Peace Pilgrims enter Shoalwater Bay

24 July, 2013
Peace Pilgrims remain in Shoalwater Bay Military Training Facility

Photos of the peace pilgrims inside Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area are being posted online, including of their makeshift camp where they stayed overnight.  They have reported that they heard helicopter and large vehicle movement until the middle of the night.

An online campaign has been launched for the exercises to be halted while citizens are on the base.  The campaign has been bolstered by a media release from Greens Senator, Scott Ludlam asking the Defence Department to halt the exercises (Senator Ludlam’s MR: The call is linked with recent media reports that indicate that the four ‘jettisoned’ bombs were dropped on the Great Barrier Reef last week because of the presence of civilian boats inside the military training zone.

Greg Rolles (31yrs), school teacher from Brisbane; and Graham Dunstan (71yrs), retired grey nomad entered the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area early yesterday morning with an aim to disrupt the exercises.  They cite their opposition to the current wars that Australia has joined the US in as key reasons for their action.

There are currently 28,000 Australian and US troops undertaking joint military training in Australia, with a focus on the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.  Last week two US aircraft dropped 4 bombs on the Great Barrier Reef when they were unable to land at their planned location.

Media interviews with Greg Rolles and Graeme Dunstan are available by phoning 0407 951 688 (phone in intermittent range.  Pls leave message with return phone number and preferred time/s for contact).

For further media comment, contact 0431 519 577.

Photos are available at


23 July, 2013

Two people entered the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area this morning to disrupt the Talisman Sabre training exercises.

The two are Greg Rolles (31yrs), school teacher from Brisbane; and Graham Dunstan (71yrs), retired grey nomad.

There are currently 28,000 Australian and US troops undertaking joint military training in Australia, with a focus on the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area. Last week two US aircraft dropped 4 bombs on the Great Barrier Reef when they were unable to land at their planed location.

Pre-prepared statements from the two peace pilgrims point to the effect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and their desire to act against the Australian & US military alliance.

Graeme Dunstan stated “It is my intention to trespass onto the Shoalwater Bay Military Area and, by creative nonviolent actions, do the best i can to disrupt the military exercises, demonstrate resistance to the culture of war and preparation for war and create a counter narrative to the propaganda of the military”

Greg Rolles stated “the Australian and US military forces have taken and continue to take many innocent lives and waste money that could be used in, amongst others, our ailing education system.”

The two pilgrim’s full statements follow.

For further media comment, contact 0431 519 577 or 0423 749 946

Photos available on request

Graeme Dunstan’s Walk On Statement

Talisman Saber 2013

My name is Graeme Dunstan. I am a grey nomad, 71 years old. My vehicle is, which is both a battered old van and a web site where I blog Peacebus protest actions.

It is my intention to trespass onto the Shoalwater Bay Military Area and, by creative nonviolent actions, do the best I can to disrupt the military exercises, demonstrate resistance to the culture of war and preparation for war and create a counter narrative to the propaganda of the military.

I note that after 13 years of unwanted, bloody, costly and futile war in Afghanistan and Iraq that there has been no genuine debate about the cause, conduct or like benefit of the wars in the Parliament nor has there been any consultation with the Australian people.

These wars have never been popular, indeed hundreds of thousands of citizens came out in the streets in opposition to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 only to be ignored. As the former Senator pointed out, that polls indicate that over the years something like 72% of Australian people wanted our troops out of Afghanistan but 92% of elected representatives have insisted they stay.

The terrible truth is that our politicians are more loyal to the demands of the US Embassy in Canberra than they are to the Australian people.

And the political parties and the corporate media conspire to keep the wars off the political agenda.

What can a just man do?

Well I choose to act justly by challenging the war machine and acting for peace.

In the face of endless US wars and cringing obeisance to the US military alliance by Australian politicians such as PM Rudd, I choose to stand tall and be seen as an honourable elder, demonstrating courage and setting a good example for younger men and women.

For the benefit of all beings, large and small, near and far, seen and unseen, born and yet to be born, I choose to be a peacemaker in this time of perpetual war.

End the lies, I say. End the wars. End the US military alliance.

Graeme Dunstan

Greg Rolles’s Walk On Statement

Talisman Saber 2013

Today I have entered the Shoalwater Bay Area in protest against the Talisman Sabre War Rehearsals.

My aim is to disrupt the Talisman Sabre Exercises. I am doing this to demonstrate my commitment to nonviolent confrontation of injustice.

The misnomer of Australia and the US being a ‘defence force’, needs to be challenged. Since at least 2001, the Australian and US military forces have taken and continue to take many innocent lives and waste money that could be used in, amongst others, our ailing education system. This is a theft of common treasure squandered in the pursuit of global power, which has demonstrated the opposite of its desired effect. The Middle East and Eastern Asia are now much more unstable and much worse places to live than they were before 2001. Our military men and women have not been used to help people, but to destroy lives, families, cities and countries.

As a Christian, as a teacher with a responsibility to our children and as a citizen of the globe, I am morally compelled to take direct action against this injustice.

I am doing this in protest of the US/Australian Military Alliance. I am a Secondary School history teacher. The history peddled by our political leaders of Australia being saved by the USA in 1942 is not an accurate history, as demonstrated by the statement made by Peter Stanley about the “Battle for Australia” Day proclamation in 2008.

I am acting outside of the law for an independent and peaceful Australia. I believe that as a nation we can do better.

We can do better than follow the US into another Dirty War. The Afghan War has cost us 40 Australian Soldiers, 268 wounded and at least 15 suicides this year by veterans. This is not to mention the millions of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, the $31 Billion and severe environmental impacts of these wars.

We can do better than buying our Allies Joint Strike Fighters at an estimated cost of nearly $1.4 Billion. This is money that could have contributed to the Gonski review instead of being stripped from our universities.

We can do better than cooperating with the US in these War Rehearsals. Australia has the opportunity to be a genuine leader in cooperation and peace in the South Pacific and South East Asian blocs, to build stronger ties with our large Northern neighbour, China. We should have games focused on developing ties with our region and building peace, rather than remaining a part of the expensive, wasteful and destructive American War Machine.

I want to teach our children the ways of peace and cooperation, not war and death. I have worked with the kids who will be our future and for their sakes, we need to do better now.

Greg Rolles

3 thoughts on “Peace Pilgrims enter Shoalwater Bay

  1. Reflections on Shoalwater Bay and Nonviolent Resistance 2015 says:

    Yesterday I was back at my ‘day job’ which includes taking my friend/boss Liam to the free lunchtime concert at Brisbane City Hall. This day the Australian Army Band happened to be playing. They are the most popular act at these concerts which are mostly attended by pensioners. The thousands of seats were nearly all full.

    Half way through the performance the band leader told us the band had been to Shoalwater Bay military exercises recently to entertain the troops there. (There was no need to explain Shoalwater Bay to anyone as the biannual exercises of 20,000 US and 10,000 Aussie troops as the mass media had given them lots of free publicity.) We were even given a medley of US songs to celebrate the Alliance. Finally he gave us a little patriotic rave of above how good the 7th Brigade was in their dedication in training to “defend Australia”. At this comment the crowd responded with a huge applause.

    I too had just been up at Shoalwater Bay, but with a different perspective on what was happening there. I did not see soldiers training to “defend Australia”, but young men preparing to kill and die for the US empire. President Ronald Regan once famously referred to Russia as an “evil empire”. But surely it could equally, or more so, apply to the US Empire. Militarily we are just one outpost of that empire.

    This Empire has hardly known a time since its foundation when it has not been at war. Flags fly in nearly all its churches where the distinction between America and the Kingdom of God is often hard to define. The empire has around 800 military bases in 130 countries (remember there are less than 200 countries in the world). Its military budget is approximately the same as the rest of the world combined. Its army is undoubtedly the world’s largest polluter and greenhouse gas emitter. Australia has followed it into all its worst foreign invasions since WW2, helping to kill millions of the poorest people in the world, and destroy their environments, with bombs, bullets, chemicals, and uranium.

    During that time none of the millions we helped kill have shown the slightest interest in attacking Australia (unless you want to stretch the point and include “terrorist” attacks.) To say our military are training to defend Australia is no more than a noble dream. At Shoalwater Bay we have been training with 20,000 US troops to defend the power and privilege of the US Empire.

    Just as all this seems self-evident to me, the myth proposed by the Band Leader in City Hall seems self-evident not only to most of his cheering audience, but no doubt the vast majority of Australians. But the power of patriotism does not make something right, no, matter how many are swayed by its delusions.

    A friend has been reading a book on the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1968, and has reminded me of the horror of it. The horror of the slaughter of up to 500 defenceless, women, children, and old men, was compounded by the horror of the resultant trial and outcome. Despite all the intimate details coming to light, the only one ever charged over My Lai was Lieutenant William Calley. He served a total of three years home detention, before being pardoned.
    At the time of his trial, the overwhelming public opinion was one of outrage. No, not outrage at the massacre, but that Calley had been charged and convicted. A US opinion poll showed 80% of Americans opposed Calley being tried at all. Even in Australia, a poll showed a conservative estimate of 66% of people believing no one should be punished for the My Lai massacre. (see “An intimate History of Killing” by Joanna Bourke.) 45 years later Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning has completed 5 years of a 35 year sentence for leaking the truth about US war crimes in another war -the Iraq war. There is no public outcry. The mass murder of women and children is your patriotic duty (just try not to get caught). To expose such is treason, to be severely punished.

    One more Battle of Myths:
    The nonviolent struggle a small group of us engaged in at Shoalwater Bay in July is at least partly a battle of myths. It is a war “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers” as St Paul one famously described it. Since 2007 people have been travelling to Rockhampton to take part in this struggle and resist the training for war.

    Margaret Pestorius had suggested some of us might look on this year’s resistance as a personal pilgrimage into the training ground of the empire, a time to reflect on our lives and the world in which we live in, in the midst of war making. We were also called to reflect on the fact that the area is the traditional land of the Durrabal people, taken from them by another Empire 200 years ago. Many Durrabal still reside in the Rockhampton area, and many of these look forward a time when the Shoalwater area will be given back to them.

    Sixteen of us answered this call and were arrested and charged with trespass during the exercises.
    (See more details below)

    This year, police presence around the perimeter of the base was noticeably absent. This perhaps reflects an acceptance of their utter failure in previous years to stop anyone entering the base.
    There was however, a greater emphasis on punishment of those arrested. Those who pleaded guilty were fined at least $500, previous convictions or not. Most people’s possessions that they had taken onto the base were then forfeited, including sleeping bags, tents, cooking gear, and more.
    Extreme bail conditions around association were imposed, making it illegal for the arrested to associate with (those police perceived to be) organisers of the actions, and illegal to go to “Have a Chat” café where many meetings had taken place. These previously unheard of bail conditions were no doubt inspired by the perceived success of the recent Queensland VLAD laws brought in to break up bikie gangs. The imposition of these bail conditions is being appealed.

    Another interesting aspect of the arrests for many of us this year was the long discussions with army personnel on the base, including officers and an army Chaplain. (Most of those arrested were Christians). There was speculation that these officers had been appointed to pursue just such a dialogue. Much of their arguments centred on pointing out all the good things the military did – like a muscular wing of the SES. We applauded the disaster relief etc., but wished to discuss the current and future killings as part of the US alliance – the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and resultant death and destruction, and the ongoing killing in those regions.

    The Church of Christ chaplain held a strange position of agreeing with my belief that Jesus told us to “put away our swords”, but claiming he was still called upon to help the military personnel without “condemning”. He said he did not condemn men who came to him for advice on relationships who were living with girlfriends without being married. The implication was he disagreed with both killing and premarital sex but was called upon to condemn neither. Near the end of the discussion we all, army folks, chaplain and “prisoners”, bowed our heads and prayed the Lord’s prayer.

    The struggle continues!

    Jim Dowling July 2015

    For video footage including news of the actions:

    Arrest details:
    The first 3 people to enter were Simon Moyle, Simon Reeves and Greg Rolles. They timed their entry to coincide with a parachute drop of 500 US troops flown, believe it or not, non-stop from Canada. Our group’s timing was impeccable and they were arrested just near the drop zone, by a quite angry military and police contingent. Margaret and Paul followed, spending two days in the same area. And then came the 3 Quaker Grannies for Peace, Dawn, Helen, and Jo, celebrating 300 years of the Quaker tradition with a tea party on the road just inside one of the gates to the base. These were no mad hatters, despite the fact that the three all wore 300 year old Quaker bonnets. They were quite a hit with the media, as well as police and military personnel.
    Keeping with the hat theme, Nick and Shane were arrested wearing bright red “Cat in the Hat” hats they took bicycles onto the base and merrily rode them up and down the interior roads before being arrested. ( Nick had written to the defence minister a week before and invited him to a game of hide and seek on the base.)
    Myself and Dave and Andy had long walks around the base through pretty rough terrain (A cyclone in February had devastated a lot of the bush), for a day and a half before walking on to a runway at Samuel Hill carrying our banner, “What have you Done? Your Brother’s Blood Cries Out to Me From the Earth. Gen 4:10”
    AJ, Teigan, and Sam were also arrested near there the next day.

    (Meanwhile the ever faithful Bernie Molony was arrested for taking home an old ladder from a pile of rubbish on the police grounds. He has yet to go to trial, but it is not true his bail conditions stipulate he is not to go within a hundred meters of a Bunning or Mitre 10 store. )

    Custody and court:
    Most of us spent a night in the watch-house, and pleaded guilty the next day, fined as stated above. Andy Paine and I are still to go to trial.

    Three nights in custody and one man’s story:
    I spent three nights inside after initially refusing bail, including one night in jail.
    Jail inmates were mostly very friendly (not so the guards!). A number of guys told their stories, but I really feel I should tell one. This story shows that Aussies turning back refugees is not a new phenomenon!

    The only prisoner in my yard older than me was “Dennis”. After coming back from Vietnam in1972, he had become addicted to, first prescription then illegal, drugs. He still has terrible nightmares. But he also told the amazing story of how, before Vietnam, in the sixties he had been sent to New Guinea (still a territory of Australia at the time), and stationed on the border with West Papua to turn back anyone trying to cross the border into New Guinea These were no doubt refugees fleeing Indonesian brutality. This is one more infamous piece of Australian history of which I have been unaware. This story was all the more amazing because we had brought our good friend, a West Papuan refugee with us to Rockhampton for the actions. When asked by media he said he had come because of Australian and US support of the Indonesian oppression of his people. One more piece of evidence was unearthed for this in that Rocky jail.

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