A taste of some of the small actions and major events which challenged the state of Australian society and pointed to better ways forward during the month of February.
Note: We roll each month’s dates into our ‘live’ From Little Things Big Things Grow chronology which is continually being added to. We welcome your additions.
1 February 2015, Melbourne: Refugee activists interrupt the Australian Open men’s final and invade the court, calling for the closure of the Manus Island detention centre.
3 February 1979, Wagerup: Members of the West Australian Campaign to Save Native Forests occupied the site of a proposed smelter on Saturday, February 3rd 1979 in order to prevent the destruction of old-growth forests through aluminium mining. Having engaged in nonviolence training with visiting American Quakers the previous year, and held further workshops since, 16 people took part in the initial trespass action and occupation with another 300 rallying in support. 12 were arrested two days later, but the charges were later dismissed. With increased public interest emerging from this landmark event a second and larger occupation was held in May, which included the blockade pictured. More arrests ensued, but authorities lacked a legal basis to prosecute anyone. They soon responded by introducing new penalties for obstructing work carried out under agreement with the West Australian government which included fines of up to $5000 or 12 months imprisonment. Faced with this, activists shifted back to more conventional activities, but their action would later feed into non-violent approaches taken during the Franklin Dam blockade and elsewhere around Australia. For more information on Non Violent Direct Action visit- https://commonslibrary.org/topic/nonviolent-direct-action/
4 February 1939, NSW: After Indigenous activist Jack Patten is arrested and removed from Cumeragunja Mission as part of attempts to end agitation around poor living conditions, up to 200 residents walk off the station in protest, many never to return.
5 February 1982, Sydney: More than 1000 people protest a recent raid on a gay bar singing “We don’t want to get molested, we don’t want to get contested, we don’t want to get arrested, we just want our rights” to the tune of ‘We Wish You a Merry Xmas.”
6 February 1902, WA: Drinkers in the town of Mulline in the Goldfields-Esperance region who have been boycotting local pubs for a month over exorbitant prices receive relief in the form of a barrel of beer sent by supporters in nearby Menzies.
7 February 1972, Sydney: Black Power activists begin a free breakfast service for Indigenous children in Newtown.
9 February 1990, Melbourne: Anti-apartheid activists picket BHP over its support for the South African regime.
10 February 1925, Adelaide: The Trades and Labor Council declares a boycott on IXL jam in support of 500 striking female factory hands.
12 February 1965, NSW: Indigenous activists and supporters from Student Action For Aborigines Organisation (SAFA) began a two week ‘Freedom Ride’ around NSW to protest against racial discrimination on Februaryruary 12th 1965. As part of their journey they carried out surveys of Aboriginal living conditions in rural towns and held protests against the exclusion of Aboriginal ex-servicemen from the Walgett Returned Services League and Aboriginal children from swimming pools in Kempsey and Moree. Publicity surrounding the journey, and the issues being highlighting, was ramped up after police and white locals confronted protesters in Moree and an unidentified driver rammed the bus outside Walgett. Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins and others involved in the trip would continue their involvement in anti-racist and land rights activism for decades to come. For more about this history of this event visit- https://commonslibrary.org/the-freedom-ride/
14 February 2003: 100 000s of people join peace rallies across the country opposing Australian involvement in the invasion of Iraq.
17 February 2015, NSW: Pro-choice advocates began 40 days of fun-filled counter-rallies on February 17 2015 against anti-abortionists who were harassing clinics and clients for the same length of time. At the end of the protest marathon, the wittiest signs and banners were honoured. Many of those involved went on to play a role in the successful campaign to decriminalize abortion in NSW in 2019.
18 February 1951, Newcastle: 330 female members of the Federated Iron Workers’ Association begin a strike, eventually winning equal pay with men after 7 weeks.
22 February 1907, Fremantle: 40 prisoners protest the use of flogging as a punishment by refusing to perform any work.
25 February 1982, Canberra: Members of the Sheltered Workshops Employees Association and other disabled workers rally outside Parliament demanding improved wages and the right to earn as much as other pensioners.
26 February 1986, Tasmania: Anti-logging actions at Farmhouse Creek and the Lemonthyme see bulldozers stopped and a 16-day tree-sit begun.
27 February 1937, NSW: The owners of the North Wallarah mine near Port Macquarie give in within 24 hours to striking workers demands after the men occupy and barricade the pit and up to 250 women and children picket the company manager’s home.
- Campaigning - Approaches_Actions_Tactics
- Direct action - Non violent NVDA
- History - Australia
- Social change