Guest blog by ActionAid Australia activist Sarah Morris.
On the 26th and 27th June, myself and 16 other community activists joined ActionAid Australia on a lobbying trip to Canberra to meet with Members of Parliament (MPs) to demand a Human Rights Watchdog for Australian mining companies operating overseas.
I became particularly passionate about this campaign when I found out that Australia has the largest mining presence in Africa, and the second most international mining operations. I couldn’t believe our reliance on mining was still so significant and I knew I wanted to do something about it.
Volunteering with ActionAid Australia, I heard the stories of local women living in these mining areas. Stories of how they have been affected by the influx of male workers to their communities, and now face food insecurity and must undertake unpaid care work for their family members affected by the mines really impacted me.
I also heard of the empty promises made by Australian mining companies to these communities and the human rights violations that are being committed. I learnt that taxpayer dollars went towards funding these mining projects and, in turn, impacted the lives of these women and their communities. I couldn’t believe that these violations were occurring, while the majority of the Australian public remained unaware. These local communities deserve access to an investigative body when they believe their rights have been violated, and they deserve remedies to the issues they are facing.
After learning more about these issues, it was an empowering experience to go to Canberra and be surrounded by activists from all around Australia to call upon the Government to establish a Human Rights Watchdog to prevent these violations persisting. We held a stunt on the lawns of Parliament House with a pack of dogs who were happy to bark their support for the campaign to the advisors and MPs that joined us, which was a pretty fun and engaging way to capture their attention! You can see it all in action in the video up on ActionAid Australia’s Facebook page.
I got to speak to my own MP about the South West Sydney group, about the Table Talks we have held in Western Sydney, and about climate justice. I emphasised that the people I have spoken to in our electorate want to stand in solidarity with the women in these South African mining communities. We spoke about the need for Australian companies operating overseas to be held accountable for their actions.
The trip left me with the ability to confidently talk to my local MP about the campaign and about why our community cares. It was an invaluable experience to have the many politicians we spoke to be receptive of our concerns. Hearing their positive responses was definitely a highlight of the trip! Ultimately, the training provided by ActionAid Australia, talking to our politicians and being surrounded by like-minded and passionate people left me inspired to continue standing in solidarity with the women leaders of South Africa on their path to climate justice.
Sarah is part of the South West Sydney ActionAid group and was previously a Community Organising Volunteer in the ActionAid Sydney Office. In her local community, she has run events to get people involved in ActionAid’s campaign on climate justice for women.