On Wednesday 22nd October, a group of around 80 people, including a number of Quit Coalers, occupied the ANZ headquarters in the Docklands, Melbourne, calling on the bank to divest from Fossil Fuels. The action was one of a number of events across the country held in solidarity with the Pacific Islands, which are at the frontline of climate change, suffering significant loss of land and ancestral homes, and producing the world’s first climate refugees. ANZ has branches across the Pacific, managing the finances of many Pacific Islanders, whilst simultaneously contributing significantly to climate change through its investments in fossil fuel mining and infrastructure.
In a culmination of a long term project by 350.org, 30 Pacific Warriors from 12 island nations were brought out to Australia along with several traditional canoes that had been handcrafted by the islander communities. On the 17th October, the Pacific Warriors were joined by a few hundred people from across Australia and led a flotilla with their traditional canoes and 50 solidarity kayaks. This highly successful action blocked a number of coal ships from accessing the port of Newcastle, whilst simultaneously spreading their powerful message.
The Melbourne solidarity action at ANZ was organised by individuals from a range of climate and environment groups. 80 people occupied the foyer in circles surrounding six people pipe locked together. As we committed to the space, the pacific warriors shared their native songs that echoed through the building and silenced the space. With this they shared the depth and pain of how the changing climate affects their sense of culture and belonging. The “human microphone” was used to share our stories of why we were there, a technique made famous by the Occupy movement whereby those surrounding the speaker repeat their words in order to project the message.
These headquarters house 6,500 ANZ employees, many of which stood out on the balconies and listened to the speeches, stories and spontaneous choirs that sprung up. We effectively occupied the space for 8 hours, until we thanked the ANZ employees for their patience and exited the building spreading our message to the media outside. With no arrests and very few negative interactions this action was an example of what we can achieve through the cooperation of groups and the power of community. Quit Coal is excited to be a part of strengthening these networks and looks forward to working with many more incredible and inspiring people as we fight for climate justice.
By Kat Moore