Each year, on the first sitting day of the Victorian parliament, Friends of the Earth hosts a community gathering outside the building to remind the parliament that the community want to see meaningful action on climate, energy and environment.
This year, the focus was on the need to urgently protect native forests from logging. On Tuesday the 7th of February community groups came together to rally for forests.
The people who gathered, from a range of forest protection groups across the state, sent a strong message that they want to see an immediate end to native forest logging in Victoria. The overwhelming majority of Victorians want to see forests protected, for biodiversity, climate, fire prevention and First Nations culture.
There were some strong speeches from folk working in their communities on specific forest issues threatening their local forests.
The crowd heard from Sue McKinnon from Kinglake Friends of the Forest (KFF), who spoke about the greater glider case court case that she and her group have been tirelessly working on for the past few years to bring stronger protections for gliders and other threatened species.
She spoke to the issues of the industry claiming sustainability over their products and the significance of Victoria's forests for carbon storage in a climate crisis. She said "we have to face up to climate change, and the desperate need to keep carbon in the ground and in our incredibly carbon dense native forests. We have to stop driving species to extinction and become sustainable rather than just throwing that word around".
Robert Pergl from the Southern Dandenong Landcare Group spoke to the current situation out in the Dandenong national park where VicForests is planning to conduct a salvage logging operation for 'storm fallen timber' after the severe wind storms of 2022. He said that the landcare group began to monitor the recovery of these forests post storm event and could see a range of species were starting to recover. They have been meeting with relevant agencies responsible and hold the position that these works will be damaging to a recovering ecosystem. "The community don't want it, the people don't want it, and the environment doesn't need it".
A similar salvage logging operation situation was a focus of the rally, with concerned citizens from the Wombat Forest area surrounds in attendance to the rally.
We heard from Angela from the Wombat Forest Action Group (WAG). After years of campaigning, the community won a promise from the state government for a national park, only to have machines roll in to begin a storm fallen timber recovery program. Angela expressed the deep grief that many in the local community feel about this program.
Amy Calton from WAG who wasn't able to attend stated pre-rally "in June 2021, Wombat State Forest was hit by a severe wind storm. Vicforests' response to this natural disaster has been nothing short of an opportunistic log grab at the expense of a forest which is promised to be National Park. As parliament recommences for 2023, ending the exploitation of community, country and climate by the logging industry must be a priority".
The 7th February marked the anniversary of the Black Saturday bushfires, Steve Meacher from Friends of Leadbeaters Possum spoke to the significance of that day and the urgent need to end native forest logging to keep our communities safer from future fires and so that the environment can thrive. He spoke to the long fight of the movement and the strong will of forest campaigners to see this long campaign finally be won.
It was clear to the crowd and speakers that the industry is currently on its knees and now is a perfect time to end logging. Those present were calling on the new environment minister Ingrid Stitt to act immediately and create a legacy by ending the logging and bringing forward the transition.
A number of MP’s, including all the Greens MPs, also joined the crowd, holding banners and signs in support of ending the logging.
Lastly, Alana Mountain from Friends of the Earth Melbourne who organised the rally, highlighted the importance of joining together with a shared voice. “There is deep strength and resilience within the forest protection community, and when we fight together, we can win”. It was a great day, full of positive energy and hope for the future of forests.
If you haven't already, you can sign our joint letter to the Minister Stitt here calling for an immediate end to logging (please check here to sign).
The rally attendees gathered on Wurundjeri Country, and we pay our respects to the First Nations people of the land. Sovereignty was never ceded, and it was acknowledged that now is a difficult time for mob across the country. Allyship was encouraged as well as seeking to connect more deeply to the land in order to cultivate a relationship of reciprocity.
PHOTOS Matt Hrkac