Our first official event was the launch on 3rd September 2007, but there had been plenty of work prior to this.
Annie Nielsen had planned and hosted two ‘Walks Against Warming’ (2005, 2006), formed an informal group of concerned people. Then the Australian Conservation Foundation organised a forum on climate change in May that was the catalyst for the formation of a local action group.
Our first meeting was 5th July and generated lots of issues and ideas but most importantly it set up a committed group that became the core of ParraCAN and it gave us our name. The launch on 3rd September was a success with over 30 attending and more people joining the core group.
We followed this with a ‘Candidates for Climate Change’ Forum on the Federal Election of Nov 2007 - also well attended and we did another ‘Walk Against Warming’. The ‘footprints to Canberra’ which we managed for the Climate Institute was also a success – we were by far the most prolific footprint collectors nation-wide.
We consolidated during 2008, but there was also a noticeable climate action collective sigh of relief with Howard finally gone and Rudd to lead the charge - how ironic to look back now and see the tortuous path to where we are today.
In 2008 we hosted another candidates forum linked this time to the local government elections – with a disappointing result for us (a climate change conservative Council). We organised our last ‘Walk Against Warming’ and from then on combined our efforts with the main walk in Sydney. We set up a website and started growing a subscriber list, wrote some newsletters, visited local members. We became involved with the fledgling nation-wide network of grassroots climate action groups. This Network was really the beginning of a climate action movement . The publication of ‘Climate Code Red’ and the networking and action flowing from this was an important time we were a part of. We have through Tom and Annie and others been an integral part of the process in NSW.
2009 was our biggest year till then – in fact we won an NCC Award for all the work. There were trips to Canberra for the Climate Summit, more visits to politicians, leafleting for major campaigns. We became an incorporated group and had our first AGM in Parramatta Park. Our partnering with Parramatta City Council increased and we are now (almost) routinely included in its climate change endeavours.
October 2009 was the first international 350.org Day and we conducted our first Parramatta Mall Stall as part of it. Our art competition for schools drew great entries. We were also joined during this year by ‘vigorous activists’ like Terry McBride, Richard and Maria Maguire increasing our firepower.
2010. We had grown too big to meet in each other’s homes, so we moved to Mars Hill Cafe and from there migrated to Effie’s Place in Harris Park where we still meet. Our part in 350.org was a ‘Bikes in Parramatta Park’ event and this linked up Ian Macindoe and Monika Bhatia and their networks. Ian introduced us to the ‘seminarty’ a combination seminar and party, focusing on the intellectual and philosophical basis of climate change action. We will soon be doing the 5th one. We also won another Nature Conservation Council of New South Wales (NCC) Award.
2011. Our workgroup regularly has 12 or more people at its meeting with 26 on the books and willing to be directly involved. The mailing list is now some 200. The street stalls have become fairly regular fixtures, we take active part in major campaigns by the Climate Action Network, continue to lobby politicians, conduct public seminars, distribute leaflets. We continue to meet fortnightly, which is another simple but important factor in our ability to get lots done. Part of this is being a group made up of a wide range of people with wide ranging skills and interests. We try to play to our strengths and while we don’t always all see eye to eye, we work in a good spirit for a common purpose. We have and will continue to get lots done.
The future of major fair dinkum climate change action by government, business and the broader community is vexed and unclear, but there is a Climate Change movement and ParraCAN has been a significant player in its growth. We’re in there punching. But climate change is at its heart a local issue and we are committed workers for that local issue.
Bill Tibben 6th June 2011