We Won at Goolarabooloo
School Strike for Climate has grown into a very large movement
An older couple at a protest
Nicola presenting at one of many training workshops
Seaspray won their campaign against frackers
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What we learned over more than 15 years of training people for direct action and peaceful protest is that nonviolence means many things to many people.

What is nonviolence?

To some it is a philosophy, and a way of life. To others it can be a pragmatic set of guidelines we agree on for safer actions. And others view strategic nonviolence as critical to how we have, and will continue to, change the world for the better.

There is a huge body of work to dive into, if you wish to learn more about how nonviolent conflict can shape campaigns, movements and countries. We highly recommend the one month course and resource library at the International Centre for Nonviolent Conflict

We have found in the context of working across the continent that in every single room there will be people with differing ideas of what violence even is. Is it breaking down a fence, snipping a wire? Simply the act of physical aggression? Is it emotional and psychological violence?

Agreeing on acceptable behaviour

When we work together in groups for large or small actions, what is most important tends to be what we agree will be OK, on that day, in terms of how we behave. That is one reason why some groups use participants agreements. For broader campaigns it’s very useful to understand civil resistance and nonviolence strategy.

Our perspective and values at CounterAct tended to lean towards pragmatic/strategic nonviolent action. It has proven effective in our current political landscape, and demonstrated via research and analysis worldwide. 

Expanding the movement

We welcome the work of academics such as Erica Chenoworth getting more attention via the emergence of Extinction Rebellion. However widespread citing that 3.5% of the population is necessary to tip social issues needs deeper exploration.

Importantly, we also acknowledge and support the resistance of First Nations people – both in the early Frontier Wars on this continent of Aboriginal nations. We believe peoples worldwide have a right to self defence and we do not value property over lives. There are a huge diversity of movements and campaigns to draw inspiration from, from:

  • the Zapatistas, to the suffragettes – whose militant tactics would be a one way ticket to jail these days.
  • people’s uprisings in Georgia, Serbia, India to land rights struggles back at home.
  • the youth of school strike to raging nanas and Quakers who destroy military equipment.

We have a brave, diverse, creative global history to learn from.

We have a lot more to come on this in mid 2024 - but here is a taster.

Recommended Reading

We have often drawn from previous campaigns and resistance camps in our trainings and presentations – and there is much to be learned from successful movements for change on this continent and elsewhere.

The campaign to defend Kakadu rainforest on Mirrar country in the NT in the late 1990s was very powerful and involved action groups in cities as well as frontline resistance to the uranium mine – Check out the Jabiluka blockade handbook

Another campaign in defence of country and culture that we supported was the battle to save Walmadan/James Price Point in the stunning Kimberley region that won in 2013 – you can check our case study, or have a look at the booklet we co-created with Traditional Custodians and activists on ground – original booklet, and celebration wraparound

There myriad campaigns that have used nonviolent direct action for climate, environment, racial and social justice in the last 50 years on this continent and we look forward to adding more mid 2024.

Here are some accessible resources for learning more

We look forward to adding more in mid 2024, and will be writing a batch of new resources for nonviolent direct action trainers. In the meantime - you can check out this excellent tagged content section that we have contributed to from our friends at The Commons Library - who have curated a great series for trainers from another of our favourite sites, Beautiful Trouble