occupy melbourne - view from the sidelines

Last Friday morning as I left for my psychiatrist appointment I thought, I'll leave some extra time - there's that protest thing happening in the city. News of the Occupy Melbourne people being evicted from the city square had been on the radio that morning and I was curious. I've been following Occupy Melbourne all week on Facebook (after seeing their ads on Facebook - Facebook advertising can be quite seductive sometimes) and it has occurred to me that if this protest had been happening 28 years ago, I would have been there. Predictably the tram stops before the city square and everyone gets out. I move around trying to see what's happening. There are still some people in the square. I end up looking through the recently erected security fence near Brunettis and talking about the distribution of power and wealth in this country with an older woman from the country. She seems to think that protesters are deluded, that we have it good here. I explain what I think the protest is about while thinking about how I regularly meet people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless and how it is part of my job to refer people for material aid because their payments are not enough for food AND housing. How even working families find it hard to afford a rented house in Melbourne.  How my family isn't poor or vulnerable but my mum has been on a public hospital waiting list for knee surgery for ages (and it still doesn't seem closer). That here in my suburb we don't have a local open entry high school, our primary school is surrounded by cracked asphalt and weed trees and has been without a library for the best part of two years.  That said we are lucky to live here, and to have the papers that grant us that right. Still, Australia is a very rich country and those abundant riches are not as evident in our health, education and welfare systems as they could be. Or in the way we welcome people who come to live here. So yeah, I guess I get the bit about being the 99%. The police are removing people from the city square and it is horrifying. It crosses my mind that if you were looking for an illustration of how the 1% use force to crush the 99%  and where power lies in our society, here you have it. Ugly.
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view from the security fence at the city square


At my appointment, I discuss what I have seen with my psychiatrist and she is unexpectedly sympathetic to the cause of Occupy Melbourne. I tell her about how ugly the force used by the police appears, how wrong. I suggest that it feels a bit like a some fights that start in families, that once the fighting starts, no matter who is right or wrong, it's ugly for everyone.We agree that Occupy Melbourne could have been left to their devices in the city square, that it was an orderly protest and would have hurt no-one.
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Moving up Swanston street
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Police pushing up Swanston street


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I go back to the city after my appointment and Swanston street has been closed. The protesters are corralled at the intersection on Bourke and Collins street. There are crowds of bystanders, many calling shame, shame, shame as the police shove, push and use all kinds of force. At one point what I was seeing was so brutal that I feel myself holding back the tears, not quite succeeding and I'm sure I only saw a tiny part of it.  I'm remembering demonstrations that I took part in as a student in the eighties and I don't recall this degree of police violence. There were all sorts of police there, regular police, mounted police, the dog squad, riot police - or the so called Public Order Response Team. Kind of ironic given that prior to the cops turning up, there was public order, the protest was mostly confined to the city square and the trams were running freely. It feels like such a massive display of force and the atmosphere around it is charged and outraged. People are standing on seats, getting as close as they can with there, phones, cameras and ipads. There is is this sense of bearing witness, of recording what is happening because it feels so wrong. But still the horrible violence continues.
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bystanders with phones - this was at what appeared to be a particularly violent patch - protesters had been pushed back from the intersection of Collins and Swanston street
Some first hand accounts gleaned from Facebook
A Firsthand Account of Being Arrested for Protesting



Mirrool, and the last of the photos

On the way home from Queensland we stopped for the first night at a caravan park in Moree. We chose this particular caravan park because it had artesian pools that I knew Grace would love, especially after a solid day's driving. We got there only to read a sign that there were no cabins left. I went to the office resigned to staying in the tent in a park full of vans and not being allowed to light a fire (the no fire is a total deal breaker for winter camping) only to find that there had been a last minute cancellation. Grace was delighted to be staying in a cabin even though it was pretty crappy. I decided not to whinge, even to myself, about the degree of crappiness for the price, and enjoy the pools. We bathed after dinner and again in the morning and the pools were great. A different type of experience to the Pilliga bore bath which I prefer, but nice big pools with ledges to sit on and clean chlorinated water.-
The next night we stopped at a camping spot near Dubbo. It was by a river and the night was freezing cold. The next night, after a day's driving on the crazy Newell, we stopped at Mirrool.  We choose Mirrool because it was a good days drive from home, it was in Camps 6 and not too far from the highway. As we pulled in, the hand painted free camping sign looked promising and we parked in what looked to be a likely spot. There wasn't anyone else camping so we went into the pub to ask. And stayed for a chat, a beer, a soft drink, a shandy and a game of eight ball. It was one of the friendliest and most welcoming places we stopped at. The pub itself is a beauty. Fairly original and with lots of lovely art decco tile work. I would be tempted to take a room there on a future trip - just to look upstairs.
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Every October the town hosts a silo kick - where the aim is to kick a football over the silo - and I remember thinking as I read the sign that the second Saturday in October was a long time away. Now that would be tomorrow and I am just finishing up dealing with the photos from the trip and posting about it. Still, even though it became a drawn out process, I'm glad I did. Each photo in the flickr set reminds me of something particular about our trip. I miss Betty and the girls and I would love to be back on the road again, but oh well.
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After we sent up camp, I went for a walk around Mirrool with my camera. By myself. I find these walks by myself to be an essential part of a family holiday. Even 20 minutes. For a small town with no shops, just a pub, some silos by the railway and a collection of houses there was an awful lot to see. I'm sure a longer stay would reveal even more. Anyway, that brings me to the end of the July school holidays narrative. Just as the September school holidays are drawing to a close.