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Why standing up for Standing Rock matters in the Northern Rivers: a Thursday Night Live conversation


Sharlene King
10 July 2018

The Standing Rock protests in the US against the construction of 1886 kilometre underground oil pipeline has garnered international support. Part of the proposed pipeline cuts through contested Indian Sioux territory and there are concerns a leak could have severe environmental impacts.

While the Northern Rivers has a history of political activism - stretching back to 70s with saving the Terania Creek rainforests through to the CSG-free protests at Bentley just a few years ago - the Dakota Access Pipeline is 14,000 kilometres away from here. Coinciding with ‘Angus Mordant: Standing Rock’ photographic exhibition currently at the Lismore Regional Gallery, this month’s Thursday Night Live! – at 6pm on July 12 – provocation asks: ‘Standing Up for Standing Rock – Why Does it Matter To Us?’

Presented by the Lismore Regional Gallery and Southern Cross University, Thursday Night Live! is a monthly talks program putting critical, thought-provoking topics in the spotlight.

The panellists are Dr Shawn Wilson, an Opaskwayak Cree from northern Manitoba, Canada and Southern Cross University academic; human rights activist Dr Cristy Clark from the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross; and Elly Bird, a Lismore City councillor and one of the leaders of the Gasfield Free Northern Rivers campaign.

Property law scholar Associate Professor John Page, also from the School of Law and Justice at Southern Cross, will facilitate the discussion.

Dr Shawn Wilson said with Standing Rock evolving into an international protest movement, it called into question the difference between a protestor and someone who is defending themselves from a home invasion.

“In the West we have partially embraced the concept ‘free and informed consent’, with the exception of when there is a corporate profit to be made: then we all become aware of how profit outweighs any balance between risk and benefit – especially when that risk is diffused. So corporate profit comes ahead of risks to the environment, community cohesion, or cultural continuity.

“But when a community stands up for themselves against the government or big corporations, how is it framed in the media?  Are they defending themselves and their homes - or are they protesters pushing their own agenda?” said Dr Wilson.

Dr Cristy Clark’s research focus is the intersection of human rights, neoliberalism, activism and the environment, and on issues of legal geography and the commons.

“Here in Australia, we can no longer afford to remain complacent about our human rights, especially those such as water which depend on our environment," said Dr Clark.

“We have to remain vigilant against development that has the potential to cause ecosystem collapse.”

Associate Professor John Page said Standing Rock represented more than a pipeline protest.

“Standing up for Standing Rock invokes diverse calls to action, whether it’s standing up for democracy, standing up for community, the right to a healthy environment, the right to clean water, or Indigenous sovereignty and land rights. These provocations and more will be explored this Thursday evening. We look forward to seeing you at Thursday Night Live!



Thursday Night Live!

Thursday June 12 at 6pm – 7.30pm. Free event.

Venue: Lismore Regional Gallery, 11 Rural Street Lismore, NSW

* This is an Auslan Interpreted event

* This is a wheelchair accessible event

Thursday Night Live! is presented by Lismore Regional Gallery and Southern Cross University.


Panellist/facilitator biographies

Associate Professor John Page

Dr John Page is an Associate Professor of the School of Law and Justice and Deputy Head of School (Research) at Southern Cross University. He is a scholar of property law and property theory, and author of Property Diversity and its Implications (Routledge, 2017). His research interests include the nature of property rights in public lands and natural resources; property in diverse contexts; geographic, historic, and contemporary; and the intersection of property, human landscapes, and the environment. His current research focuses on a theorization of public property in land.

Dr Shawn Wilson

Dr Shawn Wilson Shawn Wilson is Opaskwayak Cree from northern Manitoba, Canada, and currently lives on Bundjalung land on the east coast of Australia. His research has helped to communicate the theories underlying Indigenous research methodologies to diverse audiences.  Through working with Indigenous people internationally, Shawn has applied Indigenist philosophy within the contexts of Indigenous education, health and counsellor education. In addition to further articulating Indigenous philosophies and research paradigms, his research focuses on the inter-related concepts of identity, health and healing, culture and wellbeing. His book, Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods is often cited for bridging understanding between western academia and traditional Indigenous knowledges. 

Dr Cristy Clark

Advocate, writer and scholar, Dr Cristy Clark is a Lecturer at the Southern Cross University School of Law and Justice, where she teaches human rights, and competition and consumer law. Cristy has a BA/LLB from the Australian National University and a Masters in International Social Development from UNSW. She did her PhD with the Australian Human Rights Centre at UNSW on the human right to water. Her research continues to focus on the intersection of human rights, neoliberalism, activism and the environment, and on issues of legal geography and the commons. She is especially interested in the power of communities to protect their local environment and water from development. Cristy is also CEO of the Feminist Writers Festival, which she founded in 2016.

Cr Elly Bird

Elly Bird is a Lismore City councillor and is one of the leaders of the Gasfield Free Northern Rivers campaign. Elly's role in the campaign began with organising one of the largest protest rallies ever seen in the region in 2012, and took her on an inspiring and immersive journey into a 'Category 4 Social Movement' that has deeply shaped our community identity. Elly took on the role of Northern Rivers Regional Coordinator after the historic win at the Bentley Blockade and oversaw the 2015 NSW state election campaign that resulted in an eleventh hour commitment from the incumbent member for Lismore to cancel the remaining gas licences that covered the Northern Rivers. Over the five years that she worked on the campaign she organised countless protest actions and community events, working tirelessly to support a huge movement of active community groups from Murwillumbah to Grafton. Elly has a deep commitment to community well-being that began with her work with LightnUp and the Lismore Lantern Parade, Lismore's much loved and internationally renowned signature event. That commitment is now evident in her work on Lismore City Council, and most recently as the driving force behind the grass roots community group 'Lismore Helping Hands', an awarding winning, community-led recovery initiative that formed in response to the devastating floods in Lismore in 2017.