In August, 2023, Victorian ALP members passed new laws and increased penalties for people participating in community action within logging coupes. These laws are part of a national trend aimed at chilling protest for climate, Country and the environment.
Since their inception, GECO has been leading the fight in Victoria against them. Even with logging ending by 2024, the ongoing persistence of these laws risks extension to other movements.
We must call for their repeal.
On the day these laws came into effect, GECO organised four major unions to send an open letter to the Premier - CFMMEU's Maritime Union of Australia (Vic branch), The Australian Services Union Authorities and Services (Vic Tas branch), United Workers Union, and the Australian Services Union Private Sector. In it they stated:
The Bill wrongly locates workplace risk in the democratic right to protest. Any stripping away of the right to protest eventually finds its way to further limiting workplace action. Already Australia has some of the most restrictive laws around industrial action in the world. In the context of a climate crisis, the right to protest must be advanced not diminished."
We are deeply concerned that the bill is disproportionate, lacks sufficient safeguards and oversight, and makes a mockery of psycho-social safety in the workplace.
The letter, subsequently published by the Guardian, can be read in full here.
Godfrey Moase, United Workers Union, at GECO's mass meeting.
Image by Trudy Photography
GECO held a mass meeting on March 7th, 2023, to build confidence within the environment movement to continue to organise for forests, despite increasing repression. Guest speakers included Godfrey Moase - United Workers Union Executive and co-founder of CoPower, Marjorie Thorpe - senior Djap Wurrung woman and Gunnai elder, and Natalie Hogan - Ecosystems lawyer from Environment Justice Australia.
Around 100 participants came in person, with 30 more joining online. 5 motions were passed including the below - passing with 98% support:
This meeting commits to participating in a state-wide action for forests, either in the form of citizen science or other forms of non-violent direct action, to protect native forests, including from disaster logging.
GECO facilitated over 200 people across the state to join a mass citizen science action on the day the anti-protest laws came into effect. Flora and fauna surveys took place in Wombat State Forest, Toolangi, Alberton West, Powelltown, and Colquhoun forest in East Gippsland. Over 130 plant and fungi observations were recorded on the iNaturalist app with people risking up to $11,095.20 in fines each for finding species in a Timber Harvesting Safety Zone. Fines up to $22,000 or a year gaol term apply for having a prohibited device within these areas now as well.
Wombat State Forest, including four Greens MPs standing with the community.