Civil Disobedience - A Tool For Change

August 11, 2020

A well-functioning civil society is fundamental to democracy and the wellbeing of the people. The right of civilians to protest and campaign is a fundamental principle of democracy and often the catalyst for change. But what can citizens do when their leaders are ignoring conventional forms of objection, such as street marches, protests, petitions and letter writing? What can we do when we know the matter is critically important, that people’s lives and the future of the planet are in grave danger but our leaders have left the conversation/debate and locked us out?

“Civil disobedience is a public, non-violent and conscientious breach of law undertaken with the aim of bringing about a change in laws or government policies”
John Rawls

Human rights would not be where they are today without the brave actions of the civil rights movement, including civil disobedience. The Suffragettes were a group of women activists who stood up for women’s right to vote. In fact, the Suffragettes were the first activists to ‘lock on’, handcuffing themselves to public fixtures.  Rosa Parks refused to obey the law of surrendering her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Alabama and sparked nationwide change. Trade Unions have used civil disobedience to protect workers’ rights through strikes and boycotts.

Stopping the Franklin Dam on the Gordon River in Tasmania in the 1980’s was one of the most significant and successful environmental campaigns in Australian history. Protesters blockaded the Gordon River and 1,217 arrests were made for non-violent actions; Tasmania’s prisons were overflowing! Another iconic protest was the blockade at Jabiluka in Kakadu National Park. Protesters stopped the world’s largest high-grade uranium mine from going ahead. 5,000 protestors travelled across the desert to support this David & Goliath battle; 530 people were arrested for peaceful protest. The fight at Jabiluka has strong parallels with the ongoing epic battle to stop the mega coal mine in North Queensland. The Stop Adani campaign have been disrupting and slowing works for years by locking on to machinery, coal trains and blocking entrances.

Back here in Apollo Bay, part of OCEAN’s vision is to act boldly to protect our coast and country from unsustainable development. This will include civil disobedience if the action is strategic and non-violent and deemed necessary.

At the moment our State and Federal Governments are pushing ahead with a gas lead Covid recovery, despite condemnation from economists and scientists. This ill-fated ‘recovery’ will commit billions of tax payer dollars towards the expansion of gas mining of our Otway Basin and lock us into gas mining for another 30 years! This is a crucial time when our leaders can’t afford to get it wrong, we don’t have the time to waste nor the money.

Lisa Deppeler, Marengo for OCEAN


For Otway Climate Emergency Action Network, contact us to get involved and see more here.

oceanclimatenetwork (at) gmail (.) com 

OCEAN Supports Non Violent Civil Disobedience to Demand Urgent Action to Halt the Climate and Ecological Crisis

apollo bay radio