A Sandy Beach Almanac

You've landed at Sandy Beach, NSW, Australia: Lat. -30.15331, Long. 153.19960, UT +10:00 – local map & zoom Google map. I live in a cabin on this beach, 25 kilometres north of the traffic and shops of Coffs Harbour, 600 km north of Sydney. My intention is to post observations of Nature and life within 1 km (1,000 paces) of my South Pacific home.


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Thursday, March 31, 2005

1980 Massacree

Today, after the rain, in the miniature delta and wadis that form where the creek empties onto the sand, you can see how the water has separated the different sands by weight, so that there are darker ripples and swirls. Along the dry sand, too, especially after rain, you can see the black grains in the lee of the mini 'dunes', as they have been left by the winnowing winds.

What the darker sand is, is not known to me. When I was a little boy, I was told it was rutile, and rutile I still call it, whether right or wrong. I don't know about you, but I've learned comparatively little since the age of eleven.

Rutile, titanium dioxide, is a mineral desired by industry, and heaven help any ecosystem cursed to have it. Whenever I see black swirls in the sand, I think of the word 'rutile', and Middle Head Beach, about two hours drive south of here.

In 1980, a big company called Mineral Deposits was going to mine Middle Head Beach, for rutile, as has happened at a number of beaches on the New South Wales coast. A number of people, hippies mostly, and surfers and others who loved Middle Head, didn't want Mineral Deposits to bulldoze a very special frontal dune forest just to embiggen the bank accounts of a few shareholders who had probably never even heard of the beach, or its ancient frontal dune forest. So an action began, which I had a bit to do with.

The Middle Head Beach action came hard on the heels of an important 1979 action a few hours north of here, called Terania Creek. It's near Nimbin, the famed alternative lifestyle town. There, hundreds of protesters had dug in, living for weeks and months right in the jungle, to stop a remarkable rainforest from being destroyed by logging. They had organised themselves in a "rainbow army", each division denoted by an armband of one of seven colours. People chained themslevs to trees, made homes in the tree canopy, even buried themselves neck-deep in the cold earth. Regardless of what big yellow vehicle might be passing that way the next morning.

The Terania protest was huge, drawn out -- and eventually successful, and today, many times more dollars are extracted from tourists' pockets than ever could have been made from sawing up the pristine rainforest. The waterfall there was even officially renamed Protesters Falls. Many of the new methods employed by Terania people were emulated worldwide, often with similar success.

Middle Head used similar tactics and strategies to those that our tribe had pioneered a few months earlier at Terania (many people were at both actions), but despite all our commitment, all the sitting in front of bulldozers, and the arrests, we lost this one. Macquarie Street (where State Parliament meets) sealed the fate of the magickal grove. The board of Mineral Deposits won, they bulldozed the forest in haste, and after six months, when they found that beneath the ruined forest there wasn't so much rutile after all, the suited directors in Sydney ordered the operation to pack up and leave behind ravaged Midddle Head. Not to mention the many now-unemployed workers, who naturally had vigorously opposed us in our struggle.

Between the beginning of the demo, and the loss of the forest, I wrote a song, which I thought I might share with you today. No particular reason other than that it's been sitting in my drawer for a quarter of a century, and I was thinking about rutile.

I chose the tune of '1913 Massacre', by Woody Guthrie, and I called it:-

1980 Massacree

Take a trip with me in 1980
to Middle Head Beach by the waves of the sea.
I’ll take you to a place that's older than time,
that Mineral … Deposits is going to mine.

We came from all parts of the wild north-east
to sit on the horns of the great yellow beast.
We sang in a circle, we held up our hands.
Our childern … were doing their poos in the sand.

At Terania Creek we learned how to fight
like angels by day and like ghosties at night.
Practice and knowledge a-plenty we got,
but spirits … don’t always arrive when you want.

We phoned all the media, "Come see our school,
our garden, our kitchen, our love and our cool".
They waited until we were dragged on our knees –
the reports said … we only protest for TV.

The black folks arrived and we said "Good one brothers,
Good-one-brothers-we-are-one-good-one-brothers-we-are-one …"
and so on … to make them feel right at home.

A National Parks man said "You got our support.
You better get hold of the Kramer Report."
We said "Can you tell us some things that you know?"
He answered … "This is right off the record, but no."

Oh alternative lifestyle's the word of the day,
which, being translated, means "a wilted bouquet".
And "could we get the energy into the circle, it’s late"
is parlance … for "shut up and listen, you straight".

The coppers they smiled and they all glanced askance
as into the forest we led them a dance.
One said, "Old man, you’re too old for a stir".
The old bloke … said "I must be a slow learner, sir."

Here’s to Pealine and Harley and Bob Rosen too –
I’m sure glad I don’t have the job that you do.
Some came and said it was disorganised –
others … said "Man let us run our own lives".

Some ask how we'd do it again, if we should,
if we would, if we thought for one minute we could
save us a beach for our children to grow –
I don’t know … but I'll start with "I don’t know".

Take a trip with me to Balmain and Glebe,
Wahroonga and Peakhurst and Macquarie Street.
"Hey isn’t this a delicious Sara Lee.
Is there any … more hippies tonight on TV?"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I used to work at the Department of Mines (name changed now)I found out they use to mine rutile here at Sandy.....the Dam opposite the Graham Drive and Diamond Head Drive intersection was part of that mining operation.

9:22 AM  

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