Armidale Environment Centre Archives

The history of the Collection

Dr Marty Branagan donated the Armidale Environment Centre (AEC) Archives to the Library in 2010.

Australian environmentalism

In many respects, Australia has led the way in environmentalism. The Lake Pedder campaign's United Tasmania Group was the world's first green political party, while Jo Vallentine was one of the first parliamentarians elected on an anti-nuclear platform. Some of the first examples of nonviolent action for the environment occurred at Terania Creek in northern NSW, while later anti-logging blockades in the same region have seen considerable developments in nonviolence which are now being copied around the world.

Armidale environmentalists played no small part in all this. The 1973 Aquarius Festival, which led to the establishment of intentional communities of conservationists in the Terania Creek area, was partly organised by University of New England students. UNE students were also involved in the 1979 Terania Creek actions, and in 1983 Armidale activists were involved in the Franklin River blockade and the Pine Gap women's action.

The origins of the AEC

The Armidale branch of The Wilderness Society (TWS), which opened in 1987, was influential in securing Wilderness declarations over large areas of relatively unspoiled bushland. It also organised anti-logging blockades in the Washpool area, and ran a shop in various locations in Armidale. As the branch grew in the 1990s into the Armidale Environment Centre, incorporating the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and later Friends of the Earth, it became an important centre for blockades in Chaelundi, Styx River, Mummel Gulf, Mistake State Forest, and Wild Cattle Creek. Many of those areas are now preserved in perpetuity for the public to enjoy as National Parks, as well as being carbon sinks and biodiversity stores. The AEC was involved in the international campaign against rainforest logging in Borneo, organised a National Day of Rage against Woodchipping, and thirteen members travelled to Canberra for the successful 1991 AIDEX protest against arms dealing.

A legacy of environmental awareness

These activists often had strong connections with other groups such as Aboriginal Land Councils, Greening Australia, Landcare, Citizens Wildlife Corridors or the National Parks Association. A legacy of all this activity is a growing environmental awareness, renewable energy businesses, and many local environment groups, such as Sustainable Living Armidale, a branch of the Australian Greens, an organic food coop and shop, an eco-store, an annual Sustainable Living Expo (SLEX), an annual sustainable housing tour run by the Steiner school, and an annual sustainable agriculture tour.

The high cost of rents was always a problem for TWS and the AEC. Volunteers were forced to spend much of their time and energy fundraising, and the AEC finally closed in 2002, after fifteen years of intense activity.

The transfer of the archives to UNE

Fortunately, its archives (dating back to 1979) have been preserved and have now been presented to UNE's Dixson Library, where they will form part of the Saunders War and Peace Collection. They cover a wide range of issues, and include faxes (remember them!), calls for action, posters, internal memoranda, policy statements, newspaper clippings, ministerial statements, submissions, media releases, handwritten activist notes, leaflets, magazines, letters, meeting agendas, and action guides, including the groundbreaking and sought-after Intercontinental Deluxe Guide to Blockading.

With UNE likely to offer new degrees in environmentalism and sustainability (such as the Master of Environmental Advocacy), and feedback for these suggesting the importance of history, the archives will take on a new importance. The archives have already proved useful to Dr Marty Branagan, who used them for his PhD thesis on nonviolence developments in Australian environmental, peace and social justice activism. History Honours student Vanessa Bible is also finding them invaluable in her research into the Terania Creek and NEFA actions, and she hopes to go on to a PhD thesis examining the role of women in the movement.

Contents of the Collection

Folders

Forest-related: Terania Creek; Daintree; Cape York Information; International Rainforests, Penan; Cape Tribulation; East Gippsland; Manengo; Rainforests – Northern New South Wales; The Wilderness Society; Colong Foundation: Wilderness; North East Forest Alliance (NEFA); Mummel Gulf, Styx River Blockades; Forestry Commission; Community Value of Forests; National Forest Policy.

Action/Lobbying/Political:Student Action Guide; Politics, Lobbying; Acts of Parliament.

Other Environment Groups: Nature Conservation Council; Australian Heritage Commission.

Other Environmental Issues:Transport; Pollution; Recycling; Land Degradation; Misleading Environmental Claims; Appropriate Technology; Miscellaneous Environment; Energy, Roxby, Lucas Heights; Coastal development, Ocean Ecology; Armidale Environment; Roxby Downs; Uranium; Wildlife Conservation; Indigenous Issues; Peace/Non-violence/Iraq War.

Journals: Chain Reaction; Bushlines: Landcare.

A detailed summary of the collection contents is available in PDF.

Types of material

Leaflets, pamphlets, brochures, magazines, Journals, letters to the editor, letters, letters to politicians, letters from politicians, faxes, calls for action, posters, internal memoranda, policy statements, newspaper clippings, ministerial releases, submissions, media releases, handwritten activist notes, Picketing bill, Hansard proofs, lobbying information, acts of parliament eg Wilderness Act of 1987, meeting agendas, reports.

Access to the Collection

The Armidale Environment Centre Archives is held in the New England Collection Room on Level 1 of Dixson Library.

For information on access to the Collection, see the Policy on Special Collections Access.

Oral history of the AEC

A series of short radio programs on the Armidale Environmental Centre are available online.