Activism At Any Age: June Norman

 

June Norman

 

“It took a hammer, an act of love
To turn that jet Hawk into a dove
It took some courage, it took some strength
To stop that fighter from dealing death”

from Four Strong Women A song by Maurie Mulheron ©Maurie Mulheron 1996

http://unionsong.com/u068.html

 

The story of the actions of “four strong women” weaves its way through 76 year old June Norman’s life.  “In 1996, British women, Andrea Needham, Joanna Wilson, Lotta Kronlid and Angie Zeltner, broke into the high security hangar owned by British Aerospace in Lancashire to disarm one of the newly built Hawk jets bound for East Timor.” Proving in court that the plane was destined to be involved in the genocide of the Timorese people, the four were acquitted.

 

As a child growing up in Canberra, Sunday-school attending June dreamed of going overseas and doing mission work. She married young. Five kids, a divorce and move to northern New South Wales later, June’s childhood renewed desire to work in a third-world country, and a friend’s chance-encounter, set her on the course of non-stop activism for peace and social justice.

 

At 60, June had tried securing a volunteer position, but despite jumping through hoops, and attending courses, she was told her lack of qualifications made her ineligible for resource-poor NGOs.  A friend met a man with Timorese connections at the Channon Markets. He offered to help June find a place to stay in Timor, if she got herself there. Though unfamiliar with the country, June seized the opportunity, hopped on a plane, and headed to Timor. No position awaited her. June took a small amount of savings and was determined to return to Australia after one month if she found nothing, or six if she did. And she did.

 

Working in a variety of communities and organisations over 3 years, June saw and experienced the devastating impacts of war on the country – in particular, on women and children.  While she was there she noticed a reference to 4 strong women painted on the walls of the Timorese Parliament House, looked up the story, and become inspired. Her gradual understanding that the Australian government had a part to play in Timor’s situation deepened her sense of responsibility to do what she could for peace – and the planet.

 

 

At 60, June, took a leap of faith, hopped on a plane, and headed to Timor. She had some connections there but no position awaited her. She took a small amount of savings and was determined to return to Australia after one month if she found nothing, or six if she did. She did. Working in a variety of communities and organisations over 3 years, June saw and experienced the devastating impacts of war on the country – in particular, on women and children.

 

While she was there she noticed a reference to 4 strong women who had disarmed a jetfighter bound for Timor painted on the walls of the Timorese Parliament House.  She looked up the story and become inspired. Her gradual understanding that the Australian government had a part to play in Timor’s situation deepened her sense of responsibility to do what she could for peace – and the planet.

 

Back in Australia, in 2005, June heard that Queensland would be hosting huge joint war games with the US. The US had invaded Iraq in 2003 and the conflict was still waging. The idea that warfare practice could be referred to as a game, deeply hurt her and she decided to respond. With a group of about 50, June travelled to Shoalwater Bay to oppose war – for her children and her grandchildren.  She was arrested for the first time sitting on the ground inside the military training area, with mock coffins, reading out the names of the Iraqi and American dead.

Since that time, June has been arrested hokey-pokeying across Defence lines, has walked from Brisbane to Canberra for peace, Kumbarila (Dalby) to Gladstone along a proposed CSG (coal seam gas) pipeline, Townsville to Brisbane to save the Great Barrier Reef and across Western Australia to protest uranium mining. She has cycled from Shoalwater Bay to Lismore, met UN officials, organized and participated in numerous community events, represented Queensland in the Australian Nuclear Free Alliance and been a Climate Angel at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21).  There, June was also invited to speak at the Peoples Climate Conference. As she waited to speak, she realized that the woman next to her was one of those four strong UK women whose action for peace had inspired her years earlier. Full of admiration and gratitude, June told her, “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Given hope by the energy and commitment of others – for others and the Earth, at 76, June is still organizing, marching, advocating and getting involved in direct action –  and hoping that her actions will inspire others to find their voice and to do what they can.

This circle never ends.  What started out for June as an action for herself, her kids and her grandkids, for Bob as for the earth and the future, and for Marlene as healing and for her community, flows through the community and the people they have touched – and edifies us all.

 

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