Leanne Brummell


Hailing from:
Balonne Shire, Southwest Queensland, Australia on unceded Gamilaraay Country
With respect for:
The pivotal role that Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people continue to play within the Australian community
Local football team colors:
Red and white
Current knitting project:
Making red scarves outside our town library to say: Code red for climate. Don't cross this line. (I'll tell locals we can use them for football games to get more people knitting with me.)
Reply to security at a gas conference:
“Please wait until I finish this row to kick me out, or I might drop a stitch.”
One of my best tools:
Sandra Steingraber’s Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking. 7th edition. I’m waiting on the 8th.
When I’m not organizing:
I have my own tutoring business and am a qualified teacher aide to fill in when needed.
On living with a teenager:
My eighteen year old just finished school and is sleeping for six months “to get over it,” she says.

One of the Seven Wonders

I love the ocean. Many years ago, I took my daughter to the Great Barrier Reef with floaties, before she could even swim. Fish were all around her, and she was laughing her head off. It’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her.

I straightaway made the connection between the Adani coal mine and all the ships going through the reef—one ship every hour, every day, in and out through the reef. I knew it wasn’t good. I grew up in a coal area. If your father worked in the mine, you worked in the mine. The mines there are closed, but there’s still coal dust blowing in under my friend’s back door. Everything’s always black. I knew that coal would end up on the reef. I also know that our Pacific neighbors live off their reefs, catching fish everyday. If their reefs are wiped out, what do they do for food?

So I went to a TV show where they record the morning weather report and people always have signs. I made a sign that said SAVE THE REEF. My message got on television with my daughter wearing a marine conservation t-shirt. A few years later, on a trip to Brisbane, I saw there was a protest targeting an Adani meeting, and I said, “I’m going.”

Fighting Fracking

Fossil gas started near Chinchilla where my parents were living, so I was there when it all began. I saw the place transformed from a sleepy country town to hundreds of blokes filling the pubs.
I know someone whose kids were getting nose bleeds. When they visited grandparents for school holidays, they didn’t get bloody noses. Now she’s been bought out and signed a confidentiality agreement so she can’t talk about it. That’s what they’ve done with everyone here.

The gas companies came to a nearby town with about 500 people (if they’ve all got visitors). They were surrounded by gas exploration permits. I was finding out about all these health issues associated with fracking, then I heard about climate. I didn’t know much about it, but I knew I needed to learn.

I found a couple of mums with a Facebook page about climate and went along to one of their Zooms. There were about five of us. We decided to start Australian Parents for Climate Action to help people understand about climate change and why we need to stop extracting coal, oil and fossil gas. I could teach city people about gas impacts.

Stopping it Here

I started a local Knitting Nannas group as a way to raise awareness, thinking “This is crazy, but I’ve got to do it.” I took a poll and found that 85% of local people don’t want fracking. Corporations have drilled under people’s farms without telling them. It’s infuriating.

Because of submissions I made, gas companies now have to report on each well they intend to frack and tick the boxes to say it’s safe. When they were set to frack near my river, I rang up the compliance people who said, “Well, we have the report, but it doesn’t say we have to look at it.”

I’m doing everything I legally can in the public submissions process to try to stop more wells that will lock us into more climate pollution. If we’ve got to stop it worldwide to stop it here, that might be easier.

Stopping it Another Way

With an Australian climate group I was given a question to ask as a proxy for a shareholder. I went to an annual meeting of Suncorp, which was one of the big banks and insurers in Australia.

It was nerve-wracking. There were big screens and a room full of people. When they said, “Any more questions?” I thought, “I’m here. I’m going to ask.” So I asked off the top of my head whether they would insure the farmer after the gas company is gone.

All that fracking under the ground, all the wells and pipes, are going to be there forever, literally forever. They are allowed to sell you a property without telling you there’s an old well there. What can you build on top of it? What can be insured?

Fighting the funding and the insurance has become a big part of what I do. If we can stop the money, they can’t keep fracking. I tell my government, “This is going to make some money now, but you haven’t looked to the future.” They’re not stopping it because they get political donations. We have to stop it another way.

Mums in Action

We’re working with mums in the UK who have a big campaign against Lloyd’s of London, the huge insurance company. At Christmas, they delivered an advent calendar to Lloyd’s with something to open and tweet each day—all cricket-themed, because the CEO is a big fan.

They’re over there on the ground, outside his office. Meanwhile, England’s playing Australia, and I’m checking UK tweets, retweeting from Australian Parents for Climate Action. The CEO actually answered their tweet. That’s impact. That’s the way to save our kids.

My daughter is 18 now. I’ve been fighting fracking and climate change for most of her life. She says it takes up too much of my time, but she also thinks it’s awesome that I’m doing something about it. There’s lots of anxiety, but I feel better if I’m doing something for my daughter and all the kids. I see them growing up, having kids, and I know it’s their future and their world.

Tweeting from “Nowhere”

Lots of people out here still don’t believe in climate change. Our previous government denied it was real for a decade. Most of the TV and newspapers deny it. People are busy on their farms and with their lives, just trying to survive. Our local council has written climate into its policies so I’m hopeful. But we’ve had huge floods here again—the worst ever—and a bloke with our local Council just said “It’s climate change.” We had a ten year drought. Having fossil gas companies fracking in the neighbouring Council areas, making climate impacts worse, makes it feel hopeless sometimes.

I’m not in the city to join a big protest. I’m out here in the middle of nowhere calling out the prime minister on Twitter and submitting reports about fracking.
When I first opened my Twitter account, every Sunday morning before I got out of bed, I would tweet to the environment minister: “What have you done to save the reef this week?” One little tweet in bed on a Sunday morning started it all. They must have noticed me, because when the minister changed, I was blocked straightaway. Little things add up.

Climate Cakes

Our local agricultural show has an arts and crafts competition. I’ve entered cakes with BAN FRACKING on them and cupcakes with banners saying DON’T FRACK SURAT. (Once I won second prize because there were only two cakes submitted.) I’ve done paintings, one about school strikes. I’ve also submitted a photo of a gas rig. Last year, I wrote a heap of facts and painted them pink and blue.

My craftivism often gets displayed near the winner so everyone sees it. My next submission will be about Lloyds.

Little Wins, Big Impact

The little wins keep me going. And seeing more people start to care. People tell me they respect what I do. They say, “I could never do it, but thank you.” That makes me feel good, and I like being connected with the UK mums. I’m forever telling Australian groups that there are people like us all over the world.

When we all go after the money, we’re going to the source to turn it off, to pull the plug out of the bathtub and let out all the dirty water. It’s not good times now, but it’s good to do something I know has impact.