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Issue #1780      June 7, 2017

“My name is Julia”

My name is Julia, and I live about two kilometres from the world’s largest coal port, right here in NSW, Australia. Some days when I go to the clothesline to bring in the laundry, my clean clothes are covered in a film of coal dust. If I don’t clean my bathroom for a few days, I can wipe a black film off the sink with my finger. I can’t escape it. I know that I’m breathing these fine, black particles into my lungs.

I’ve lived here in Newcastle for 13 years, and I’ve seen more and more people suffer from asthma as coal exports doubled over the last ten years. That’s why today, I’ve joined people from across my community to hang dirty laundry on the fence of the coal terminal that was funded by the Commonwealth Bank.

We’re here to send a message to CommBank: the coal it bankrolls is hurting people, as well as the climate. The bank needs to know that when they sign away money to these projects, there are real people who suffer – here, across the Pacific, and beyond. But we won’t sit by silently. 

We are standing united, and I wanted to ask if you’ll stand with us in our fight to stop coal hurting our health and community. Can you send a message to support our community and tell CommBank to dump coal?

CommBank was the biggest financial backer of fossil fuels in Australia last year, but it doesn’t see the impacts on people who live in communities like mine. So we’ve written personal messages on our clothes to CommBank’s CEO and Board.

Here’s what it looks like –

Right now, while we’re out here, there are determined community members inside the coal terminal: they’re putting a huge banner on top of giant coal piles to make sure CommBank gets the message.

Here’s what it looks like –

Burning coal is killing our Great Barrier Reef and our planet. But when you live in a coal corridor, you’re surrounded by it every day, too: the coal ports and ships, the coal trains, the endless stream of coal dust. Some houses are covered in coal dust inside and out. People get asthma and all sorts of respiratory problems. We don’t know how it’s going to affect our health in the long term, but we know that it will. All we want is a future for our children (and a healthy planet); it’s not right that they have to suffer.

Today we’re exposing CommBank’s dirty laundry, and showing the bank what our community is made of. It’s time CommBank takes responsibility for its actions, and stops holding us back from our potential to be a renewable powerhouse.

In any struggle, it’s important to know there are people behind you. It’s just good for the heart. In our struggle for clean air and a safe climate, as we hang up our coal-smothered clothes, will you stand behind us?

This place is our home. Newcastle has a lot going for it – a vibrant and growing tourism industry, and a great way of life – and a chorus of voices calling for a transition to clean and sustainable industries that don’t put our health at risk.

We shouldn’t have to suffer because of big business putting profits over people and the planet: once your eyes are open to this injustice, you can’t close them again.

I’ve always believed you should never let a chance go by. This is our chance to fight for clean air and water for our kids, and your chance to stand with us.

Thanks for keeping your eyes open with us.

Julia, “Knitting Nanna”disability worker and Newcastle resident

Next article – Attention – All Those on Social Security Pensions

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