Fighting for our forests

I’m spoilt for trees. I’m spoilt for greenery. I soak it up every day. I feel incredibly fortunate to be living in the subtropical Northern Rivers of NSW, on the edge of the wonderful Nightcap National Park. The park is part of the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. 

It was 42 years ago that protesters, many of whom, such as Hugh and Nan Nicholson, are still active in my local community, stood in front of bulldozers in a landmark action to successfully save the Terania Creek rainforest. This was after years of campaigning.

It is now regarded as a watershed moment in Australia’s environmental movement – believed to be the first time that people physically put themselves in danger to save our natural environment. It’s not only all the tourists who drive through our little village to do the Protesters Falls walk, or locals like me, who are grateful.

In a 2019 ABC News report, local Bundjalung woman Rhoda Roberts, although a child at the time, talked of what it meant to her people, who were then still living under the Aborigines Protection Act.

“Our people were very frightened, so to have a group of people who arrived on country and were determined to love that environment, from our perspective, was incredibly new.”

Ms Roberts said the big scrub, which includes Terania Creek, is a ‘storybook’ place where knowledge is exchanged among generations.

“I’m indebted now because my children and the coming children … when we travel our territories, we still have a sample of land that we know has been there since time immemorial,” she said.”I pay my greatest respects to everyone who was involved in Terania Creek because you saved country for us, and we are all benefiting from that.”

I too am indebted, but we are among the lucky ones up here to have the forest turned into national park. It is incredible to realise many communities around the country are still fighting to save their forests that continue to be turned into woodchip by foreign companies. These are forests that do not need to be logged as our plantation timber industry provides enough hardwood and softwood to satisfy Australia’s needs and still export large quantities. The story is the same for many indigenous people the world over.

This issue is focussed on trees and forests – how valuable they are to the planet, to our wildlife, to our gardens, to fight the climate crisis, and just to add beauty to our lives. How we must not take them for granted and sometimes we have to fight hard to save them.


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By: Steve Payne

First published: June 2021

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