Friends of the Earth podcast history series made in collaboration with 3CR 855 AM community radio show Acting Up! Monday 2.00pm. Ratbags, peaceniks and agents of change, resistance radio that explores the movements that made us.
Listen up mp3
Presenters: Em Gayfer and Megan Williams
Guests: Trish Luker (Chain Reaction magazine), Lyn Harriott and Beth Mellick, (former FOE bookshop coordinators), and Sam Castro (FOE Gender Justice working group)
International Women’s Day March, Melbourne
This episode looks back to the feminist and LGBTQ history of Friends of the Earth and the intersections informing our actions today. From the 1970s onwards, Friends of the Earth stood in solidarity for Indigenous land rights, women and gay rights, peace and conservation movements, shaping our policies and practices. Keep reading to find out how to join Friends of the Earth and support our social, economic and environmental justice campaigns.
Key moments: Friends of the Earth Queer & Feminist History
1972 The first Friends of the Earth group in Australia is formed in Adelaide, one of a number of organisations that grow out of a group called Social Action.
1973 Friends of the Earth Melbourne is established out of growing public awareness of ecology, Indigenous land rights, and the women's and gay liberation movements. FOE forms a radical grassroots environmental action-based collective, with a non-hierarchical structure, standing for social and environmental justice.
1974 Friends of the Earth Australia is founded at a meeting on French Island in Westernport Bay, Victoria, the site of a proposed nuclear reactor. FOE Australia identifies itself as a radical ecology group recognising the need to move to sustainable and equitable social systems to protect the environment long term.
1975 FOE Melbourne’s first Food Co-operative and a bookshop is established as a community space selling feminist, lesbian and queer texts and protest merch.
Collective, consensus decision-making processes are developed into FOE policies.
1978 A women's edition of FOE’s national magazine, Chain Reaction, is published including articles on sexism in the environment movement, women at work, feminism, sexism and the nuclear industry. A letter to Chain Reaction notes that FOE Sydney and Melbourne are mostly male but, "joyfully non-oppressive".
1980s Mark Carter, co-founder of the Food Justice Centre, and Leigh Holloway, Gay Rights activist, oversee production of Chain Reaction magazine. FOE shifts to targeted solidarity campaigning with the rise of the Food Justice Centre, the movement against apartheid, links with liberation struggles in Latin America, and campaigns on Australian Indigenous rights, feminist, gay and conservation issues.
1982 Chain Reaction magazine publishes debates on internal matters of the environment movement, including feminism and Socialism. In a series of articles in Chain Reaction, women write that, "the environment movement over the last 10 years has continually failed to examine sexism within its internal structures". Denise Chevalier writes on behalf of FOE Collingwood stating, "we, the women at Friends of the Earth, have fought hard for what we have achieved. We have far more women than men working with us. The women are now at the fore in the decision making in all our campaigns".
Chain Reaction magazine covers social issues, including food politics, workers' health, women's employment in the service sector, and Aboriginal land rights and mining. Chain Reaction’s editorial team grows, including Eileen Goodfield who dedicates more than six years to the magazine, with equal collective involvement by women and men and free child care provided to people working on the magazine.
FOE evolves into a diverse and vibrant network of groups working at the local, regional, national and international level. There are 20 local groups and FOE Australia adopts a new constitution marking a shift in the way FOE operates towards local activity and greater strategic engagement with other social movements.
1983 FOE's emphasis on social justice was not appreciated by everyone. "I am dismayed at the shift in Chain Reaction from environmental towards social/political issues such as feminism and homosexuality", wrote one reader. There is broad agreement that social justice issues remain at the core to FOE’s work.
1986 Chain Reaction forms a new collective including Eileen Goodfield, Fran Callaghan, and Clare Henderson. During the late 1980s, against the backdrop of the cold war and nuclear proliferation, peace and disarmament are the focus of FOE campaigns.
1990 FOE’s first Radioactive Exposure Tour in South Australia educates people about the social and environmental impacts of the nuclear industry.
FOE activists regularly protest the introduction of university HECS fees, uranium mining, forest logging and women’s rights, as the international eco-feminist movement rises.
1998 FOE works with Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta senior Aboriginal women, the Kungkas, fighting the Federal government's plan to build a national radioactive waste dump in South Australia.
2003 FOE nominates the Kungkas for the prestigious Goldman Environmental Award, commonly referred to as the 'green Nobel prize'. The senior Aboriginal women from northern South Australia win the major international environment prize for their efforts to stop radioactive waste dumping on their traditional lands.
2004 FOE's Radioactive Exposure Tour meets up with senior Aboriginal woman from the Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta days after the Howard government abandons plans to impose a nuclear waste dump in SA.
2013 CounterAct is welcomed as a new affiliate member of FOE, supporting communities to take effective, creative, strategic non-violent direct action on issues of environmental and social justice.
2014 Beth Cameron, co-ordinator of FOE Melbourne’s Food Co-op celebrates 25 years of working for the organisation, and is acknowledged at the Yarra Sustainability Awards.
2019 Friends of the Earth international commits to work for gender justice throughout our federation and to dismantle patriarchy in our societies. FOE recognises grassroots, anti-capitalist feminism as a key theoretical concept and political tool in the fight for women's autonomy, equality between women and men, and between people and nature.
2020 Friends of the Earth Melbourne: mobilise - resist – transform