Emboldened by the Bentley Blockade


It’s been ten days since the text arrived announcing the suspension of Metgasco’s license to drill for oil at Bentley.


Only ten days — and life has changed dramatically for many of us.


I search for a word for this new feeling and find an old one:


Embolden: “To give someone the courage or confidence to do something.”

What really happened at Bentley?




I did not camp there and visited on only a few occasions, so I can’t say for sure.


What I do sense is the aftermath–the spin-offs, the unintended effects.


At the final Bentley dawn service on Tuesday 20th May, Ruth Rosenhek begged several hundred cheering Protectors and supporters to go gently after the close of the Bentley Blockade, to keep up the warm hugs and looking into people’s eyes when she’d meet them in the street in Lismore.


Everyone was nodding agreement. We must not let this fade; we must keep this connection.




Most local people I speak with confess to having had a good long cry after the victory. I certainly did.


Some are in a shocked and fragile state.


Most are simply astonished.


And even those known as being “the voice of reason” admit the need to celebrate such a magnificent triumph.


Whatever happens next — here and elsewhere – the Bentley Blockade was a massive victory that Australia will never forget.


The ham-fisted tactics of a cowboy mining operation have brought forth the most sophisticated social action this country has seen in decades.


Metgasco has done us all a great favour.


We are emboldened. Our courage and confidence have been strengthened.


The Bentley Blockade is a powerful symbol for those who believe in freedom. Everything about the operation communicated care, love and concern.


What could be more heart-warming than the Camp’s beautifully tended vegetable garden?

The Bentley Vegetable Garden
The Bentley Blockade Vegetable Garden


“We who believe in freedom cannot rest”


When I was younger, I listened to Holly Near and Sweet Honey in the Rock sing Ella’s Song:


“We who believe in freedom cannot rest.


We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”


So many people – and so many older people – putting their lives on hold to camp in harsh conditions powerfully affected the rest of us. We cannot rest now.


All of my communications with local people begin and end with Bentley. “Go, Bentley” is a salute to all who showed they cared.




I remember — in 1992 — when I discovered that I was consecrated in the service of the Earth.


See: Wendy Sarkissian Consecration story 2012


My heart softened and opened. I ached with love. I’d wake to the shock that I loved the Earth. My heart vibrated with the power of that knowledge.


It’s that way now with Bentley. Waking with a yearning heart, soft and open.


I yearn to return and place bouquets at the Bentley gates.


In gratitude to the Protectors who gave us so much more than social action.


I bless them – all of them, that motley crew – for renewing my courage and confidence.


Emboldened, I turn my face to the morning sun.


I believe in freedom.


I cannot rest.


I am ready for more.










Emboldened by the Bentley Blockade


Smoke on the Horizon

21 June 2009, 8:12 am


kites and fire

We’ve had the man from the Country Fire Service around to look over the property.


“Don’t plant any more trees,” he said. “Don’t you know how dangerous it is to live uphill from a gully?”


No more trees.


A hard ask when it’s so hot in the summer.


We’re doing what we can.




When there’s smoke on the horizon, as there was earlier this week, I get to remembering how frightening fire can be in the bush. All my neighbours know this, of course. And my “fire” experience has to do with a very different bioregion: the Top End of northern Australia.


Everything is different there from this subtropical paradise: dramatic thunderstorms, fierce winds, endless periods of rain and dry in strongly defined seasons. The Aboriginal people say there are six: Yegge, Wurrgeng, Gurrung, Gunumeleng, Gudjewg and Banggerreng.


My first bushfire was in August 1991. In Humpty Doo.


I can still smell the fear of it.


I remember the dramatic differences in the “before” and “after” landscape.


sv fire xanthostemon 06

After the Fire, 1991


And I still sense in my body my own terrified response:








In the middle distance I spotted dark smoke rising above a wall of orange. The horizon, formerly hidden by a rich woodland understorey, trees and shrubs, now expanded for acres, revealing the scarred landform’s idiosyncrasies: stream banks, hillocks and depressions. Scattered across this moonscape were burning and smoking stumps, charred skeletons of acacia, woolly butt, kapok bushes, ironwood, carallia, billy goat plums, some without leaves or branches. Only the tallest retained a thin green canopy crowning their blackened branches.


The black, twisted stumps of leafless cycad ferns like amputated limbs. Large birds I’d never seen before spiralled overhead, wheeling and diving on insects and small animals seeking refuge at the fire’s margins.


And the sound of it: the tearing and thudding of huge trees crashing into the earth.


I feel like my life is about to be burned down. With me inside.


That day a hundred acres of neighbours’ bush burns a quarter-mile from my house. Cause unknown. Spot fires burn everywhere, as far as I can see.


Spot fires burn in my heart, burning all my raw places, burning away my shell, exposing vulnerable new places.


Flames are spreading with every breath, spreading throughout my being.


Our neighbour to the west, Trevor, has just planted twenty new shrubs to give us a bit of privacy from each other.


Neighbour Lis, a horticulturalist, bought the plants and Karl helped Trevor with the mulching. I hope they won’t be a problem because we really need to shade the western wall of our new house.


Like Robert Frost, we believe that “good fences make good neighbours”. In this case, trees, rather than fences.


So we try to be prudent and meet our other needs. It’s always this way for us new ones on the block: a sort of awkward, inexperienced, balance … a searching for some sort of equanimity in this rural place …


I try to be reasonable. But I know I’m not reasonable when I smell gum trees burning.


I was too close to that once and it really frightened me.


You can download the full (true) story of “Watching the Fire” by clicking here: Watching the Fire