May 9, 2016

Newcastle breaks free from fossil fuels – climate change key election issue

Newcastle,  8 May 2016 3:30pm: Climate change was well and truly put on the agenda as an election issue today as thousands of Break Free protestors shut down any coal from entering and exiting the Port of Newcastle.

Photos and videos from event:

Participants, including over 150 Pacific Islanders, indigenous Australians, Hunter residents and people from around the country, created a flotilla of vessels on the harbour, stopping coal ships from entering or exiting the Harbour. More than 200 kayaks have entered the harbour to block coal ships from leaving the port.

Meanwhile, protesters are still occupying the coal rail line at Sandgate in Newcastle. More than 65 protesters dressed in white overalls have blocked the coal line that connects the coal mines in the Hunter Valley with the port, with 50 currently arrested.  The group walked onto the rail bridge after first ensuring that rail traffic had been safely halted.

Coming from all around Australia, people felt compelled to take part in today’s peaceful actions having seen our government repeatedly refuse to act on climate change.

“It should never have gotten to the point where people all over the world have to fight their governments to protect the future of our planet, but that’s the point we’re at,” protester Amanda Jean said.

“This is the point of desperation. We need to switch to renewable energy before it’s too late. Now an election has been called, we need to see genuine climate leadership from our elected and aspirational leaders.”

Zane Sikulu, 350 Pacific Sydney Coordinator

“As the big brother nation in this region, Australia should not be investing in the expansion of the fossil fuel industry because that is also an investment in the continued destruction of the pacific. Climate change is a threat to the lives, culture and land of the Pacific people. We will not sit by as countries across the world continue to invest in the expansion of the industry that is contributing so much to the destruction of our homes.”

Nicola Bowskill: Newcastle resident

“As a Newcastle resident, I know our city was built on coal, but it’s future doesn’t need to be. Our government needs to provide a serious transition plan to help regions like the Hunter that have traditionally relied on coal to forge a new economy. he transition away from fossil fuels is already underway, coal prices are plummeting and uptake of renewable energy is surging around the world. Without a transition plan in place, the Hunter will be left behind and our economy and communities will suffer. Newcastle has survived and thrived after BHP closed. It can do the same beyond coal.”

AnneMaree McLaughlin: Bulga local resident

“I live in the town of Bulga where the devastating effects of fossil fuels very real to me. We have seen our historical town and environment destroyed by a giant coal mine that is threatening the very future of where we live. As governments consistently refuse to stand up to the fossil fuel industry, it is up to ordinary Australians to come together, like we did today at Break Free and demand an end to coal, oil and gas that are polluting our planet, destroying communities and wrecking the climate.”

Tess Corkish: Youth engagement officer, Catholic Earthcare Australia

“Climate change is an issue of justice; those who have done the least to cause the problem will suffer the greatest and that is why, as a young Catholic, I am called to stand up for the poor and excluded. In order to cause the least suffering for others we must Break Free from fossil fuels. That’s why my parents and I are standing with Australians from all walks of life, and Catholics all over the world to demand a safe and just future. While young people like me have the most to lose from inaction, we also have the most to gain with a future free from fossil fuels.”


2015 was the hottest year ever recorded and the impacts of climate change are already being felt across Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is dying in front of our eyes; thousand year old trees have been incinerated in Tasmania, prolonged drought is devastating farms across the country.

Added to that, the fossil fuel industry faces an unprecedented crisis — from collapsing prices, massive divestments, a new global climate deal, and an ever-growing movement calling for change. The time has never been better for a just transition to a clean energy system.

Australia’s Break Free action in Newcastle is part of a global mobilisation taking place in  the first two weeks of May 13 countries, across 6 continents, that makes up the world’s largest wave of civil disobedience for the climate.


Break Free media contacts:

Cambell Klose 0490 436 948

Louise Fraser: 0438 993 068