Over the last two years, people all across Victoria discovered that their farms, communities and precious natural areas were covered with licences for unconventional gas. Over those two years, neighbours have connected with one another, and with other communities, to protect their land, water, health and future.
And now there’s a film about it.
Farmland not Gaslands is a beautiful short film about communities from the far East of Victoria all the way to the South Australian border, who are working with one another to lock up their properties and their towns to keep each other safe.
Onshore gas mining is an issue close to home for director and producer PennieBrown – literally. Her family live in Gippsland, where over 350,000 hectares of land is covered in approved exploration licences for unconventional gas.
“I wanted to make Farmland not Gaslands because I wanted to bring home the risks of unconventional gas mining to a local audience and show that this growing movement of rural people from across the state are determined to do whatever it takes…but they need our support,” she said.
It was made on zero budget, but came together thanks to the commitment and generosity of many volunteers, including narration from AFI award winning actor, Nadine Garner.
“I was really inspired to be a part of this project, we are seeing an incredible social movement of ordinary Australians growing every day, right here in our state,” Garner said.
Farmland not Gaslands was premiered to a sold-out cinema as part of the Environmental Film Festival in early September, going on to win the People’s Choice award.
This was followed by the regional premiere in Sale, which attracted big crowds, thrilled to see their story on the big screen.
A moving speech from Trevor Flint, a farmer whose property is under licence, was the highlight of the night.
“When I went to my first Lock the Gate meeting, this sounds very selfish, but I went there to protect my farm, and I wanted a hint on how I was going to do it… But when I got there it took me about five minutes to realise that for me to protect my farm, my neighbour has to be able to protect his, and for him to protect his we have to stand together,” Flint said.
“And as the meeting went on I realised that everyone that was there was prepared to protect my farm, I’d never met half these people in my life, they didn’t know me from a bar of soap, but they were there to help me to protect my farm, my neighbours farm and our community that they are a part of.”
The resounding success of this grassroots film shows that it is not only a wonderful work of art, but also a reminder of the amazing things that can happen when communities get together.
By Katherine Smyrk.