Sally Hunter fights fossil fools on the front line to protect her farm, family and community.
I was born, raised and have always lived in rural communities. Right now I live about 45km from Narrabri in North West NSW, which is probably the closest I have ever lived to a town. I grew up outside Roma in western Queensland and have lived on cattle properties from Central Queensland to the Hunter Valley.
Currently we have a small farm in the highly fertile Namoi Valley on the bank of Maules Creek and lease country around us to run beef cattle. My husband and I and our three young sons try to live off the land as much as we can, running dairy goats, chooks, a worm farm, a perennial food forest and a large vegetable patch. We also use solar power and love reducing waste.
I have a background in community development and at the moment I work part-time fundraising for Lock The Gate Alliance, a national grassroots organisation made up of over 97,000 supporters and more than 250 local groups who are concerned about unsafe coal and gas mining.
My parent’s property at Roma was not far from a major unconventional gasfield and the industry was closing in on their organic beef farm. In the end, the gasfield was one of the factors that drove my parents to leave the area as they watched the region change drastically over the last 15 years.
To my horror, the place that I have chosen to put down roots is now under the same threat.
I grew up in a water constrained environment and have always placed huge importance on this resource. At boarding school I was teased for constantly turning off the taps that girls left running while they brushed their teeth. I believe water is our most precious resource and that it should be placed at the top of the tree of importance.
My farm, food forest and vege production rely on a small underground water licence. Every time I turn on those taps I feel deeply grateful and suddenly secure; I know I can feed my family and animals. Fossil fuel projects that drill through or mine our aquifers are destroying the lifeblood of our land.
Within a 30km radius of my home there are four open cut coal mines, one underground coal mine and plenty of gas exploration licences. From just one of those mines - Maules Creek mine - 65 family farms have been sold to coal mining companies, hollowing out our community groups, sporting groups, schools and businesses. I am deeply concerned that the boom bust cycle of the CSG industry will further erode the resilience of my community.
I have a background in planning and funding community projects. I felt I could offer this skill to Lock The Gate. By working for this charity I am able to amplify the positive impact that I can have. Whilst I have worked in a volunteer capacity for the last 7 or 8 years (and continue to do so), I thought I could add more value by raising funds to keep more crusaders on the road!
Get engaged, get educated and get connected. Reach out to family and friends you have in rural areas. Pretty much every one of them is seeing some kind of impact from coal or gas in their region and are probably feeling isolated.
I can also recommend you support the organisations out there that support our regional communities. Lock The Gate has team members spread across Australia, all working towards stopping inappropriate coal and gas developments. We are always in need of resources to pay for new scientific work, to undertake media work, to empower more rural communities and to keep more team members working on these issues.
My family and I get our adrenaline kick from playing the Aussie-invented horse sport of polocrosse. I love to get my hands dirty in the vege patch or the cattle yards and I love to watch the sun rise over the majestic Kaputar ranges.
After meeting some of the fantastic staff at Future Super I realised that I had been unwittingly supporting the exact same fossil fuel companies that I was fighting on my home turf. This made no sense to me so I was quick to change to the only super fund with a 100% guarantee not to invest in fossil fuel companies.
I envisage a future where rural communities are diverse, dynamic, democratic, viable and vibrant.
I see a plethora of locally owned small businesses working on sustainable food and energy products and services that provide exciting and challenging employment for my children’s children. I see a vast and diverse natural resource base that is protected and respected above all else, and I see a welcoming and supportive social environment for my family to live in.
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