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Mums for Mother Earth

Extinction Rebellion offshoot Mother’s Rebellion rally for climate action.

Photo by Yvette Campitelli-Slee

It was another cold August morning in Melbourne and the city was waking up to chilling winds and cloudy skies. 

But outside the National Gallery of Victoria, a bright pink banner cut through the grey.

It read ‘Mother’s Rebellion for Climate Justice’.

On the 19th of August, over a dozen women braved the cold and rallied for climate action outside the NGV as part of the Mother’s Rebellion movement.

Every month mums, aunties, sisters, grandmothers, and allies have been meeting here to sing and chant, encouraging pedestrians to stop and take notice of their protest.

The group assembles as part of the Extinction Rebellion (XR) offshoot, Mother’s Rebellion.

But before organisers were able to commence their demonstration on this morning, NGV security had already issued a warning about blocking walkways.

The response from the group was, “If you have an issue, call the police.”

Mother, great-aunt and XR Darebin member, Leslie Fraser said, “this is seen as a public space, we’re not impeding on the pedestrians on the footpath and we’re certainly not blocking the road.”

Mother’s Rebellion focuses on peaceful demonstration, contrasting the more notable and disruptive Extinction Rebellion displays.

“It is peaceful… There is something very powerful about sitting in a circle peacefully and doing public singing. It is very motivational and moving,” Fraser said.

Photo by Yvette Campitelli-Slee

XR performance activism groups, Sybil Disobedience, and the Climate Choir, were also in attendance to promote this attitude.

“We’re peaceful and united; we’re here for your children too. We want to be non-violent. Oh, how about you?” the Climate Choir sang.

Protesters held signs and sang for an hour between 11am and noon.

Many families passed by group on the busy Saturday morning, and children danced to the Climate Choir as their parents had lunch at the Art Centre café.

Viola Rosario, XR member and first-time Mother’s Rebellion attendee, said “Extinction Rebellion has this love and rage.”

“What we’re fighting for is life and dance, song, beauty, colour. They are the things that make us feel more alive.”

The demonstration was also livestreamed via Extinction Rebellion’s social media.

Dr Catherine Strong, a spokesperson and XR member, was the one capturing the event.

“The idea of this particular action is that a mother’s love is something that can be brought to help protect and stand between destruction and the life of the world,” Dr Strong said.

“We need everybody to be coming out and joining us because the more people just sit back and hope that somebody else is going to fix the issue, the harder it’s going to be to get any real change to take place.”

This idea was echoed by the guest speaker at August 19th rally, Eco Security theorist Dr Elisabeth Boulton.

Dr Boulton developed the world’s first climate and ecologically centred security strategy called ‘PLAN E’ and her speech described its importance.

Dr Boulton, who is an aunt to seven, said PLAN E is a “bold approach to the mess we find ourselves in”.

It aims to address the “hyper-threat” of climate change and environmental degradation from a defence and security perspective.

Dr Boulton’s PLAN E has two main objectives.

“First, the Federal budget allocates funding for the development of a Planetary Crisis Response Plan… Think of the Defence budget, the fact that not one dollar is allocated to this is absolutely atrocious,” Dr Boulton said.

“Second, at the diplomatic level, Australia seeks to establish a Planetary Crisis Peace Treaty in our region, including with China. These two steps are the least that’s owed to the next generation.”

Cheers erupted as Dr Boulton finished her speech and she rejoined the circle of women.

But at this same moment, the voice of a heckler criticising the Mother’s Rebellion protest and their demands drowned out some of the applause.

“What’s funny is that you believe this stuff,” he said.

There was no reaction from the protestors who began to sing with the Climate Choir, and the heckler moved on.

Leslie Fraser said Extinction Rebellion receives criticism from the public because of “how the issue is framed in the media”.

“The way they have us tagged at the moment is that we disrupt, we are disruptive, we are ratbags, we disrupt the public going about their legitimate business and we disrupt emergency workers,” she said.

Viola Rosario agrees that the media can misrepresent climate action protests.

“It’s really quite hard for the media to be able to present the pain with that touch of hope… that love is the response to the pain. It is sad to think about climate breakdown, but all we have is love and care,” Rosario said.

Photo by Yvette Campitelli-Slee

But Mother’s Rebellion will not be deterred, vowing to continue to meet outside the NGV the second Saturday of each month.

With groups in 25 countries around the world and new attendees in Melbourne each month, it is clear the movement is growing.

The Climate Choir closed out the protest as the group dispersed.

“Mother’s going to rise like the water. We’re going to face this crisis now. We hear the voices of our children, signing climate justice now,” they sang.


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