Let’s face it – you’ve got more chance of finding a leprechaun riding a unicorn while munching a four-leaf clover sandwich than hearing the words, “you know, I think Tony Abbott is pretty good for this country” uttered by anyone outside the mining industry.
Nestled snuggly in the warm and squishy comfort of Gina Rinehart’s pocket, Abbott is fast turning Australia into little more than one great open cast mine for the rest of the world to plunder.
It is our duty, as free-thinkers in a supposedly democratic country, as Australians, as sane human beings, to recognise unsustainable actions, to stand up for our health and welfare and to protect this country and this planet. It seems an impossible task to stem the tide of commerce and big industry and to stave off the advances of the mega-corporations. But small victories, such as we’ve seen just in the last week or so in Bentley and Tasmania, are possible. These offer hope and shine a light on the possibilities of a brighter future.
Malia Rouillon is a torch-bearer of this movement. She is a first-on-the-scene, loudest-voice-on-the-front-line kind of girl, one who, from a young age, has recognised the need to stand up and, through education and activism in equal measures, make that difference. Growing up in the hinterland behind Coffs Harbour, Malia’s pre-teen toes were often either caked in mud or bathed in the waves lapping the Coffs Coast.
“I grew up in the forest, in the hills of Coffs Harbour,” she reflects of her early years. “As soon as I finished school I had the mindset that I wanted to be a marine biologist so I went straight up to the Great Barrier Reef and worked. I was working as an Eco tour guide on one of the islands up there. I did that for a while and then decided to travel.”
Malia connected with nature and felt a kinship with it, her journeys always with an environmental perspective and a building awareness of the need for a guardianship of the planet and it’s creatures.
Her travels concluded in Margaret River and, while at first glance it may seem contradictory, she took a career as a fly-in-fly-out worker. But it was from a very different perspective. Malia’s work was in the environmental sector, taking her into the often challenging if not heartbreaking mining sites to assess their environmental viability. Or lack thereof.
“I came to the environmental sector as basically an endless bank account to do more travelling. Coming from such a conservative childhood and respecting my immediate environment it was a bit of a hit in the face.”
This offered Malia a unique insight into the very industry she was so against, illuminating the issue from the inside out.
As with any situation, the mining industry is very different when seen from the inside. Malia very quickly realised that the information conveyed to or acquired by the general public was a long way from the reality; months, even years out of date, highly selective and a grossly biased reflection of the truth.
After five years of testing soil samples, presenting reports and doing her very best to clean up a filthy industry, Malia realised something more needed to be done. What was really needed was a whistle-blower, a voice from inside to expose the truth.
“Sirens for the Sea came about in September last year,” says Malia. “It was about us speaking out from an industry perspective about what is actually happening. What you’re hearing in the media is mostly false. By the time the industry complete all their assessments and statements, most of the information is totally irrelevant.
“We started an Instagram account for the Reef because there wasn’t any social media outlet besides the huge conservation companies who stream Facebook with all sorts of issues. “We wanted to give people everyday, first-hand experience and feed you guys what you need to know, the basic facts about the Reef for the public to get their head around. It’s one of the largest ecosystems in the world and it’s pretty special for Australia in so many ways. So to lose something like that would be devastating.”
Establishing the Instagram and Facebook pages and developing open channels of public information is just the beginning for Malia and the Sirens for the Sea. The diverse collective, without whom none of this work would be possible, is hosting events at various venues, it’s aim twofold. A recent night held at the Gold Coast’s Mandala vegetarian restaurant featured Medicine For The People’s Dustin Thomas among other musicians and a collection of auction and raffle items. Guest speakers shared knowledge on the plight of the Great Barrier Reef, the environment and the fragile oceanic ecosystem and funds raised during the evening went towards the grand plan: a collaborative documentary, featuring Dave Rastovich and. Lauren Hill, in association with Surfers For Cetaceans, to spread Malia’s accumulative wealth of knowledge further still.
By connecting the dots, uniting communities across the country, informing the general public of the issues, their causes and the ways to defeat them, Malia aims to develop a far greater understanding nationwide, not least by visiting schools and educating the younger generations before they too become corrupted and blindfolded by big industry and the government.
But already, this cloak and dagger divulgence of information is drawing unwanted attention. Malia has on several occasions had her social media accounts suspended and the ever watchful eye of Big Brother seems to be casting an ever less cursory glance in her direction.
Where massive financial interest is at stake, the corporations will expend vast amounts of time and money to whitewash anything or anyone that may jeopardise their investments.
Malia’s work has led her to producing toxicology reports on the impact of mining in the Kimberlies, on the Barrier Reef and in numerous other natural locations around the country. Her career and her self-proclaimed “take no sh*t” attitude have given her profound insight, the first-hand, cutting edge information that is invariably kept well clear of the media and the general public. It is this awareness, and how far the average Australian is for the truth, that brought about Sirens for the Sea, to level the playing field and create a unified mindset.
“For us it’s about getting the word out there and educating people because I think threats definitely what it comes down to – education.
“We’re about to start this third sequel to Minds In The Water and Transparentsea with Surfers For Cetaceans‘ Howie Cooke and Dave Rastovich, travelling from the Southern end of the Great Barrier Reef down to Byron Bay. We’ve got marine biologists, divers, surfers, musicians, and we want to use the trip and its movie to spread this relevant information to a far wider audience.” Malia Rouillon is the face of the new generation. The tide has drifted a long way from shore but she, and many admirable individuals like her, mark it’s return, building, swelling and surging towards a much brighter future.
Please help support Sirens for the Sea.
Join their Instagram and Facebook pages:
…and help fund their superb work in protecting our natural land and sea by attending events and purchasing a copy of local band Velshur’s upcoming single, – 50% of all proceeds going to Sirens for the Sea.
– This article first appeared on Common Ground Australia on May 30, 2014