Sallie Colechin

Sallie Colechin

Sallie Colechin is a retired photo imager and TAFE photography teacher. Her work has been exhibited and published widely. She is a political activist, and a passionate feminist. For Sallie the personal is political. Her activism includes the LGBQTI+ community through working with First Mardi Gras-78ers, and the Greens NSW.
Sallie Colechin

Latest posts by Sallie Colechin (see all)

Sallie Colechin

I DISCOVERED THE joys of living rurally when l moved to Wingham four and a half years ago. It’s nestled in the Manning Valley on the mid north coast of NSW. Sydney had been my home town, though the satisfaction of living in a beautiful city had worn thin with all the traffic, stale air and noise. Wingham offered a chance to be 25 minutes from the sea and only 20 minutes from the hinterland. To have my own garden, relax and enjoy the fruits of retirement. To be closer to family, and become part of a rural community.

I feel that even more strongly now having experienced the severe period of drought, and felt the grass crunch under my feet. To have seen and smelt the smoke and embers, and felt the fear of firestorms raging all around Wingham. And to hope the rain would ease after days of torrential downpours, only to see two of the roads into town covered by muddy waters. I’ve walked past people’s whole lives turned inside out as all possessions were moved onto the street, caked in thick smelly mud. I’ve seen the trees flattened by the Manning River’s raging waters, and many still remain more horizontal than vertical. And then for months after, the mould, on everything. 

Community bonds during these experiences. As a photographer l have documented all these times, as l have done throughout my life since the 1970s.

Yarratt Forest, Jan 30, 2023 – Photo: Sallie Colechin

Since living here l have become more active in the Greens, having been a member for decades, and l feel even more determined to look after the health of our planet. The forests are our planet’s lungs and provide homes for many native animals. Animals we display proudly as our emblems, though fail miserably to protect and care for.

I went to the Yarratt Forest blockade to join fellow environmentalists in protecting one of our local forest areas from logging.

Yarratt Forest blockade, Feb 1, 2023 – Photo: Sallie Colechin

I had already been at the #SaveBulgaForest blockade at Elands, to support those trying to protect the Bulga Forest from logging as well. Here in the Yarratt I was buoyed to see one of our Greens MPs, Sue Higginson, working away at one of the bases.

Sue Higginson, NSW Greens MP, Jan 30, 2023 – Photo: Sallie Colechin

I hadn’t been there long when four police cars arrived and we were read a warning that we were trespassing. The police were telling us to leave the forest as it was now closed until August. There were several of us there, and more at another camp just down the road. We were quite stunned, as the roads provide access for many locals.

Police officer and Sue Higginson discussing the warning, Jan 30, 2023 – Photos Sallie Colechin

Sue tried to engage with them, especially in asking that at least one person be allowed to stay to ensure we had a witness should a tree sitter in a nearby tree be removed. This is basic safety and legal, yet we were refused. 

Tree sitter with logging equipment, Yarratt Forest – Photo: Sallie Colechin

It doesn’t take much to understand why protecting the forest was so important to us all. How do you close a public road under the guise of closing the forest so the contractors can continue to tear it down? What companies are being supported and protected by these actions. Why is the government doing nothing?

Eleanor Spence (Greens candidate for Myall Lakes), Sue Higginson (Greens MP) + Margo Kingston seeking clarification of the warning – Photo: Sallie Colechin

So many questions, yet all l know is that l want a future for our planet. I want my great nephew Hamish to see the beauty of this land, and how vital it’s health is in nurturing all the animals.  

I am here because l see it’s beauty and I want to protect it. l feel the pain deeply in the logging sites. The splintered wood of a tree that’s taken decades to grow, destroyed in seconds to provide what? Another floor board or two.

A day or so passed and I decided l needed to go back and see if the road had actually been closed. Driving along Yarratt Road the first sign appeared as l turned into Main Rd.

First sign stating closure of Yarratt Forest – Photo: Sallie Colechin

You can clearly see from the map how many roads pass through the area ‘closed’.

And here is what is left behind when the contractors move further down the road.

Photo: Sallie Colechin

I had only been here for a minute or so when two of the contractors drove up and told me l was trespassing. They said l must have seen the signs on the road stating it was closed. I asked why the actual road had not been closed off. I was told it was and that all locals were being “told the same spiel” as they tried to drive through. The forest and all it included was closed. The man speaking to me said he had seen me on Monday, and that l was well aware of what l was doing. I was told to turn around, go back the way l had come, and not to return. Of course his tone was not quite as congenial as this sounds.

I said l just wanted to take a couple more photos to which he replied:

“No that won’t do anything”.

So l left, and was followed back down the road a little way. 

It probably won’t stop me from considering going back.

If each of us doesn’t do a little bit then how will things change?

It only serves to affirm to me why l live here, and why l need to be a part of protecting this environment for my own enjoyment and for future generations. To help keep our only planet breathing.

Eleanor Spence (Greens candidate for Myall Lakes) and Sue Higginson (Greens MP), Yarratt Forest, Jan 30, 2023 – Photo: Sallie Colechin.

Featured photo: Police warning, Yarratt Forest – Jan 30, 2023 – Sallie Colechin.