You are here

Brown Mountain: Film of Australia's Avatars in South East Gippsland

A group of forest-warriors in East Gippsland

There is an interesting new you-tube film just published about the people who fight to protect our forests from VicForests, the Government loggers for woodchips. A group of them are located at Goongerah. The film is called "AVATAR at Errinundra Plateau Brown Mountain, East Gippsland.m4v."

Giselle Wilkinson ("Gisellebluepearl") made the film to reach a few more people and help catalyse a bit of extra support for the ongoing battles and particularly for the current legal battle, for which we still don't have the result yet.

"Gisellebluepearl — March 22, 2010 — Come to the Errinundra Plateau, East Gippsland. Visit the home of the forest defenders and the ancient old growth forest they're protecting. The old growth forests of Victoria have been logged for wood chip for years - over 90% is gone forever. Some trees are over 10 metres in girth and a tree stump left behind after loggers was carbon dated to be over 600 years old. The little that's left needs our urgent protection. Brown Mountain is earmarked for logging this year again. For more info go to: www.eastgippsland.net.au; www.goongerah.org.au; www.geco.org.au

GECO is an independent grassroots environment organisation based in East Gippsland. It is dedicated to protecting the remaining old growth forests of the region. There are updates of film-documented recent forest loggings and protests.

The Angel on the tripod

At the end of the film we see the picture above which looks like a Victory Angel protecting and personifying the forest, high in the canopy, appearing larger than human.

I had to make inquiries to find out who it was and what it was all about. The woman with the wings was Allana Beltran, who is a visual artist and the forest is in the lower Weld Valley in Southern Tasmanian forest. Here she met Ben Morrow, a tree sitter who was to become her partner. The photo is probably by photographer Matthew Newton, but I had to look far and wide on the web, where there are many copies, for any reference to the photographer, which I found here: http://slingshot.tao.ca/displaybi.php?0096003">Lilia Letch, "Resistance everywhere - eco-defense in Tasmania," in Slingshot.

In November 2006 the forest camp where Morrow and Beltran were living in was raided by police ahead of a logging company's arrival. In March, only three protesters remained, according to the Tasmania Times:

'One man was locked onto the gate at one of the entrances to the forest. Another man, Ben Morrow, was hanging in a sling off the bridge over the Weld River. Seven kilometres from him, Alanna Beltran was attached to a giant tripod at a second entrance to the forest. She had a long white curtain wrapped around her waist, white body paint on her face and was wearing wings of white cockatoo feathers that she’d scavanged from the shorelines and forest floor. She’d become the “Weld Angel,” the “Angel of the Forest,” and her haunting image was about to enter Tasmanian folklore.

“I did it because I thought it would look beautiful,” she says now matter-of-factly, “and if I was going to be arrested as a visual artist, I wanted to make a visual statement.”' Source: "The arrest angels in Tasmania", Tasmanian Times27.02.08

"Allana Beltran and two years ago she walked into the lower Weld Valley in Tasmania’s southern forests and experienced what can only be described as a life-changing epiphany. In front of her was a wilderness of ancient, towering trees, deep gorges and waterfalls, and a wild river flowing through it. On an adjacent ridge there was a different scene. It was the blackened ruins of a recently clearfelled tract of native forest.

“It was the most horrific devastation of land I had ever seen in my life,” the visual artist from Sydney told Vanity Fair recently. “And from that moment on my heart was with the people who were standing up for places like this.”

Allana Beltran decided to stay in these forests and join the group of protesters trying to save it from further logging. That’s when she met Ben Morrow, the man who would soon become her partner. He’d been in the valley for six months, much of it spent 50 to 60 metres up in a grey-trunked eucalypt, in what’s called a `tree-sit,’ on the lookout for loggers.

“Our camp was in the middle of the road that changed from clearfell to wilderness,” Beltran says now from her home in the Tasmanian capital of Hobart. “There was 100 ha of clearfelling and they wanted to bulldoze a road another two and a half kilometres in so they could access 2000 ha. This was all old growth forest surrounded by World Heritage Area.”

In November 2006 the camp was raided by police as the logging company moved into build the new stretch of road. Twenty-five protesters were arrested. By March, the beginning of the Australian autumn, the blockade had virtually collapsed with only three protesters left standing between the chainsaws and the forests.

Although not exactly standing. One man was locked onto the gate at one of the entrances to the forest. Another man, Ben Morrow, was hanging in a sling off the bridge over the Weld River. Seven kilometres from him, Alanna Beltran was attached to a giant tripod at a second entrance to the forest. She had a long white curtain wrapped around her waist, white body paint on her face and was wearing wings of white cockatoo feathers that she’d scavanged from the shorelines and forest floor. She’d become the “Weld Angel,” the “Angel of the Forest,” and her haunting image was about to enter Tasmanian folklore.

“I did it because I thought it would look beautiful,” she says now matter-of-factly, “and if I was going to be arrested as a visual artist, I wanted to make a visual statement.”

Beltran sat in her forest aerie for nine and a half hours listening through headphones to Tibetan monk music, as the police ordered her down through megaphones. “I was praying for the forests and for people to realise what they are doing. I was ready to sacrifice myself to this cause. I was ready to stand up for these ancient forests.”"