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By El Gibbs  @bluntshovels

17th March 2014

Over 700 people gathered in front of the historic Carrington Hotel in Katoomba on Sunday to protest against the Federal Government, spilling out onto the street.

Many hand-made signs featured, with slogans such as “What happened to taking care? Of ourselves, each other, our country”, “It’s not money trickling down”, “Peace off, Abbott” and many against coal seam gas developments.



The local organisers, in consultation with police, decided not to march, but to have a static rally, due to a large music festival and nearby roadworks. The rally was attended by a wide range of Blue Mountains people, including many children.

Beginning with an acknowledgement of being on Gundungarra and Darug land, the first speaker was Susan Templeman, the previous ALP candidate for Macquarie.

Templeman said that she was angry and sad that the rights of workers, people with disabilities and asylum seekers were being disrespected and that the Government was “running on an agenda of hate.”

“I don’t believe the ALP Government got it right on asylum seekers. I’m a long time member of Labor for Refugees and will be pushing for change in opposition, so that when Labor is back in government, we can have a more humane approach.”

Templeman raised concerns that Louise Markus, the Member for Macquarie, was silent on asylum seekers, despite being a Christian and a former social worker.

George Winston, the secretary for Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group, spoke next about his own experience of being a refugee from Poland after the Second World War. His anger was palpable as he accused the Government of “imprisoning children behind razor wire, locking up people indefinitely, stopping asylum seekers working and studying and using asylum seekers for political ends.”

The manager of the local women’s health centre, Suzie Van Opdorp, spoke about the people she works with who are at risk of homelessness. She said that “the ALP was wrong to take single parents off the parenting payment, and they need to change their policies.” Van Opdorp believes that Newstart has to rise, or more women and children will become homeless.

Danielle Wheeler, the previous Greens candidate for Macquarie, said that it was not common for Australians to protest against their government and hoped that mainstream media would cover the rallies. Wheeler said that “Australia has lost its way and we fell for the emperor’s new clothes. Emporer Abbott is stark bollockingly naked and we are angry. He’s all hairy chested and fossil fuelled.” Wheeler outlined what people could do, such as joining the local conservation and refugee support groups.

Shirley the bag lady, dressed in clothes made from plastic bags, spoke about environmental campaigns, and Wyn Jones read a Denis Kevan’s poem. Next, Jan O’Leary, from No CSG Blue Mountains, outlined the proposal for CSG mining in the Blue Mountains region.

Colin and Pat Jenning, self-styled Grandparents for Gonski, also read a poem, title ‘Toss out the Terminators’ and acknowledged the people who have recently lost their jobs. Letitia Kemister then spoke strongly about the treatment of local bushfire survivors after federal disaster funding was changed when “I didn’t even know if my friends were alive.” Kemister also spoke about the need to get active to stop CSG in the Blue Mountains and gave details of the proposed mine. Wayne Brennan, a worker in the national parks, said he was offended that Tony Abbott had said that loggers were conservationists, and also spoke against CSG in the area. “We have to be optimistic and we have to work together,” he said. After some high-spirited drumming and a blessing from Hands, Heart and Feet, which had the crowd waving their hands in the air and dancing on the spot, Nick Craig got up to speak. Craig is deaf, so with the two Auslan signers who had been translating all the speakers, he said that this was the first protest he had ever attended. Craig was angry about cuts to TAFE services, and support for Deaf students. “How can I get a job with no skills,” he said.


As the rain started to pelt down, Anya spoke about the campaign to get companies to divest from fossil fuels.

The main rally finished, with the public address system quickly packed away out of the wet, but many continued to speak using a megaphone. Local organisers were very pleased with the turnout, saying it had been one of the largest rallies ever held in Katoomba. Photos and videos from the day are available on the March in March Blue Mountains Facebook page.