Byron Bay and Yeppoon are both coastal towns with a strong tourist presence and great beaches. After that there is not a great deal in common between the two places.
On June 24 though, a contingent of people from the Northern Rivers joined others from all over Australia to march through the streets of the small Queensland town to protest the war games taking place about 40km north.
The protest march was the culmination of a week long presence in the town that included a night of speeches and entertainment at the Yeppoon Town Hall, an embassy in the local shopping centre and a variety of protests at the Shoalwater training ground.
Seven protesters went over the wire and into the training ground at different times, creating enough attention to get the small amount of mainstream media attention that was granted to the event.
In a week that was dominated by Howard’s grab for Aboriginal land, stories of the troops overseas and gee whiz stories by impressionable journalists embedded in the Talisman Sabre exercises, there was not a lot of attention paid to 500 protestors who gave up a week’s work to demand an end to the agreement that gives the US Defence Department control of our armed forces and open slather to building defence facilities on our land.
People from Hawaii and Guam brought a historical perspective to what life is like under US occupation. The Hawaiins have had thirteen different treaties with the US government over the last century and a half, all of which have been broken. They are now unwilling citizens of the USA and still attempting to prevent the poisoning of their land and food supply by the US military.
Byron’s famous flags provided a colourful backdrop for the parade.