Mass action at the Beeliar Wetlands - police surrounding fenced off demolition equipment

The Beeliar Wetlands stretch 25 kilometres south of the Swan River in Western Australia. Beeliar was the name given to the area by the Aboriginal people that have lived in the region for at least 40,000 years.

In response to a state government attempt to force a highway through the region, an extraordinary campaign rose up. It had been a long running issue, with local activists going back decades blockading the Farrington Road clearing in the 1980’s and formidable community campaigners have been active since then.

CounterAct was there for the last leg of a decades long effort in the final months, and remained all the way through to a beautifully joyous celebration when Barnett lost power. The campaign was won when the newly elected ALP government cancelled the Roe Highway extension project in 2017, however the larger struggle continues to permanently protect the urban green corridors remaining.

We supported, mentored and trained community activists. Many were first timers, supported by a few seasoned hands. One of the critical supports we brought to the campaign as “embedded activist support” was to be able to mentor new people, triage and troubleshoot problems as they arose, and importantly we stayed around for the hard work afterwards – documenting the police violence which shocked the community, and ensuring debrief processes happened and lessons were documented. (See our report on policing at Beeliar.)

Civil Disobedience

It was here at the Beeliar wetlands that one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in the history of WA took place. Hundreds of people pushed down a fence and walked into urban bushland on Wadjuk, Noongar country near Fremantle, Western Australia. They reclaimed the land that was to be bulldozed out of spite and malice.

The nonviolent direct action phase of the campaign to protect the Beeliar wetlands and urban bushland commenced in 2016. It was short and bitterly fought, culminating in the landslide election where Premier Barnett was thrashed and humiliated in March 2017.

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