Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This is the first time - in 71 years of living, and about 40 years of stirring on social justice issues - that I've participated in a public protest.

I'm not 'that kind of person', but this gross injustice has got me wound up.

Being a clergyman, I'm generally treated with respect, sometimes with deference. So it's an interesting experience to be ignored by passers-by as if I were a lamp-pole. Our 'special advisor' Simon Moyle told us to expect anything - including being spat on, or even roughed up.

The West Melbourne police were terrific. They were there just after 6 am to greet us, and drove by - even waved - a couple of times during the Vigil. As someone said to radio station 3AW, these 'grey-haired protesters are unlikely to cause trouble'. The Federal Police also came by at least once (that we know of) and made sure we were not causing trouble to the 3rd or 4th highest-ranking politician in the country!

The media coverage, given that this was our first attempt at a public demonstration, was excellent. Special mention must be made of Barney Zwartz of The Age. How he did the research for his article on Dawn, plus write three or four other articles on Easter-themes over two days, beats me.

About 150 people turned up to help. We got about 1000 signatures on petitions, handed out about 5000 leaflets. Rev. Alan Marr (General Superintendent of the Baptist Union) and I made separate contacts with Lindsay Tanner's staff-members. ('He doesn't talk to those for whom he is considering a waiver of debts to the Commonwealth': I presume that also included the Governor-General who had a tax-debt waived).

The responses from people on the street were interesting. One young party-goer did a rap-dance for us. Another said 'That sucks!' when told what it was all about. Another 'sloshed' night-clubber offered to break a few windows for us! A couple of legal people said 'Issuing costs against the innocent party, and letting the guilty party off scot-free, is not supposed to happen in our legal system!'

When it was all over, a few of us adjourned to hot-cross buns and coffee at the West Melbourne ('Eighth Day') Baptist Church up the road. (The nearer evangelical Anglican Church wasn't interested in us). Gary Heard put together a very thoughtful service, inviting us to ask 'Where am I in the story of Good Friday?' Until now, I said to myself in the silent reflection-time, I'd be an anonymous person in the crowd, or at best I'd find out a few things for myself at night in secret as Nicodemas did. But in this situation I've moved towards engaging the Powers, as did Joseph of Arimathea.

I don't know a more worthy cause than this one. Why it would take nearly a year for Lindsay Tanner to issue a directive waiving Dawn's costs (as recommended by his colleague Jenny Macklin) is beyond my comprehension. It makes good political sense; it melds with the Labor Party's avowed 'social justice' stance; and it would save Lindsay Tanner from the negative news coverage he'll continue to receive on this story. We're now planning weekly 'rolling vigils' until this matter is settled. Feel free to join us!

Rowland Croucher

Easter 2009

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