Inside Shoalwater Military Excercise

Mark inside base
Mark inside base

 Four Anti-War Activists Remain at Large in Prohibited Military Area for Over a Week

Four anti-war activists remain at large in the prohibited Shoalwater military exercise area in central Queensland.  The Shoalwater area is presently hosting the $250 million Talisman Sabre exercises involving 18,000 U.S. and 6.000 Australian troops.

The four were part of a group of seven activists who covertly entered the area a week ago.  Three of their number have since been detected and captured by the military and handed over to state police.

U.S. and Australian military have been involved in offensive war game scenarios. Some of the soldiers encountered by the activists were playing the roles of insurgents following an amphibious assault by U.S. and Australian personnel.

Today the military are involved in exercises countering civil unrest of the occupied population.

Two of the activists, Yulangi Bardon and Emily Nielsen, are pictured below on top of The Polygon spire inside the Shoalwater military area.

Jim Dowling and Culley Palmer also remain at large in the area after evading helicopter and dog searches.

The group’s support spokeperson Ciaron O’Reilly stated “Since these exercises commenced a few weeks ago 30 U.S., 18 British, an Australian soldier and uncounted Afghanis have been killed in combat in Afghanistan.  The Talisman Sabre exercises are dress rehearsals for more death and destruction, invasion and war”.

Ciaron O’Reilly Ph. 0411 516 434


Bryan Law Captured in Shoalwater Exercise Area…..and then there were 5!

by Bryan Law

Yulangi and Emily inside Shoalwater Military exercise
Yulangi and Emily inside Shoalwater Military exercise

Last Sunday morning, when I’d usually be just leaving Mass with the closing words “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” resonating in my ears, I found myself instead on a dusty road at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. In front of me, stopped on the road, was an armoured column of US Marines, looking fierce with all their machine guns and cannons and carbines.

I had stopped the armoured column by the sophisticated, high technology method of waving a blue plastic tarpaulin at them from beside the road as I emerged from the bush – a peace-crazed trespasser on the giant war-games called Exercise Talisman Sabre, outside Rockhampton in central Queensland.

The Marine who spotted me from the turret of an APC, hopped on the radio and said something along the lines of “Holy Jiminy Batman, there’s an intruder on our war!”, and the column ground to a halt.

Goodoh! Thinks me, this is what I came to do. For the how and why of that, let’s go back a step.

On Thursday 16 July 2009 I walked into the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area with two friends, Culley Palmer, 21 and Jim Dowling, 51.

We’d formed our little band over 10 days of organising and taking symbolic actions around the Peace Convergence, and we’d been part of the Martin Luther King House of Christian Nonviolence at Yeppoon.

Our mission is to save Australia and the world from the spiritual death of militarism.

Full details:

Ciaron O’Reilly
“The poor tell us who we are,
The prophets tell us who we could be,
So we hide the poor,
And kill the prophets.”
Phil Berrigan


3 thoughts on “Inside Shoalwater Military Excercise

  1. Culley Palmer says:

    July saw around 17000 U.S. troops in Australia. They were here to participate in the bienniel U.S. led war games called Exercise Talisman Saber, with around 6000 Australian troops. This year Talisman Saber ran from 6-26 July. Troops practiced interoperability, amphibious landings, coordinated live firing and bombing, urban warfare and much more, at a number of training areas and bombing ranges around Australia.

    In late June, USS Tortuga and USS Essex docked in Cairns with 4000 sailors on their way to the exercises. Locals attempted a Citizens Inspection of the ships, but were denied access. Terry Spackman was arrested as he tried to climb the security fence with a ladder.

    In Fremantle, Nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington and guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens docked on their way to the exercises. Around fifty people protested at the wharf. Former Australian Senator Jo Vallentine was arrested after being given a move on order. She was later released with strict bail conditions.

    Before and during Exercise Talisman Saber, Peace activists from all around Australia converged around the Shoalwater Bay Training Area, near Rockhampton in Central QLD, to nonviolently oppose and disrupt the exercises.
    People were concerned about environmental issues, military spending, and the ongoing U.S. led wars of aggression which are causing civilian deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    Actions were diverse. As the exercises began, a group of Christian peace activists blocked a gate of the Rockhampton Barracks for an hour and a half. In an act of repentance for our own complicity, five lay prostrate on the ground before the gates while others held a banner reading, “In the name of God stop the wars” and others prayed the rosary.

    A few days later, nine activists blocked the main entrance road to the Shoalwater Bay Training Area for over an hour and a half, holding up more than a dozen U.S. Marine Corps vehicles from being trucked in. They read aloud names of soldiers and troops killed in Afghanistan. As police prepared to move them on, Catholic Workers Jim Dowling and Ciaron O’Reilly knelt on the road with signs reading “Resist the War on Afghanistan” and “War is Terror is War”. They were both arrested and initially refused to cooperate with bail conditions. They stayed in the watchhouse for five days. They have a hearing in the Rockhampton Magistrates Court on September 9.

    About eighty people made their way to a police roadblock on a road into the Training Area. People danced the hokey pokey at the police line and a great grandmother, June Norman, 68, was arrested dancing across the line and amongst police.

    The following day, Frank Vavasour was arrested climbing over the gate into the Rockhampton Barracks. He was released without charges.

    A concerted effort was made to halt the live firing and bombing, and like recent Ofog actions in Sweden, people headed for live firing areas while live firing and bombing were underway. A military spokesman had stated in parliament that if people trespassed onto the area, the exercises would be stopped.

    The military were informed well in advance, and activists prepared themselves with helium balloons, emergency flares, mobile phones with aeriels, and a Personal Locator Beacon.

    Margaret Pestorius, Jarrod McKenna, Jessica Morrison and Rev. Simon Moyle were the first to enter, calling themselved the Bonhoeffer 4. After releasing helium balloons, they were found crossing a road on their second day inside. When they were found, live firing was halted. Margaret and Simon refused to walk with police off the road. The four remained in the watchhouse overnight and plead guilty in the morning. They were fined amounts varying from $200 to $1200.

    Two days after the Bonhoeffer 4 came out, Yulangie Bardon, Emily Nielson, Jake Bolton and Mark Palmer, named Grana 4 after a civilian Afghanistan victim, entered from the western side of the Training Area. Meanwhile, Bryan Law, Culley Palmer and Jim Dowling, the Jaegerstaetter 3, entered on the eastern side.

    Bryan, Jake and Mark volunteered themselves to be found after a few days. Bryan stopped a convoy of vehicles on a road and showed them a banner that read “What have you done? Your brothers blood cries out to me from the earth.”; Mark addressed troops from the top of Mt Polygon.

    The Military conducted helicopter and dog searches as people headed for both of the onshore live firing sectors. Jim and Culley spent two nights in the eastern live firing sector and walked out without arrest after 7 days. Emily and Yulangie stayed in the area for 11 days, until the end of the exercises.

    Live firing was not reinstated. A Defence spokeperson said that live firing had been due to stop at this time anyway, but activists question the truth of this statement. In previous Talisman Saber exercises, locals had heard live bombing for many more days.

    Six people have plead guilty and been fined ranging from $200 to $1200. Six others still have to go to court.

    Please see

  2. Opposition to prior exercises says:

    Here is a statement by opponents to Talisman Sabre in 2009

    Homes not Bombs

    “If two young women with a compass and limited ‘tactical experience’ can get away with sight-seeing in a military base over the course of eleven days without detection, there may need to be an inquiry into just how effective these training exercises actually are.” — Yulangi

    Statement by Emily
    “I am strongly opposed to the US/Australian Talisman Sabre” war games” currently taking place in the Shoalwater Bay military area. In comparison to the $25 billion per year assigned to the Australian military, a petty $3 million per year is designated in the budget for assisting the homeless and vulnerable in emergency accommodation and other vital humanitarian services. Before the economic crisis, during 2001 and 2006 the number of homeless families increased by 17% and in people aged over 55 homelessness increased by 30%*. This disparity will increase with the recent economic downturn.

    I am appalled at the military expenditure in Rudd’s election promise package, ‘A Place To Call Home’ His party vowed to place affordable housing, access to food sources and community support services at the frontier of Labor being voted into power. Yet with the present designated funding, only 1/5 of homeless people will be housed on the current waiting list**. The government’s priorities are exposed by this disparity.

    Now at the age of 19, having been homeless for almost half a decade I am disgusted that fundamental community resources such as education, health care and welfare have been compromised while the ruling elites drain the public purse in supporting aggressive US foreign policy. I am extremely concerned by the millions of refugees made homeless by these horrific wars.

    I am outraged at Australia’s military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and (through the Pacific Command) in Guam and Hawaii. Through invading these lands, the peoples of the occupied territories have limited control over their resources, dramatically impacting on their ability to strengthen social cohesion and build upon their historical and present heritage. This demonstrates that not only does the Australian government fail to adequately assist its citizens who are in need of basic resources to survive, it contributes to disempowering and destroying the social fabric of peoples globally.

    For these reasons, I have decided to enter the live firing area in the Shoalwater Bay military base with the intention of halting current war game proceedings.”


  3. SEND SOLIDARITY MAIL for redirection individually
    to Australian peace prisoners
    Bryan Law and Graeme Dunstan
    c/-Catholic Worker
    2705 Mt. Mee Rd
    Ocean View,
    Q. 4521

    * SolidarIty emails to
    bryan AT

    AUSTRALIA – Ploughshares action on Australiam Army Tiger Attack Helicopter at “Operation Talisman Sabre” Joint U.S./Australian Military Exercises.

    You Tube Video– WIN NEWS – see the ACTUAL ACTION watch

    ABC Report…04308

    Reports are coming in of a ploughshares action in Australia on a Tiger attack helicopter
    presently participating in “Operation Talisman Sabre” joint U.S./ Austraian military exercises taking place near Rockhampton, central Queensland.
    Tiger helicopters have been used by French forces in the war on Afghanistan.

    Australian Tiger helicopters are based at Robertson Barracks, near Darwin.
    Australian forces continue to wage war in Afghanistan. Operation Talisman Sabre exercises are geared around interventionary warfare scenarios.

    Catholic peace activist Bryan Law, from Cairns cut the security fence, then made his way to the Australian army military helicopter by means of riding a large tricycle, he then used a garden mattock to begin the disarmament of the attack helicopter. Longtime peace activist Graeme Dunstan has also been arrested and charged following the action.

    Law had previously been arrested a few weeks ago under the Aviation Act for “threteaning” to undertake this action. He has broken those bail conditions so is likely to remain in custody until trial.

    Bryan Law is a long time nonviolent anti-war activist from Queensland. He is married with one child and lives in Cairns, north Queensland. He was one of the Pine Gap 6 who carried out an inspection of the secretive NSA warfighting base near Alice Springs a number of years ago.

    Bryan Law and Graeme Dunstan have both been charged with 4 and 5 offenses respectively. Will face court tomorrow.

    3 Wilful Trespass [different Commonwealth Acts]

    1 Possession of Tainted Property

    1 Breaking Bail [Bryan]

    We ask for your prayers that much good will come.

    And above all, we hope that others will find ways of directly resisting this permanent state of war that Australia finds itself in.

    This is Bryan Law’s blog with reflections leading up to his ploughshares action

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