Lauren O'Connor

Lauren O'Connor

Journalism student at University of Technology, Sydney
Our recent assignment that sent me to the Boggabri and Tarrawonga mines in Maules Creek North Western NSW shocked and changed me. I'm from Kangaroo Valley in the Illawara region, which is also fighting CSG at the moment, just like the farmers from the Pilliga. I moved to the city this year to study, which has been an experience in itself. My interest in journalism comes from intense curiosity about people, places and issues like this.
Lauren O'Connor
First year journalism students of the University of Technology, Sydney, are required to undertake field work as part of their degree. ‘News Day’, as it is known, consists of the subject co-ordinator and tutors finding stories for students, sending them off to investigate and write the story up according to a deadline. The subject co-ordinator asked who would be willing to travel west of Sydney for a story, and there were four volunteers. “We were required to drive to the Leard State Forest to uncover four angles on the same event,” one of the students, Carly Wladkowski, said. “The discovery of stories required us all to be open with communication forms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to allow us to find sources and arrange meetings. It was a rewarding experience, learning how to capture and bring the issues of others to the public.”


On March 31 over 100 people walked onto the Whitehaven Maules Creek coal mine to protest and more than 80 were arrested. Work at the mine was halted for a day and events were widely reported by the mainstream media.

The demonstrations coincided with a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that predicted devastating consequences for agriculture, traditional ownership and the economy in the wake of climate change.

One of the demonstrators, Simon Outred, who holds the cause very close to his heart, is concerned that his right to protest is not being protected.

“They are taking everybody that was on the mine site [to the magistrates’ court] they all got court attendances,” he said.

He recalled being stopped by police two days after the arrests, at road closures that prevented any kind of travel between the towns or the mine site.

“We asked the cops ‘why are the roads closed?’” he said, “we were asking ‘under what law are you doing this?’”

“They’ve just passed laws in Victoria now that allow police to move people on under suspicion of [public disturbance],” he said, “it’s public road, public land.”

The mass arrests, road blockages and high level security at the Idemitsu and Whitehaven Maules Creek mines have not deterred demonstrators like Lyle Davis, a Yuin traditional owner from the Illawarra, who said: “It’ll go until there’s not a tree or blade of grass on the planet, until there is no drinkable water. Until they stop, we’ll be here as a preventative to their stupidity.”

Just days after the mass arrests on Monday, April 1, four other campaigners from the Pilliga CSG camp were arrested for locking-on.

Crystal Hodgson and Ursula Da Silva were two of the women interviewed on Sunday by visiting University of Technology Sydney journalism students. After they were arrested and separated by police, Hodgson was taken into custody three hours away in Boggabilla, and Da Silva to Moree.

“We need people to start stepping up to the next level where they’re prepared to get arrested,” Da Silva was quoted as saying.

“It’s about taking action before it’s too late.”