Swan Island 9 charges dismissed

The Swan Island 9 had charges against them dismissed after they blocked the road to Swan Island Defence Training Facility in Que

A magistrate at the Geelong Magistrates Court dismissed the charges against nine peace activists on November 29. The activists had blocked the road to Swan Island Defence Training Facility in Queenscliff on June 16.

The activists — Jessica Morrison, Julie Moyle, Trent Hawkins, Mitch Cherry, Tom Beattie, Shane Anderson, Dave Fagg, Ellen McNaught, Leesl Wegner — were charged with hindering police and obstructing a road.

On June 16, the court dismissed charges against four activists who entered the base in March and shut off equipment.

Swan Island is an ultra-secret warfare centre, used for training ASIS agents and Special Air Service regiment. ASIS is Australia’s overseas intelligence service.

The base is heavily involved in supporting the Afghanistan war.

Swan Island also serves as a communications centre with its own transmitters and receivers, and is a control point for Special Operations.

The magistrate said: “I am satisfied that everyone involved did so out of a conscience and heartfelt effort. I am satisfied that everyone has a respect for the law … but felt a greater duty to do what they can to stop war, and persuade the government to stop war and are prepared to accept the consequences.”

The magistrate agreed to accept the charges as proven, but dismissed them. All had no conviction recorded and eight of the nine received no penalty. Jessica Morrison received a one month good behaviour bond for having been involved in the previous action.

Below is the court statement of Julie Moyle one of the arrestees. All the court statements can be read at Nonviolencestories.wordpress.com.

* * *

I take my responsibilities as a citizen very seriously, and breaking the law is not something I chose to do lightly. I consider myself to be an average, everyday woman. I am a mum to three children, married to a Baptist Church minister, a midwife at the Royal Women’s Hospital, and a Christian. I am not an attention-seeker, public speaker or trouble-maker.

I believe that the tremendous violence taking place in Afghanistan is wrong, both in the light of my Christian beliefs and of our basic humanity. I have been active in voicing my concerns to our government by signing petitions, writing letters, and marching against the war, but after nine years, the war continues.

In 2009, my family went to the Defence Force’s “Family Fun Day” promoting joint Australia/US military exercises. Holding my daughters hands, I was stunned watching how excited parents were to show their children the tanks, missile launchers and other weapons.

As we walked past parents dressing their kids in bullet proof vests and camouflaged helmets we heard the Australian Army Band play “What a wonderful world”. It struck me that something was very wrong about this.

As parents, my husband and I are doing our best to raise our children to love everyone, treat everyone with respect, and teach them that violence cannot solve conflicts. But at what age do these values change? We believe that peaceful means are the only way to a peaceful future.

In my first year of nursing, I was at a shopping centre when a man had a heart attack in front of hundreds of people and collapsed. Not one person tried to help him. Even security said to stay back.

I was faced with the choice of doing nothing (like everyone else) and continue on with my day-to-day life or try to do something. I chose to step in and attempt to resuscitate him.

Again, I am faced with the same decision. This war does not have to affect me. I could easily choose to continue my day-to-day life. But, I feel that would be the wrong decision. I feel I need to take responsibility, step in, and to try and stop the violence we’re responsible for.

So, for the love of my family and for Afghani and Australian families, I stand before you today. With one hand I hold a great respect for the law, the other I respect the sanctity of life and face the question, which one is greater? I say it falls into our hands, as everyday people to save life and step in.

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