Melbourne was the latest city along the Southern Ocean to hold a paddle out to protest against the proposed drilling by Norwegian Oil Company, Equinor, in The Great Australian Bight.
The peaceful protest followed other successful paddle outs that occurred in Torquay and Burleigh Heads earlier this month. However, on the weekend it was Melburnians’ turn for their voices to be heard.
Jarrah Bassel, a local resident of Torquay, organised the first paddle out that took place at the front beach on March 3. From there he was approached by a number of people asking for his help to plan the next one.
“Some of the people that participated in the Torquay paddle out that came from Melbourne actually asked me help to organise one in St Kilda,” he said.
“We walked down Acland Street in St Kilda and then together we went out to the pier and all jumped in the bay there.
“I was very impressed with the turn out. It just shows how important this coastline is to so many different people.”
Equinor has proposed plans to drill for oil off the coast of South Australia in the Great Australian Bight. Many, including Greenpeace, fear an oil spill from the planned rigs would affect much of Australia’s coast line.
“If something goes wrong and an oil spill occurs, their own map shows that from Perth all the way across the Southern Ocean, back up past Sydney and all the way to Port Macquarie will be seriously affected,” Bassel said.
“To be quite honest most oil drilling that happens out there, happens quite safely but when something goes bad, it goes bad in a big way. The great Australian Bight is incredibly full of marine parks; turbulent ocean patterns and the drilling just makes for a really dangerous combination.”
Bassel started the paddle outs because he wanted not only his voice, but the voices of Australian citizens to be heard by the government. He is confident that the paddle outs are working, gaining media coverage around the world.
“I think the paddle out is definitely having an impact. Between the three paddle outs that have taken place in Victoria, there was estimated numbers of around 700 to 800 total attendees,” he said.
“About half participated in the water while the other participated from land.”
“The paddle outs have created some pretty incredible photos and those photos have been used all around the world including American surf magazines and in Norwegian magazines and has been huge in Australian news and social media.”
Andrew Drill, who lives in the Surf Coast Shire, was one of many who took part in the paddle out in Torquay. He believes it’s time the government started thinking ahead.
“It was great to see the community of the Surf Coast and surrounding areas really bind together to let our voices be heard,” he said.
“I can’t believe the government is even considering allowing the drilling to happen. It is time to start thinking of the future and use other ways to get fossil fuels.
“If something were to happen it would affect the marine life and the waters that we rely on so much. It’s time to do something before it’s too late.”
Both Bassel and Drill advise anyone that is passionate about stopping the drilling off the Great Australian Bight to sign an online petition and spread the coverage of the recent paddle outs. The petition is available to sign here.