Flotillas True Beginnings ……from the Holy Mountain

February 28, 2009

Mount Athos, Greece

Mount Athos is in north eastern Greece, east of Salonika and only accessible by boat from Ouranopolis  (ouranos means sky so Ouranopolis means Sky Town).

Mount Athos is in north eastern Greece, east of Salonika and only accessible by boat from Ouranopolis (ouranos means sky so Ouranopolis means Sky Town). The Holy Mountain is located on the red peninsular of Halchidi.

 

 When are true beginnings of events, births and resurrections? I ask this question because I’ve been asked when did the “Flotillas of Hope” begin? Common sense answers that it was the day and time the boats set off for Nauru. “Eureka” left Sydney on 15 May and “One Off” and “Eureka” left Brisbane for Nauru on 23 May, 2004. However, before the boats even existed, “Flotillas of Hope” was an email sent at a particular date and time from somewhere. Was this email “Call to Action” the real beginning of the project? A feeling anchored in my heart for a few months before the “Call to Action” email was sent over the internet.  Was this feeling the real beginning that only needed my fear of ridicule to disappear to express itself? Where did this feeling arise from?

I believe the real beginning happened four years before we set sail for Nauru. My father died in December, 1999 and being the eldest son of a Greek family it was my duty to go to Greece and check out some property stuff. I hadn’t been back to Greece since I left when I was four years old. I couldn’t afford to return to my birthplace, my roots, until I was 48. Over the years I dreamt about returning and all the special places I would visit. One was Dodona which is about 5 kilometres from Anatoli, the village where I was born. It is the oldest oracle in Greece, older than the Delphic Oracle. Legend has it that Jason, before he sailed off with the Argonauts searching for the Golden Fleece, visited the oracle of Dodona. The miraculous priam that spoke in prophecies from the front of the Argonauts’ boat, was carved from wood of Dodona’s  sacred grove.

Dodona, oldest oracle in Greece. I sat on one of the rocks and listened to Zeus speak through the rustling leaves before I left for the Holy Mountain.

Dodona, oldest oracle in Greece. I sat on one of the rocks and listened to Zeus speak through the rustling leaves before I left for the Holy Mountain.

This is near the spot where Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) shipwrecked on Holy Mountain's beach.

This is near the spot where Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) shipwrecked on Holy Mountain’s beach.

One other place I dreamt of visiting was Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain as Greeks call it. The monks who live there consider themselves gardeners for the Mother of God’s Garden on Earth.  When Mary and Saint John set sail from Cyprus their tiny boat was blown by strong winds off course to the north east coast of Greece where it shipwrecked. When Mary saw the beauty of this place she asked her son Jesus if she could have it as her garden. Soon after, seekers of truth arrived, some remained to become gardeners and others left after some respite. This is why it is called the Holy Mountain.
 
 

 

I was baptised as Greek Orthodox when I was a baby. In my late teens and early twenties I searched far and wide, behind book covers and the open roads of Australia and New Zealand looking for something. As part of that search I found that the Holy Mountain may have something of what I was looking for. I had sought answers in religions and philosophies alien to my heritage. Now was the chance to look into my own indigenous faith.

 

 
 

 

Ouranopolis - this is where you leave by boat to go to the Holy Mountain.

Ouranopolis – this is where you leave by boat to go to the Holy Mountain.

It was Easter, 2000, there I was sitting opposite Geronta Pavlo at the table with the wood oven heating some water behind me. I was inside a time bubble hugged by mud, stone and timber walls. Byzantium breathed in this small kitchen that has cooked meals and boiled water for over a millenium.

The tiny church next door to the room I stayed in at the old Byzantine house.

The tiny church next door to the room I stayed in at the old Byzantine house.

Of all the cats scampering for fish heads in the saucer near the door, two – the twins, Alpha and Omega ran towards Geronta, finding their way onto the table top. Geronta was quietly reading a newspaper. His hair, like small waterfalls of grey, fell over his shoulders and behind his back. Strands of his long white beard fell on the table. Gerontas, 90 years old, looked like a middle aged biker, with the full round belly of body armour and broad shoulders. Alpha and Omega tugged at his beard, he said, “Off with you,” and then smiled. I went to lift the boiling water off the stove and when I returned I saw Geronta folding a page of the newspaper. Over and over he folded. I wondered if this was some kind of Holy Mountain origami. When he finished folding he held it up.

He said, “Here Stavros, this is for you.”

I said, “What is it Gerontas?”

“It’s a boat. I don’t know why but my heart told my hands to make this for you.”

As I received the gift he said, shrugging his shoulders, “Who knows, it may mean that you return to the Holy Mountain sooner than you think. Or maybe something else. It is for you.”

 
 

 

The paper boat folded by Gerontas and given to Stavros.

The paper boat folded by Gerontas and given to Stavros.

What was interesting in retrospect is that he gave me the boat a day after we had a discussion about what is needed to alleviate suffering and injustice on Earth. I was thinking about the dispossessed, the homeless, the weak, the persecuted, the refugees of the world. I told Gerontas that the needs of the world are such that people who can do something should not hide on Holy Mountains but be in the world and try to change it for the better, Smiling, he said, “Our Christianity is esoteric, it is hidden. Here on the Holy Mountain you are no longer in the exoteric world. Our concerns are spiritual.”

“Gerontas, you appear not to care for the very ones Jesus tells us we should care for.”

“Stavros, from where you are it appears that way. You know, the Holy Mountain needs at least five monks to survive in caves and feed on light. Without these monks connecting Heaven and Earth through their sacrifice, the Mother of God’s Garden will wither and die. How do you know that this house, this monastery, this Holy Mountain does not play a similar role for the whole Earth? How much more pain and injustice would be on Earth now if the Holy Mountain did not exist? We, each of us has our calling, our vocation. My work is here while yours is in the exoteric.”

“Gerontas, do I need to become a monk to fulfil what is needed or is there another way?” I asked him.

Alpha or was it Omega, crawled softly towards his hand. He reached for the cat’s head and stroked it gently. He said, “This is what is needed from all…..the practice to bring the spiritual into the material, Heaven on Earth. You don’t need to be a monk or a nun to do this. All you need is pure intention. If your intent is pure, the way is open. Do what you have to do, follow your conscience and allow this particle of God,” he pointed to my heart,” your conscience, guide you.” He looked at me with soft eyes and added, “You must die before you die and then be reborn, this is what Easter is all about.”

A few days after I was on my way to Istanbul or Constantinople as Greeks call it with the paper boat and lots of material for thought. My journey over the next two months was along the ancient trade route from Istanbul to Cairo.  

I took the paper boat with me on Eureka. I now believe that the beginning of the journey to Nauru was the moment when Gerontas gave me the paper boat. He, as a gardener, planted a seed. 

 

 
 
 

 

St Paul at the base with Mount Athos in the background.

St Paul at the base with Mount Athos in the background.

Entrance path to the house I stayed in with the two monks.

Entrance path to the house I stayed in with the two monks.

View from a balcony near my room.

View from a balcony near my room.

 


Symbols

February 24, 2009

geomterical-illusion

Here’s something I wrote a while back and have decided that it’s OK to just scan my hand written stuff as long as its legible.  Actually, I’m enjoying having this blog because it gives me the opportunity to sift through stuff I’ve written and then to “store” the “chosen” stuff in virtual space. If you’re reading this and you don’t like what I write, that’s OK too because you can move on and I still have my stuff stored in “space”.

Anyway, here’s something I wrote on I Ching symbolism ….. 

symbols-writing-sg


Cultural Stomp 1997 – 2007

February 21, 2009

Below are a series of articles, photos and graphics of the Cultural Stomp. Rather than me writing about it here, just read the articles – one from the NSW Government Hansard, one I wrote for “Education Australia” and there is the editorial I wrote for the 2007 Tenth Anniversary of the Cultural Stomp. I was one of the original founders of this amazing Festival, being part of the organising group we called Cultures in Action ( CIA ).

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Cultural Stomp, 1998

 

Newcastle Celebrates it’s Cultural Diversity

 

Around Easter, 1997, there was a feeling in the City of Newcastle’s air that was brittle, if not fragile. BHP had just announced the closure of its steelworks and 2500 workers were to be on the scrap heap by 2000. Many of these workers had literacy and numeracy learning needs. The “downsizing” of BHP also would have a painful effect on ethnic communities of the Hunter, with about 600 non English speaking background workers needing extra English language skills.

 

The Hunter region was in a state of shock, because those 2500 workers retrenched would by the multiplier effect mean another 12 to 20,000 jobs would also disappear in the region. Newcastle was hurting, and hurting bad. So when, only a couple of weeks later, the announcement that the One Nation Party was to be launched for the first time in NSW on 30 May, 1997 at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle it was important that an alternate forum for people with opposing views should be organised.

 

Drawn by a common need and a common objective, a diverse group of citizens met at Wollatuka, Newcastle University to see what would be done. A young Aboriginal student stood up and said to the circle of people who had gathered, “Hi, my name is Belinda and I’m glad that so many people have shown up today. I want to do something about Pauline coming to visit us, but I don’t want to yell at her… I want to do something positive… I want to celebrate what we already have in our city. Who also wants to?” Instantly people called out “Yes” in their diverse ways. We divided up into work groups and we all knew that whatever we come up with we only had three weeks to organise it. We decided that on the same night that Pauline Hanson was speaking we would hold a celebration of our cultural diversity in Civic Park which is only about 200 metres from Civic Theatre. Some us met later at the Pod, and we called the event, The Cultural Stomp and our group, Cultures In Action (CIA).

 

On the night, over five thousand people turned up at Civic Park to let One Nation know that we have something to celebrate in our local community ; we were celebrating our diversity and the unity of that diversity as Australians. With dancing, singing, music, poetry, fire twirling and a Ceremony scheduled at the same time Pauline Hanson was due to speak, The Cultural Stomp made its debut. Outside the Theatre, where 1000 people paid $10 to listen to Hanson, there was a large crowd of people letting her know that her views weren’t necessarily felt by a large percentage of people living in Newcastle. In many ways, the Cultural Stomp was a reconciling force to the active and the resistant forces of One Nation and confronting each other outside the theatre. The Lord Mayor was quoted in the Newcastle Herald as saying, “If it wasn’t for The Cultural Stomp last night, there may well have been violence.”

 

This year, Cultures in Action (CIA) met once again to see if we would organise another Cultural Stomp. In a fundamental way the purpose was the same as last year; to hold a peaceful celebration of Newcastle’s cultural diversity and unity in Civic Park. The only difference this year was that we didn’t have the visual presence of the One Nation Party to contend with, which meant that we probably wouldn’t get the media exposure and build up of hype. The process of organising the event, the networking and the seeking of support and sponsorship revealed that Newcastle loved the concept of The Cultural Stomp. Its sponsors and supporters included Newcastle City Council; The Pod; Newcastle City Centre; Newcastle Trades Hall Council; Ethnic Affairs Commission; Awabakal Co-Op; New South Wales Ministry of the Arts; Hunter Area Health; Newcastle University Student Association; Purrimaibahn Unit; Migrant Resource Centre; Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre; Ethnic Communities Council; Hunter Institute of Technology Association; Newcastle University Union; Newcastle Workers Club;Wollatuka; Fast Events; Ron Hartree Art School; Alan Morris M.P; Bryce Gaudry M.P., Brian Birkefeld and many more.

 

Three nights before the event, at the end of the Sorry Service for the Stolen Generation at the Anglican Cathedral, the bishop said, “Don’t forget to come to The Cultural Stomp at Civic Park on Saturday.” The night before the event I had returned home late after working with fellow CIA members making lanterns and the bamboo and paper Globe of Reconciliation for the Cultural Stomp Ceremony. As I walked through the door my kids called out, “Dad, come quickly, The Cultural Stomp is on TV!” I rushed over and saw our logo of the nine petalled flower and heard our event announced in the middle of a football game between the Newcastle Knights and Western Suburbs Roosters. From an utterance in the Cathedral to the middle of a televised footy game, The Cultural Stomp was announced.

 

On the day we had crowds coming and going in the thousands. This year’s Stomp included Hunter Institute of Technology’s Purrimaibahn Unit displaying art and writings from TAFE students and kids at infant, primary and high schools of our region. It was a wonderful gesture of reconciliation where Aboriginal people shared their work, their hopes and dreams of living in harmony with other members of our culturally diverse community. Throughout the day, performances and speeches from the local multicultural community kept people entertained and informed. We had started the day at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with an Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony; at dusk we were united in the Globe of Reconciliation Fire Ceremony; and the night ‘finished’ at 10 o’clock with dancing irt the park.

 

Two weeks later, after the news of the One Nation win in Queensland, I was talking to a few students and teachers in the sun outside the classrooms. Someone raised the spectre of Hansonism and an Aboriginal student said, “Newcastle is OK, we had the Stomp and people here are OK.” Someone else said, “You know, I walked through Civic Park the other day, and it was different. I could still remember all the people and the kids painting the didgeridoos, the South Pacific Islanders dancing and just the whole thing. The Cultural Stomp has changed the way I see Civic Park.”

Cultures in Action is planning another Cultural Stomp for next year and it promises to be bigger and better; regardless of the political landscape.

 

Stavros

Education Australia, 1998

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Legislative Assembly Hansard (Extract)

Hansard extract, NSW Legislative Assembly, 7 June 2000 (article 36).

Speakers: Gaudry Mr Bryce; Markham Mr Colin  |   Speech Type: PRIV; Private Members Statements

CULTURAL STOMP

Page: 6794

 

 

Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.52 p.m.]: Last Saturday, together with several thousands of Newcastle and Hunter people, I participated in the fourth Cultural Stomp in Newcastle, an event the aim of which is to bring people together. The Cultures In Action Committee organised the event to nurture the spirit of the culturally diverse Australian society, to give people the opportunity to work together and celebrate reconciliation while simultaneously respecting differences and commonality in our cultures. That cultural event occurred approximately a week after one of the greatest, if not the greatest, demonstrations of solidarity that one could ever wish to see, when hundreds of thousands of people came together in Sydney to celebrate Corroboree 2000 and reconciliation with Australia’s indigenous people.

The Cultural Stomp was first staged in Newcastle in May 1997 as a strong but peaceful statement opposing the strong and divisive politics that were being espoused at that time by One Nation. The whole approach was to bring people together into social action and in peace to demonstrate all the values that can be combined in a community rather than focusing on the divisiveness that was occurring at that time. Since that time, the Cultures in Action Committee in Newcastle has built a really successful cultural event which takes place in Civic Park, opposite Newcastle City Hall. The events bring together a whole range of young people and community groups such as the ethnic communities in Newcastle, the arts communities and visitors from areas outside Newcastle.

 

The Cultural Stomp day of celebration includes demonstrations of a whole range of dancing and singing. Very importantly, this year’s celebration involved people who have disabilities. The Life Without Barriers group. Life Without Barriers, a special group in Newcastle that works towards providing access and opportunities to people who have disabilities, participated in performances in Civic Park. One of the really significant events was the participation of Mrs Benita Mabo. Tuesday 6 June was the anniversary of the handing down of the Mabo decision, a decision that has brought about tremendous change. It ended the theory of terra nullius and began the continuing struggle by many indigenous people for reconciliation and recognition of their rights as the original occupants of this land. Mrs Mabo spoke of the personal struggle of Eddie Mabo and the struggles of her own people, the South Pacific Islanders, who came to Australia during the labour trade, which featured blackbirding. She referred to the struggle that continues for her people to obtain recognition in this country.
One of the outstanding features of the day was a performance by the Mulloobinba Newcastle high school dance group, which previewed the dances that they will be performing at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. I congratulate Mrs Barbara Greentree and the dance group on the selection they will perform at the opening Olympic ceremony and also on the performance that was given on the Cultural Stomp day. One of the organisers of the Cultural Stomp, Mrs Lorraine Norton, has adopted a comment from David Suzuki’s book The Sacred Balance, which states that local communities are actually the mainstay during change. It states further: 

 

“The social unit that will have the greatest stability and resilience into the future is the local community which provides individuals and families with a sense of place and belonging, fellowship and support, purpose and meaning.”

That is the whole idea underlying the celebration that takes place annually in Newcastle. Its aim is to bring people together, to celebrate their diversity and the linking of all cultures in Australian society.

Mr MARKHAM (Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.57 p.m.]: The honourable member for Newcastle is to be congratulated for bringing to the attention of this House the Cultural Stomp, which takes place annually in Newcastle. The event is a real demonstration of reconciliation in action—and as I have often said, actions speak louder than words. I congratulate all those involved with the Cultural Stomp. Similar events, as often as possible, should be held in all parts of Australia.
 

cultural-somp-2007-foot1

 

Cultural Stomp 1998

Cultural Stomp 1998

Scanned article from the 10th Anniversary Cultural Stomp Programme

Scanned Editorial from the 10th Anniversary Cultural Stomp Programme, 2007.

cultural-somp-2007-stomp-out-racism1

Horoscope: Cultural Stomp 4 PM 30 May, 1997, Civic Park, Newcastle, Australia.

Horoscope: Cultural Stomp 4 PM 30 May, 1997, Civic Park, Newcastle, Australia.

Original 1997 Poster with phone numbers erased.

 

2007 Cultural Stomp Poster - note the 9 petalled flower from the first Cultural Stomp in 1997.

2007 Cultural Stomp Poster – note the 9 petalled flower from the first Cultural Stomp in 1997.

 

Combined Churches' Statement on the visit of Pauline Hanson on 23 May, 1997.

Fax message to a friend to circulate latest info, 1997.

Fax message to a friend to circulate latest info, 1997.

Cultural Stomp, 1998

First Press Release for Cultural Stomp, 1997

First Press Release for Cultural Stomp, 1997

Letter to people, May 1997.

Letter to people, May 1997.

Cultural Stomp, 1998

Cultural Stomp, Newcastle

Cultural Stomp Update May, 1997.

cultural-somp-original-logo-green

Flyer for Community Meeting to Organise Cultural Stomp in 1998.

Flyer for Community Meeting to Organise Cultural Stomp in 1998.

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

Cultural Stomp 1998

Cultural Stomp, Newcastle


Forgotten Madonna on the Run

February 20, 2009

 

I found some poems and lyrics I wrote some time ago, in a box of stuff I had forgotten about. So here’s one. Yes, it’s a song with chords and melody……., but here all you’re getting are the lyrics.

Forgotten Madonna on the Run

Along the punished ground with no fences,
down the road I go.
I lost my defenses.
Chased the ashes blown by the wind,
siezed the moment that was between
the parting of the ocean, the parting of a dream.

You stood there so warm and still,
in the door of a Dollar Hotel.
With a secret late in the night,
a Forgotten Madonna on the run,
a Forgotten Madonna on the run.

I searched for gold when I was younger,
near the place where angels linger.
Now my life’s flung around a TV dial
stopping where vision is on file,
where a pair of eyes stare in the dark within a dreaming.

You stood there so warm and still,
in the door of a Dollar Hotel.
With a secret late in the night,
a Forgotten Madonna on the run,
a Forgotten Madonna on the run.

Civilized days drape over the window pane
of those who live with the Flood,
who scorch their eyes in all night cinemas
obsessed with heroes,
who fool around revolving doors
between hell and paradise.

The young sing Armaggedon tunes,
the old dance to satellite news.
The neon light flickers on
a Forgotten Madonna on the run,
a Forgotten Madonna on the run.

stavros


Portrait

February 20, 2009
Stavros - portrait by John Bell

Stavros , 1977 - portrait by John Bell


I am sanctified . . . . . . . . .

February 20, 2009

 

My heart is being stretched. I am sanctified after being petrified. I’ve lost everyone’s tomorrows and have found my own. The sky above is my sky. Never before have I owned the earth, never before has the sun burnt  through my shadow to enlighten the crevices of my brain. I await no one and no one awaits me. I dip my finger into the Aegean Sea and taste its salt. This same salt is in my blood, and yours, yet my life had lost its savour, until now. Hidden eyes in my skull open like blossoming flowers to see my nakedness.

Kiss my eyes, kiss my mouth, kiss my hands, kiss my feet, kiss my heart, for I am now sanctified. I’ve leapt into the abyss and it’s nothing, like tomorrow is nothing, like yesterday is nothing. The abyss is none other than this moment, the Today of my life. I’ve let go my fears, my hopes, my wishes, I only breathe and feel the pulse of here and now. This here and now is not limited by a circumference of a clock and hands that tick and cut like a knife each moment. No, this now is the Present of my whole life. In this Now, I am being conceived, I am being buried in my grave, I love, I hate, I cry, I laugh, every moment of existence is here and now.

I no longer need to believe, I’ve crossed the threshold of belief.

To what?

The great Unknown.

stavros


From the Archives >> Baxter @ Easter, 2003

February 19, 2009

 

 

After Easter at Woomera in 2002 the Government decided to move people to Baxter. The detention centre in Baxter had an extra deterrent for those seeking to break out – electric shock razor wire. So now we had an electric barrier as well as razor wire to keep innocent women and children and men incarcerated. At Woomera, in 2002, human rights activists could get close to the wire, at Baxter the protests were just symbolic as the Darth Varder clothed police with their shields and batons, their horses and their helicopters overhead kept us far away from the detention centre.

 

Darth Vader from the Star Wars movie saga. Look at the pictures at the end of the post. Can you see similarities?

Darth Vader from the Star Wars movie saga. Look at the pictures at the end of the post. Can you see similarities?

The Baxter protest also witnessed for the first time, police in riot gear pointing machine guns at Australian citizens’ heads. This wasn’t reported in the corporate media. However, we have photos and videos to prove it. The freaky thing was that some of us had helium filled balloons. One accidental bursting of a balloon and we would have seen Sharpeville on Australian soil. Where was the outrage by the media? No where. Quiet as a mouse.

 

The Baxter @ Easter 2003 also witnessed for the first time a close connection with the local indigenous people who supported our Action. Closer connections were made by the various affinity groups which made it more possible for the Flotillas of Hope Action to Nauru happen the following year.

 

Anyway, read the following account as it appeared on the Baxter Watch  website and in the ImaginePeace Update.

 

stavros

 

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A Story from Baxter Detention Centre, Easter, 2003

 

 

The corporate media told people that we had broken through the first barrier, about 3 kilometres from the Concentration Camp after some confrontation with police. Then, according to the corporate media we raced down to the second barrier about 2 kms away from the Concentration Camp where the police had formed a line with mounted police ready to lend a hand in stopping us getting through. Even though we could see the massive presence of the riot squad we, in our enthusiasm for a battle with the police decided to breach the police line. This time our brave riot squad with all their gear stopped us. They stopped us by riding their horses into us and dismantling our tents. So, the heroes of the State warded off a few hundred of us refugee activists determined to fight the Empire. That’s their version and if you don’t believe me check out The Australian’s story. 500 refugee activists vs the 357 police and riot squad and a helicopter surveillance. One cop per protestor along with their weapons of mass intimidation.

Sacred Fire lit by the local indigenous Bungalla People.

Sacred Fire lit by the local indigenous Bungalla People.

Where to begin? In many ways for me the real beginning of the story is on Good Friday night, when we gathered around the Sacred Fire lit by the Elders of the Bungalla people – Harry and Noelene. This is a beginning the corporate media won’t tell you about and I believe that what happened around the Sacred Fire at the Baxter Protest Camp marks a new synergy with refugee and Aboriginal rights movements. The Baxter Convergence when seen in this light shows the deeper convergence that occurred at Easter. Hopecaravan yahoo group’s website logo says: “The denial of rights to anyone is the denial of humanity to all.” We were welcomed to the land that Baxter Concentration Camp is built on by the Aboriginal Elders – Noelene and Harry. As far as I was concerned my presence was legal within Aboriginal Law no matter what Howard and Ruddock say. But before I begin the story with this bigger beginning I will tell you what happened when we arrived at the Western road block.

 

 

Protectors of the Electric Fence

Protectors of the Electric Fence

What really happened? The police allowed us to pass through the first barrier with all of our camping gear and to walk about a kilometre down the hill. As we walked down towards the Concentration Camp we saw police in riot gear making a line. We put down our gear and proceeded to set up camp. No one tried to stop us, so we thought that this was going to be our camp site. The commander of police, with headphone radio contact then made an announcement. He told us all to pack up our gear and return to the top of the hill in 10 minutes or we will be arrested. Many went and pleaded with him to be reasonable, including myself. He wouldn’t budge. The troops were ready to arrest us. Meanwhile from behind us in the hills, like a B grade western movie, there was the calvary of mounted police charging towards our camp site. When the ten minutes were up the riot squad charged into our site and along with the mounted police they took away tents and trampled on peoples’ property. Lucky no one was trampled. There some chafed shins and someone got arrested for carrying a kite. The cops then made us go back up to the hill. Meanwhile, above us, a helicopter choppered away. By the way, I have video footage of all this.day01_28

We walked back up to the hill and here we set up camp. That night (Good Friday) we had a spokes council meeting around the Sacred Fire which the Aboriginal Elders had lit especially for our protest. It was the only fire allowed on our camp and whenever we gathered for meetings we gathered around the Sacred Fire. Harry, Elder of the Bungalla people, the people of the local land we camped on, welcomed us as did Noelene. In silence we stood and sat around the Sacred Fire while Noelene and Harry told us their stories and why they supported refugees incarcerated in the Concentration Camps. “Simply because,” Harry said, “Our people experience the same incarceration as the refugees.” They not only felt for the refugees but also totally empathised with their plight because their own people have also suffered the same injustices.

Harry and Noelene told us, as we felt the warmth of the Sacred Fire, that the only way to affect change and help those inside the Concentration Camp was through peaceful and compassionate ways. They told us that to keep in the spirit of the land we had to manifest peacefully. They gave us the blessings of the Bungalla people and its land. I asked permission to record an image of the Sacred Fire, which they gave. HOPE Caravan told the spokes council of the FREEDOM banner, signed by Newcastle people and invited all of the Baxter Convergence people to sign it as well. Noelene and Harry offered to take the FREEDOM banner with all the signatures and well wishes of our protest camp and Newcastle to the refugees in Baxter. This banner was made from a queen sized sheet with the word FREEDOM sewn on in black material in the Farsi language – AZADI. The next day people in the camp signed it at the Sacred Fire and around the Caravan’s camp. On Sunday morning HOPE Caravan gave the banner to Noelene and Harry. I have footage of their words to all of us. They will take our gift of FREEDOM and HOPE to those behind the electric razor wire.

AZADI - Freedom in Farsi with signatures by well wishers from Newcastle and from the Baxter Action people. This was given to the detainees at Baxter by Noelene, a Bungalla Elder from the country on which the Baxter Detention Centre was built.

AZADI - Freedom in Farsi with signatures by well wishers from Newcastle and from the Baxter Action people. This was given to the detainees at Baxter by Noelene, a Bungalla Elder from the country on which the Baxter Detention Centre was built.

We decided at that night’s spokes council meeting around the Sacred Fire that some of us would go down later that night. We didn’t know how far the cops would let us get to the Concentration Camp but we were determined to get as close as possible so that we could make contact. To make sure that they could hear us some of us brought bongos and maracas, saxophones, drums along with kites and whistles and pots and pans. At around 9PM we met up on top of the hill and began our walk down to the centre. The moon was full and the desert night cool, silhouettes of hills contrasted with the glare of the Concentration Camp lights a couple of kilometres down the gas pipeline.

Throughout the day we noticed the helicopter that flew overhead in circles watching over us. At night the same thing became a one eyed alien creature scouring the night earth with a column of light descending on our tents, our shadows and the Sacred Fire. Like Apocalypse Now, this time in the desert, the chopper chopped the air as we walked down to the centre its cone of light going over and around us. To my right I noticed a young brother flying a kite while walking on the gas pipeline. The landscape and the images of the Darth Vader STAR cops we had already faced brought to mind Star Wars and here was Luke Skywalker flying his kite under the moonlight. He balanced his sprightly steps on the huge pipe line. The orange kite fluttered above him and occasionally I saw the kite’s bird profile against the round moon. This was one of 26 kites we brought with us from Newcastle. The kites were made from DIMIA plastic sheeting that promotes Harmony Day. Newcastle made the kites to fly at Baxter. We transformed DIMIA advertising into Kites of Peace. As Luke flew his kite, one hand holding the string and the other held out to his side for balance the helicopter made another swoop, its searchlight swept over us and the kite glistened in the air. When our moon shadows returned I looked at the hills around me – I could have been on another planet. The detainees at Baxter will never see these hills because they cannot look out. They are only allowed to look up at the sky. They see the same Southern Cross we do but their horizon ends with electric razor wired walls.

One of the Kites we made in Newcastle from Dept of Immigration's orange plastic Harmony Day promotional banner.

One of the Kites we made in Newcastle from Dept of Immigration's orange plastic Harmony Day promotional banner.

As we got closer to the Concentration Camp we started to chant and play our musical instruments. Our rhythmic chants together with the beats of the drums and the sounds of whistles and sax resonated through the night air – AZADI – FREEDOM – AZADI – FREEDOM – AZADI – FREEDOM and on it went. When we got to the main gates to the Concentration Camp many sat down on the ground and others shoulder to shoulder swayed to the songs we sang. The police stood still in their Darth Vader STAR wars get ups. A couple of us were arrested, one a young woman. Does it take a million dollar Star Wars riot squad to protect an electric razor fence? It seems it does in Australia today when people carrying musical instruments, kites and balloons, banners and flags, their passionate compassion in action voice a dissenting message.- FREE THE REFUGEES! END MANDATORY DETENTION! AZADI !

We went silent for a while to hear a response from those behind the electric wire. The first couple of silent moments between our songs and chants did not reveal anything. Then in one break between AZADI and FREEDOM we heard the faint reply AZADI from behind their walls. It was muffled by the barriers of ACM BUT we had made contact – they heard us and we heard them!

Heart Kite flying high.

Heart Kite flying high.

On the way back we were pushed by a line of visar STAR war cops – on the road they drove a car with full beam lights in our direction slowly. This meant that your peripheral vision was stuffed and this way couldn’t see if a cop in dark is going to nab you. One of us got arrested with his back to the police. All he was doing was sitting on the gas pipe – away from others. On either side of the car the STAR cops were lined up moving in short robotic movements. About a third of the way back to our camp another group ran towards us through the desert from our left. They went to the other side of the Concentration Camp because they had information from inside the camp that the detainees had been moved there. Two fronts, two determined efforts to make contact with the refugees. The robocops chased them and they finally merged with our group uncaught. About half way up the hill we could just hear the Rock On Against Racism (ROAR) Concert. As we got closer the beats and the music got louder.

The next day we met back at the Sacred Fire where HOPE Caravan brought the FREEDOM / AZADI Gift for people to write their messages on. A decision was made to march back down to the Concentration Camp in the morning. Some members of the Caravan remained behind at the camp site. We came to Baxter to fly our kites and to fly our FREEDOM banner.

But that story’s for another time as are the many other stories that are going to be told by all of us who were at Baxter this Easter.

On Sunday we left about 10AM. There were many buses also leaving about 12PM so there would have been very few of the 500 left when the STAR cops raided the camp with their machine guns. I wasn’t there when that happened AND what I know is that we could have all been there. When they pointed their machine guns at the people left at our camp, they pointed it at my head as well. In fact the machine guns were pointed at every Australian’s head.

Kites against Uzi machine guns!

Kites against Uzi machine guns!

The act of dissent in Australia can now bring machine guns bearing at peoples’ heads for carrying camera tripods, arrest for placing yellow stars on rotting wooden fences and for flying a kite. Australia – where are we going? There were helium balloons at the camp when the STAR War cops raided it carrying machine guns. One tiny little mishap, like a balloon bursting at the most inopportune time, who knows how many of our children would have been massacred by machine gun fire. Would the government then argue “collateral damage done by friendly fire” on its own people! The lack of outrage at such an intemperate use of force speaks volumes about the Culture we are swimming in. It is crystallizing into a Police State and our right to dissent will be associated with terrorist activities. What else can explain the overkill at Baxter?

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I want to say how proud I am to be associated with everyone of you who were at Baxter and those who supported us. Our passionate compassion carried musical instruments, kites, balloons, songs and chants of freedom as our messages of hope to the detainees. There were 500 of us with 357 of the STAR cops and when you include their helicopter and other weapons of mass intimidation you can see that the equation is not equal. Our protest was a complete success in that we made contact with the refugees imprisoned in the Concentration Camp and we have highlighted the draconian methods that are in place to stop frredom of speech and dissent in Australia. Think about it – a machinegun against a kite.

Then think about the message of peace given to us around the Sacred Fire by the Elders of the Land.

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Stavros with Hope (in Farsi language) flag at the Baxter Camp.

Stavros with Hope (in Farsi language) flag at the Baxter Camp.