Wild Things: A year on the Frontline of Environmental Activism
Produced and directed by Sally Ingleton
Featuring: Dr Lisa Searle, Milou Albrecht, Harriet O'Shea Carre and Andy Paine
After reading about Greta Thunberg’s Friday strikes from school in 2018, in Castlemaine, country Victoria, teenager Milou Albrecht spoke to her friends and they decided to start striking to raise awareness on climate change. The rest is history, as the School Strike 4 Climate (SS4C) movement took off in 2019, with more than seven million people around the world marching for climate action on September 20, 2019.
"I’m really proud to be here [at the strike]. I feel like my voice matters and to think that there are thousands of people all across the world doing the same thing as here is just incredible," Albrecht said.
Harriet O’Shea Carre first heard about the climate strike movement from her school friend. They both began protesting outside politicians' offices, linked up with others and the SS4C movement soon exploded nation-wide.
"Before I started striking all my emotions and anxiety about climate change were just building up; it wasn’t constructive, it was just sort of self-destructive. But having such an amazing cause to direct all this energy and emotion [to], it’s really empowering," Carre said.
The two activists are featured in the new documentary, Wild Things: A Year on the Frontline of Environmental Activism, directed by Darwin-based veteran documentary film-maker Sally Ingleton.
This important new film highlights three major campaigns in Australia’s recent environmental history: the struggle to protect Tasmania's old-growth forests from logging; the campaign to stop the destructive Adani coal mine in central Queensland, and the mass-based SS4C movement.
Australia has a rich history of environmental activism stretching back to the 1960s, when community groups protested against oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef and logging in the forests of Tasmania. Wild Things explores some of the key moments, such as the Builders Labourers Federation-led Green Bans that saved much of inner-city Sydney; the first ever forest blockade in the world that saved the ancient Terania Creek Rainforest in northern NSW; the Jabiluka blockade that stopped a uranium mine in Kakadu, and the campaign to stop the damming of Tasmania’s Franklin River.
The film intertwines the stories of activists centrally involved in the three major campaigns with other related struggles, which have changed the course of the war to save the environment in Australia — and the planet itself — from destruction.
"Social change rarely happens unless it is driven by people," says Ingleton, who has won many awards for her environmental and other films over a career spanning more than 30 years.
"I wanted to make a film that peels away the stereotype that all protesters are ‘dole bludgers’, and instead reveal their fears and showcase their passion. I also wanted to show that Australia has a long history of environmental action and — thanks to the efforts of many past blockaders — numerous wild and sacred places have been saved for future generations," she added.
Wild Things is a timely film about those on the frontline fighting the war against fossil fuels, the logging of our forests and the inaction of leaders to address climate change,” said the filmmakers.
“ [T]he film explores Australia's rich history of environmental activism, which has saved rivers, reefs, rainforests and sacred places across the nation. The activists are ordinary people taking extraordinary action."
The documentary showcases the commitment of SS4C, Save The Tarkine Rainforest and Frontline Action On Coal activists — key organisations involved in various ways in the struggle for real action to combat climate change.
Lisa Searle, a Hobart GP and dedicated forest protection activist, also spends time as a doctor in war zones with Medicins Sans Frontieres. She told the audience at the premiere screening of the film in Sydney on February 2: "We have had to set up a new blockade in the Tarkine recently. But the forests are still standing, thanks to people's strong actions.
"The support from those around us gives me the strength to keep going. What can community members do? Get active, be involved in a community group or start a new one.
"The time for sitting around complaining is over. The time for action is now!"
Andy Paine, who features in the section of the film on the fight against the Adani mine in Queensland, has dedicated much of his life to environmental campaigns, particularly against the establishment of new coal mines. He has been involved in Frontline Action on Coal for more than four years.
"I want to do something that leaves a positive impact in the world and so having discovered political activism and [finding] out that I have skills that could be offered to that, I sort of decided at that point that this was going to be my life," Paine said.
Ingleton also told the Sydney audience: "The film was many years in the making. I want it to inspire people to get active.
"We plan to roll out the film on a big national release, over a number of states, including cinemas and hosted screenings. Please help us by spreading the word.
"We hope that Wild Things can be a good example of the power of documentaries to teach about the long history of environmental activism and help people to get involved in the struggle."
The film is visually striking, with action footage of midnight tree climbs in the Tarkine; scenes at the Bindee Camp where dedicated activists gathered before setting out on pickets of work camps for the early stages of the Adani mine project, including a dangerous attempt by a truck driver to force his vehicle through a protest in Bowen, and coverage of the mass climate action rallies in Melbourne organised by the SS4C activists.