June 9th, 2006 at 03:00am
As planned I went along to the Dickson College Closure Protest last night. The protest was organised at short notice by a group of concerned parents and citizens, and it was very convenient that the college was having its open night as this provided a perfect opportunity to hold the protest. This small group of people did a fantastic job in publicising it, with press releases going out to media organisations, and notices being stuck on virtually every lamp post in the Dickson Shopping Precinct, with a similar notice being handed out in the college. Credit should also go to the local radio stations for continuing to run the story about the protest throughout the day.
The protest got underway long before the advertised start time of 6:30. It really got underway when multiple ABC news and current affairs crews arrived. People were filtering in from about 6pm, and this gave the ABC a good opportunity to interview some people and get footage of people waving placards (myself included on both counts) to send back to the newsroom for use during the 7pm news. The ABC did a live cross to the rally, although it had more or less wound up by then and people were talking amongst themselves and signing the multiple petitions.
The main protest attracted approximately 250-300 people (that is my estimate), many people prepared placards, roughly five people wrote songs, and some Dickson students (from memory they were year 12 students) wrote and performed a lengthy song which involved the entire protest group.
One person had the bright idea of bringing a megaphone, which was utilised firstly for a driveby support announcement (filmed by ABC crews) and eventually for the speeches. A few people had semi-prepared speeches to deliver, whilst a few of the rest of us just jumped on the microphone to add our two cents to the discussion. I made a point which I think has been overlooked in the outrage, and that is Dickson’s unique place in education for students with special needs (Secondary Introductory English Centre, Dickson College Alternative Program (now called SITE) for troubled year 9 & 10 students, etc) and what will happen to them if the college closes.
The protest speeches wound up just before the open night started, although I think the college staff would have waited (there were plenty of them in the crowd) if the protest dragged on a bit.
I was mildly disappointed to see somebody flogging “Green Left Weekly” at the protest, although it did show that even the most extreme traditional Labor/Greens supporters are coming out against the Stanhope Labor government.
The press turnout was very good also. The ABC sent two (possibly three) crews out, with resources appearing to be combined for ABC News and Stateline (ABC TV Canberra 7:30pm tonight, repeated in Canberra Midday Saturday, and repeated nationally on ABC 2 (digital) 2:30pm Saturday and 4:30pm Sunday). I wouldn’t have recognised the Stateline crew if I hadn’t spotted Stateline reporter Catherine Garrett in the crowd.
The Canberra Times also sent a journalist out. She took multiple photos of the rally and was writing plenty of notes, she also appeared to interview a couple people. I also spotted a camera man from Prime News, which was very surprising considering that they only run mini-bulletins with minimal footage, Prime obviously consider this to be an extremely major issue. I think I spotted Win News loitering as well, although keeping track of attending media was not my top priority.
I made an effort to thank the media people for attending, although I was unable to thank all of them. I would, however, like to publically thank the ABC for bringing along a very large light which helped to illuminate the protest in otherwise difficult lighting conditions.
I did make an effort to invite opposition treasury spokesman Richard Mulcahy to the rally, although in the end he was unable to attend due to what he described in an email as an “unusual late sitting of the Assembly”.
Overall the rally was very good, and I think it is going to be very helpful. At this stage I am led to believe that more rallies are to be planned, there was a suggestion from an organiser that they would try and get a list of interested helpers, although I didn’t see it actually happen.
The other protest of the day (another short notice one) attracted approximately 150 people to Flynn Primary around 1:30pm. This is extraordinary for a protest which was only publicised a few hours prior to the event. Both of these protests are, in my view, a very strong indication to the Stanhope government that the community will not accept these changes, and if they want any chance of being re-elected in 2008, then they better start paying attention now.
Although I had nothing to do with organising the protest, and merely took it upon myself to help publicise it, I would like to thank everyone that attended, your support is greatly appreciated.
I would also like to thank everyone who has been leaving comments about the budget on this site, and sending me emails. I haven’t got around to replying to all of them yet, but I am getting there, and I do appreciate both the support, and the constructive criticism.