Morning protest, 19th December, 2016 – The Beeliar Wetlands Protectors Camp

Words & Images by Jake Edwards

Roe 8 is an initiative from the State Government to ease freight passage to and from Fremantle Port complete with a toll. However, Roe 8 disregards native bushland and local flora and fauna because in order to build the road, native bushland and housing areas are being destroyed. The extension of Roe Highway was chosen despite other options including moving the port to Kwinana where the industry exists or building on existing rail to Fremantle Port.

This is an account by Jake Edwards, a local photographer.

The morning started as most mornings had at The Beeliar Wetlands Protectors Camp, the community congregated outside the fenced off bushland as contractors prepared their demolition equipment. A strong police presence between the two.

At first morale was high as songs were collectively sung and rhythmic chants echoed through the air as they were repeated, a warm community vibe was present with participants ranging from children through to the elderly. The police were relaxed but slowly increasing in size, horseback police patrolling the fence line, as fences being illegally pushed down or removed had become a common occurrence during heated protest.

At mid-morning a group sat under the shade of a large tree and listened to two Aboriginal community members who sung in native tongue, taught greetings such as “Kaya!”, and expressed their deep connection to the Beeliar land.

A beautiful community moment, strengthening the cause in the mind of all who listened. 

Photo: Jake Edwards

Photo: Jake Edwards

As the morning progressed we heard that demolition was about to begin a few hundred metres from the camp so a large group made its way to a spot along the fence outside this demolition.

What progressed was a very distressing scene for many as we witnessed large trees being pushed down and crushed in front of us, many of these trees visibly housing birds’ nests and clearly the homes to many variations of native fauna.

I made my way through the crowd, snapping pics as I drifted, some were crying, others consoling, others yelling in outrage. The high morale from earlier now felt like a distant thought. Police presence now tightening along the fence, fearing a heated protest, a long line of stern faces staring blankly at the community. I could hear one of the Aboriginal community members speaking directly to these policemen, questioning whether their inner beliefs may differ from their current orders. Many of the police seemed untouched by the harsh words, some however looked about to crack, a certain look in the eyes of a young officer, emotion. Before I could snap a pic this policeman was replaced with another. Shift change.

Days like this are becoming the norm in the Beeliar Wetlands region, police resources adding a hefty bill to the state, which is dividing the cause. Those who support the protest, and those who see construction as inevitable.

I have a personal interest in the conservation of these wetlands, therefore would certainly like to see the end of these Roe 8 extension plans. But regardless of my views, it is hard to understand the lack of Government interest in community opinion.

You only have to drive past the protectors camp, or see the many ‘Rethink The Link’ signs throughout Perth, to see how large of a community is against this construction. The people are speaking, but it seems that no one is listening.

Part 2 of the Roe 8 Beeliar Wetlands protest update coming soon.