It was through the hardworking Farmers for Climate Action that we first came into contact with Methuen Morgan and Dave Mailer, two blokes with a lot of farming experience behind them not to mention academic teaching positions at University in New England. Their quickly expanding business is Meralli Solar where they instal solar farms in the smaller 5 – 15 MW range of the market. They do this with private investment and no government subsidies and their business case is that subsidies aren’t needed given the economics these days of producing electricity from solar as opposed to burning coal. If subsidies are available, they reckon they’re far better directed at large battery development and deployment. They’re also adamant that regional and rural Australia is ripe for this business: the sun is there, the land is there and there are plenty of keen workers in every town and region they set up their solar farms in. Afterglow was able to film their latest solar farm, Meralli’s fourth, which is an hour west of Moree. The astoundingly short installation time (generally half to two thirds of what other solar farms take) is due to the German-developed peg system which requires no concreting or heavy structures and then’s there the and efficiency of these solar farms which is all about densely-packed photovoltaic panels. Their next project is down in Port Pirie, SA. This is something we can take heart from, finally some good news in a political enviroment where mainstream politicians are just so ineffective.
Together with Oxfam Afterglow has been working with the Yuin indigenous community on a campaign to regain their traditional fishing rights. Since commercial fishing licenses and bag limits for non-professionals were introduced in the ’70s, Aboriginal communities on the NSW South Coast have been unable to feed their mob and make a living from fishing.
The unusually high rates of illness, joblessness and substance abuse is often attributed by indigenous locals to their being locked out of the industry. There is also an unusually high degree of harassment by local authorities and many community members have been charged and sentenced for exceeding bag limits. In some cases, indigenous elders aged 70 and over have been imprisoned for months at a time for exceeding their bag limit just so they can feed their families.
It’s compelling listening to their stories and over a number of visits to the Moruya/Narooma area we’ve gathered filmed testimonials of many of these cases and edited a number of short profile videos as well as stories about innovations like the first ever native title fishing card which community members can show to Fisheries and police officers to prove they’re legally entitled to catch fish. The South Coast Aboriginal Fishing Group has used the videos as part of their appeal to politicians, bureaucracy, the general community and the media to overturn laws, regulations and practices that are unmistakably discriminatory.
The videos and the campaign have been having an effect with arrests down and no recent gaol charges handed out for fishing offences. With that success the community is now moving ahead with a range of enterprises like abalone farming and cultural water cruises for tourists which will provide training and meaningful work for local indigenous people.
And that, dear readers, is probably one of the sweetest successes we at Afterglow have experienced.
It’s three steps forward and two steps back in international progress on global warming. Recently the Edmund Rice Centre’s program, Pacific Calling Partnership, brought out two young fiery campaigners from Kiribati who have first hand experience of rising sea levels. Watch Tinaai and Vasiti’s message here and pass on the link to anybody who’s in doubt about the science.
The HARDA film project, New Land New Life, has led to other mini-projects for East African communities here and abroad. Our current project is collecting and sending used PCs to our friend Girma Dabi’s old school 100km south of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Here’s Girma packing up his work ute with 50 computers donated by Sydney Grammar school.
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