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Political and Social Conflict Over Environment a Focus for Stompin

Andrea Dawkins

Andrea Dawkins  -  Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tags: Arts, Triabunna, Environment, Multicultural Affairs

Ms DAWKINS (Bass) - Madam Speaker, I rise today to report on the latest Stompin performance at the Spring Bay Mill.  The Panorama journey started in the car on the way to Triabunna with a podcast.  Atmospheric electronica enmeshed with mechanical sounds set the scene to the inspiration behind Panorama.  Emma Porteous, the artistic director of Stompin tells us of a collaboration which takes place every two years between directors and long-term dancers.  This year the dancers led the discussion towards themes of the environment and the political and social conflict over the environmental issues these young people have grown up in.  Growing up and being passionately engaged with the importance of protecting Tasmania's natural habitat and beauty have influenced these young people artistically, which is what drew them to the mill site.

Once the site was chosen, the project began to take shape.  As the people of Triabunna began to feel invested in the project, they began opening up and speaking their stories.  From a resident:

Whaling first, then penguins were boiled up.  As each went wrong, there was change.  Small boats became bigger; poor old fish didn't stand a chance.  Ross Trevor, that big employer, all gone. 

The ebb and flow of change in the community resonated for all, young and old.  Emma saw the role of the Stompin performers was to humanise the mill with an interjection of young people, those who would not have been represented in the machinations of the mill life in the past.  The mill was started, we heard, by a group of sawmillers who took the gamble and backed themselves with an opportunity to chip trees which had been pushed down during the selective logging process.  They could see sawlogs were becoming harder to come by safely, and saw the opportunity to use the residue and create an economy.  They could see that the whole logs heading off to Japan could be chipped and thought the profits should stay in the community.  A resident of Triabunna said, 'My husband was the first over the weighbridge.  We have always been part of this community.'

Working at the mill, a resident said he saw wild birds make use of the woodchip pile and the miners up in the rafters, picking off moths.  'The noise and the clang and all', he said, 'the sounds and the smells of mill life were strong memories of happy, hardworking days'.  For some, their first exposure to multiculturalism was when the first Japanese ship came into the wharf.  'We learned they were just like us', he said.

The mill was such a big part of life of the town.  It was not just that it ended; it was how it was done.  The loss of the woodchips and the fishing industries have hit hard.  There were 600 kids at the school, 63 owner/operator businesses, and contractors across all areas.  Not everyone loved the mill and clearfelling native forest, but it was very important to the town life. 

Sometimes waiting for change is worse than dealing with it.  This community has dealt with change for a very long time, and now it is here we are very much looking forward to the future.  We are looking forward to the redevelopment of the mill.  When the mill started we had 15 years and anything after that was a bonus.  Many blame environmentalists for the mill's closure.  Of course they do; we understand that.  But wounds are starting to heal and now the mill is a source of hope.

The young people I interviewed said that they felt lucky.  Even though their connection to the natural environment was sometimes conflicted, at least they had one.  They worry for people who grow up without the opportunities they had.  One young man said - and it was repeated throughout the piece - 'I am not worried about the future; it comes into my head and I do it.'

As I was leaving, an elderly man came up to me and said that the angst around the mill will fade soon, especially now that the new fight is brewing for this town around Okehampton Bay.  People love their fishing here and they are concerned about the fish farm and the effects it will have on the bay's ecosystem. 

I congratulate Stompin dancers.  Seeing them interpret that space felt as though the story and work of men was being taken on by these young, passionate artists.  The interpretation was fitting and right.  It is challenging material and Emma Porteous, Alisdair Macindoe, Matthew Adey, Dylan Sheridan, Bones Sylvan, Toni Smith and the Stompin dancers, Triabunna community voices and performers did it proud.  It was Emma's last outing as a Stompin artist director.  I wish her very well for the new challenges she will now take on in this thriving, yet under-funded ecosystem which is the Tasmanian art scape.