For those interested in finding out more about the peace convergence at the Shoalwater Bay Military Facility in June this year during the Talisman Sabre Military Exercises, and in particular about the group of five Christian activists who nonviolently disrupted them, here are some answers to some frequently asked questions. More information can be found here at our blog, or email us.
Who are the Samuel Hill 5?
Simon Moyle (Urban Seed, Melbourne), Simon Reeves (Jahwork, Melbourne), Krystal Spencer (Jahwork, Melbourne) and Sarah Williams (Jahwork, Melbourne) and Carole Powell (Pace e Bene, Brisbane).
Where is Shoalwater Bay and what is its significance?
Shoalwater Bay Training Area (SWBTA) is a huge military base on the central coast of Queensland, and part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It is home to an enormous amount of wildlife that need to be protected, including endangered whales and dugongs. With the Australian and many other militaries doing live fire exercises there, including land and sea bombing, this should be an issue of concern to the Australian people.
What did you do?
As part of the wider peace convergence, the four Melbournians travelled to Shoalwater Bay on Jun 17th. Two days later Carole joined us there. After four days of intense planning (preceded by several weeks of planning), and a long walk through the bush in the rain, we arrived at the fence which marks the boundary of the restricted military base. Soon after, we entered the military training area, found the main control centre base (Samuel Hill) and walked openly down the middle of the airstrip in an attempt to be as obvious as possible.Despite our openness, it took quite some time for anyone to notice us. When they finally did we approached them, assured them that we were unarmed and peaceful, and asked them to play frisbee with us. To our surprise and delight, they did. I asked to see their generals as we had two letters to give them. They then called their commanding officer who shut down the base, and they invited us inside for coffee and lunch. We spent about an hour and a half talking with both Australian and US soldiers about Iraq, violence and nonviolence, and the exercises themselves before being arrested by Queensland police and taken to Rockhampton.
Why on earth did you do that?
There are three main reasons for why we did it:
1. To establish a reasoned and respectful dialogue with the soldiers. As protests are often restricted to yelling from behind a fence, we wanted to change the dynamic, to engage face to face with the people behind the uniform, and for them to do the same with us.
2. At the same time, we knew that any presence of civilians on the base would immediately halt the war games. Therefore another aim was to disrupt the exercises with our presence.
3. We wanted to see the base transformed from somewhere war games were conducted to a place where peace games are played. Hence not only did our presence cause the shutting down of the military activities, but we invited the soldiers to play frisbee with us on the tarmac.
Why are you the Samuel Hill 5?
Samuel Hill Air Force Base is the place we walked onto in the SWBTA. It is the main command centre for the SWBTA, and where the generals were based. Sometimes we’ve been referred to as the ‘Frisbee 5’ because we played frisbee with the troops.