Forest Protest & Activism

Old-growth-forest activism and protest in south-western Australia karri and jarrah forest against unsustainable logging. Protest campaigns depicted are Lane, Wattle, Gardner, Swarbrick and Boorara

These images document Western Australian activists and protestors against ancient forest logging from 1994 to 2003. They show some of the means used to delay logging operations and gain media coverage for the forest they loved. The protesters who lived in the forest camps tolerated primitive conditions; in winter cold, mud, smokey fires, burnt raw food and fines. This was despite the huge sums of money appropriated in their name by the self annointed "peak bodies" in Perth

The environment was the uhltimate concern for all humanity. The wanton destruction of the Karri forest was only one aspect of the current environmental disaster. It was our duty to act in whatever way we could, we were not powerless. But we did not act, now it is too late


forest protest, Dawn Vigil
Dawn Vigil Lane State Forest, October 1998 IR negative film
Defenders in circle at base of tree in which tree sitter is on the platform

Photograph of the dawn vigil at the end of the first stage of the Lane 01 West forest protest. The device at the top of the tree, about 40 metres high, is a platform on which a protester camps to protect a circle of forest with a radius of two tree heights, about 150 metres, with his or her body

Following this vigil at the base of a karri tree, in which a lone protester was left to protect the area, the main group of protesters withdrew to allow already fallen trees to be removed. The timber industry moved back in and immediately started to fall more trees. This sort of behavour by CALM (now DEC & FPC gave rise to the slogan "CALM Lies - Forest Dies"

Despite continued protest, concurrent with the Wattle Campaign, Lane 01W was totally destroyed to keep the Diamond Chip Mill and the Pemberton Timber Mill operating for just a few weeks

forest protest, Forest Watch
Banner at Lane State Forest, July 1998. IR neg

As a result of the forest campaigns I witnessed and photographed I developed respect for the dedication and courage of many of the defenders in their attempts to halt the timber industry's feeding frenzy


forest protest, Road Dragon,Wattle state forest
"Wompie" locked-on in road
dragon, November 1998

A road dragon was a device made of a mixture of concrete and metal into which a defender "locked on" by means of a dog chain looped around the wrist and latched inside the dragon using a dog chainclip. The logic for the mixture of concrete and metal is that you can't use a jack hammer on metal and an angle grinder won't work on concrete, Wattle SF, near South West Highway WA

forest protest, Road Dragon
One of the many variations on the tripod theme developed during the Wattle SF campaign, near South West Highway WA
December 1998

At Lane and Wattle I witnessed the steadily increasing arrogance, hostility and disregard for human safety shown by the Western Australian Dept. of Conservation and Land Management (now Dept of Envoronment and Conservation), the Logging Industry and their Police

forest protest, Penny in Road Dragon
Police, the timber industry and CALM discussing how to get Penny out of the dragon, Wattle SF, near South West Highway WA. December 1998
forest protest, Penny and log loader
Log loader being used to lift the dragon from the road with Penny's arm still locked into the device, Wattle SF, one of the most arrogant and stupid acts I have ever witnessed. Wattle State Forest WA, December 1998


forest protest, Stewart Patten
Stewart Patten, rigging tree platform, Gardner 08
Well actually, clowning around for the camera
8th April 1999
forest protest, Megastump
Peta and Debbie on the "Megastump", Gardner 08 State Forest, Chesapeake Road, Northcliffe WA. January 1999

The tree really was that big. The timber turned out to be useless and still lies on the forest floor.

Regarding the logging of Gardner 08 State Forest, Peter Beatty, CALM Planning Officer for this block stated "This [Gardner 08] was the most ancient and pristine area [of karri forest] we had. We decided to log it because the timber industry was locked out of Jane and Giblett Forests by protests."

The measured dimensions are; widest diameter 4.07 metre, circumference around butresses 14.03 metres


forest protest, Simon Two Dogs
Simon Two Dogs, Swarbrick, June 1999


forest protest, Boorara state forest

forest protest, Boorara state forest

forest protest, Boorara state forest, spider
Spider, Boorara State Forest May 2000


forest protest, rally leaf

forest protest, OGF rally
OGF Rally, rear of Perth Concert Hall, "Umbrellas Rally" July 1998
forest protest, Wastefarmers

Peter Murphy in "Wastefarmers (Westfarmers) costume
Swarbrick rally, Thompson Road WA, July 1999. (IRneg)

forest protest, Bare Bums
"Bare Bums" protest Hay Street Mall, Perth WA December 1999
(Photograph by Debbie Ludlam for John Austin)


forest protest, Baby Quokka
Quokkas, baby quokka found in dead mother's pouch on Graphite Road west of Manjimup ajacent to Andrew State Forest, 29 August 2005

Infant quokka found in dead mother's pouch on Graphite Road west of Manjimup ajacent to Andrew State Forest, 29 August 2005As the female quokka's body still gave warmth I took the mother with the infant quokka inside to CALM Manjimup where a CALM/DEC Wildlife Officer, removed the baby quokka from the pouch. It was passed to Lesley Harrison, a qualified animal carer in Northcliffe

The history of CALM/DEC, Forest Products Commission (FPC), logging and quokkas is tragic. Hardly any mention was made of these animals until the Northcliffe Environment Centre raised the mainland quokka to government and public attention by protesting the logging of a locally known quokka habitat in Nairn 06 State Forest in 2003. Fox and feral pig predation increases following easier access due to habitat destruction

On a positive note serious attempts are now being made by the local Landcare Group and DEC to attempt to eliminate feral pigs and foxes in the Northcliffe area

Nairn 06 State Forest Quokka Colony

During preparations to log Nairn 06 State Forest I saw and documented two live and eight dead quokkas on Wheatley Coast Road adjacent to Nairn 06 during road building by Forest Products Commission (FPC) in preparation for clearfelling. I believe it is fair to assume these animals were fleeing the disturbance or fox incursion resulting from the disturbance

Protest in Nairn 06 State Forest against
FPC logging of a quokka colony

On the 3rd of March 2003 members of the Northcliffe Environment Centre (NEC) gathered at first light in Nairn 06 State Forest to peacefully object to the willful destruction of the quokka habitat. The photographs show the events from soon after the NEC arrival at Nairn 06 at first light to the removal of protesters by police at about 0900am

forest protest, CALM kills Quokkas
Quokka protest, members of Northcliffe Environment Centre with banners. The banner to left of picture reads "CALM KILLS QUOKKAS March 2003
forest protest, formal notification
Quokka protest, Forest Products Officer delivering the formal notice for Northcliffe Environment Centre members to leave Nairn 06 State Forest Logging Coupe in order for logging to take place. March 2003
forest protest, Peta's arrest
Quokka protest,arrest of Peta Sargison at Nairn 06, March 2003
forest protest, Jess and Wyll
Quokka protest, arrest of Jessica Sargison-Kennedy and 6 month old son Wyll, March 2003
forest protest, Pat's arrest
Quokka protest, immediately prior to arrest of a 76 year old great grandmother March 2003

The seven protesters blocking the road varied in age from 6 months to a 76 year old great grandmother. They were all removed by police and charged with Hindering A awful Activity. Even I Photographer was arrested

Personal notes on this documentation

I settled in Quinninup in the Australian south west karri forest in 1994 intending to work with black & white photography in a contemplative manner. However, I quickly realised the truth of the destruction to the local environment. There was nothing quiet and contemplative about the forest. The result of this reasisation was that much of my black and white photographic output for the following ten years was documentation of the destruction and defense of the remnants of the once magnificent south west Australian forests

This forest activism documentation is unique, no one else has comprehensive photographic coverage of the Western Australian forest protest


October 2010

The Gallop Labor Government was swept to power in 2000 on their promise to end old growth logging. They did not end old growth logging and never intended to. Their promises were those of politicians and were cynical lies in the extreme

The mechanism to fool the public was to invent new national parks from large swaths of "low yield" non-production forest and already cleared forest areas. In the meantime logging of any old growh remnants has continued unabated. However, Gallop and Co are politicians so this is precisely what I expected

What still sits in my craw is the equally cynical profiteering by the environmental "peak bodies". These organisations used information control for power, dictated from an assumed hierarchical position, disregarded valuable local information and grabbed any and all available money, using the vast majority of it for anything other than forest protection

15th February 2009
The Madness Continues

With global warming running away and changing our land to a more fireprone environment the stupidity of ancient forest logging continues

Pemberton log truck
Two Log Trucks with old growth forest
Pemberton, 30th January 2009 © John Austin 2009
Pemberton log truck
Log Truck with old growth forest
Pemberton, 13th February 2009 © John Austin 2009

8th June 2008

Logging to extinction of the south west karri forests of Western Australia continues. These two photographs were taken 3 minutes and 10 seconds apart, according to the camera's EXIF data

Both were taken in the main street of Pemberton, a dreary little south west Western Australian town dominated by a timber mill

In response to a question from England regarding this item. Clearfelling is continuing in Western Australian forests, despite the promises made prior to the 2001 Western Australian election. The WA Labor Government's claim thatlogging has ceased in old growth forest is based on the WA Department of Environment and Conservation DEC reclassification of the remaining ancient forest, or anything else that contained big trees, as "two tier", making it available to the WA Forest Products Commission FPC for clearfelling

Pemberton log truck

Pemberton log truck
Design by CCC
Coding by KarriCountry