosure didn’t: the water. And the answer to the threat of extraction is an appeal to the common. As a threat to the food produced by land, as a threat to the koalas living on the land, as a threat to the water – the ever present water (Australia is a pretty dry place). Important in this context is also the aboriginal heritage which is threatened by the mine. And even the traditional custodians of this heritage appeals to the commons,  “this is your heritage too” as it is put during one of the workshops.

So while the ‘no trespass’ ideology of farmers might be far from the commons ethos, the new alliances requires a shift to emphasizing the common resources at stake. The slogans of the Australian anti-coal and gas movement stresses alternative uses of the land. It sees it not as an extractive resource. They are not interested in the coal or the gas, but in what the extraction of these resource might destroy.



Commons and Commodities

Commons and Commodities
Commons and Commodities är ett forskningsprojekt som undersöker hur gemensamma resurser, allmänningar, avgränsas och inhägnas – och det motstånd sådana processer möter. Vi studerar hur olika typer av allmänningar – både materiella och immateriella – på olika sätt privatiseras och inhägnas och hur detta påverkar de som brukar dem. Vi som skriver här heter Johanna Dahlin och Martin Fredriksson.

Common and Commodities is a research project which asks if, and how, the commons are rearticulated and enclosed as property. It aims to provide new knowledge about how different kinds of common resources are enclosed and commodified as private property, and how this affects those who use and manage those commons. Johanna Dahlin and Martin Fredriksson are writing.

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