June 27th 2013
Reefwalkers visit Magnetic Island
Every now and then you meet somebody you would just have to call remarkable. 72 year old June Norman is surely this. A retired welfare worker, June saw just how much damage was being done to the Great Barrier Reef by Queensland’s port expansions for gas and coal exports and decided to take steps of her own. Many steps. So many steps she has just walked to Townsville from Cairns and she is on her way to Gladstone. Taking a short break on Magnetic Island June and two walking companions, medical doctors, Rosalie Schultz and Nick Tyllis, who will accompany her from here on to Gladstone, spoke to Magnetic Times.
“I was getting frustrated getting people in Brisbane to take on the coal seam gas and coal developments which are going ahead at 100miles per hour and I came up with the idea that the (Great Barrier) Reef is everybody’s backyard. Because I’m a walker and because I wanted to secure a sustainable future for my grandchildren I decided to walk to bring awareness to the people and empower them to make a stand," said June.
Rosalie, from Alice Springs, is, like June, also a walker. She is such a committed walker she walked right out of her job to join June. “Walking is so much easier than resigning your job she laughs!”
As a doctor Rosalie sees climate change as a threat to human health in many ways. On a more specific level she says, “Obesity is a sign of our dependence on fossil fuels. We eat too much from highly fossil fuel dependent monocultures. We drive too much too!”
Rosalie’s partner Nick joined her in the walk, not just because he and Rosalie love walking but, “The health of the planet is intimately related to the health of people. Everything we need to survive comes from this planet.”
The group attended a special welcoming ceremony this week at The Strand where according to June, Deputy Mayor Vern Veitch was very positive and spoke of the threats to Townsville and the district from climate change. She laughs however at Premier Campbell Newman who she said had described people such as the walkers as, “a shady, clandestine group” and part of a “secret alliance to shut down the state’s coal industry”.
Rosalie chips in, “He’s trying to get business people to fight environmentalists. I think that’s a statement of our success! And now Obama is taking action,” she giggles.
The group were also part of a “Fight for the Reef” talk on Tuesday night in Townsville with, Steve Irwin’s father, Bob Irwin who called on the federal government to reject plans to dredge the Great Barrier Reef.
But while June has already inspired many along the way including country school visits and has had, “lots of toots from truckies” and “one woman with tears in her eyes stopping to offer a crystal angel for protection”, she is clearly disappointed that “there is so much support but so few walkers” joining her in the trek to Gladstone which aims at 30kms per day, six days per week. “You don’t need to be super fit and there is a support vehicle to carry anybody who can’t make it to the next destination.”
“People stop to give us money” says June, “But we are not walking to raise maney. We are walking to raise awareness”
Rosalie ponders that the lack of other walkers may be “a manifestation of how busy people are - tied up in the culture we’re in.”
The walkers are part of a world-wide group known as “Footprints for Peace” and it seems are also disappointed that others are not getting to experience the sheer pleasure of “walking on the land”. June believes it to be a form of meditation that one discovers after certain thresholds are crossed. “Once you stop counting the miles you have come and how many more there are to go and just walk. You begin to see that you are actually touching the Earth.”
“The mind is free. You don’t have to plan and you go out of mobile range You are free!” says Rosalie.
To find out more about Reefwalkers you can contact the North Queensland Conservation Council on (07) 47716226 or (click here).
Story & photos: George Hirst