Helen Bayes: Three Courageous Peace Grannies Arrested for Obstruction at Australian Military Base

Interviewed by

Lisa Er

Helen Bayes: Three Courageous Peace Grannies Arrested for Obstruction at Australian Military Base

Why were three courageous Australian Quaker grannies for Peace arrested by military police for blocking the road to Shoalwater Bay Military Base Queensland, in 2015? BUT - That did not deter them. They protested again, at the super secret spy station - Pine Gap on September 2016.

Having enticed Helen Bayes into the studio, this interview covers not only the story of these staunch seniors, but also explains something of Quakers, and their peace testimony.

As part of Peace Convergence 2015 'Quaker Grannies for Peace' set up a tea table blockading the access road to Samuel Hill / Shoalwater Bay military base, which is used for the Talisman Sabre military exercises.

(Talisman Sabre is a biennial joint Australia-United States military exercise. It involves joint exercises performed by the Australian Defence Force and the United States Military across six locations in northern and central Australia, the Coral Sea, and in Honolulu, Denver, and Suffolk, Va., though the bulk of the exercises are concentrated at the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area, and other locations in northern and central Australia.)

Grandmother of thirteen, Helen Bayes explains why they would protest this: "Our Quaker peace testimony from 1661 says 'We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretence whatsoever.”

The grannies set up a table and chairs and prepared tea and cake in order to engage in dialogue with military personnel.

"Negotiation is not currently part of the war rehearsals, so we are drawing attention to this missing element," said Helen, " Yet it essential to achieve peace."

The Quaker Grannies said they came "with the conviction that a world of increasingly destructive weaponry threatens our continued existence and that nonviolent strategies are essential to our survival".

After being arrested by military police and handed over to local police, the Grannies were convicted, on July 14, 2015, of trespass, and fined $500 each, with no conviction recorded.

In 2016 “Quaker Grannies for Peace” set up breakfast on the road to Pine Gap, and invited military personnel arriving for work at the base to sit down with them.

The action was one of a series of events marking the 50th anniversary of the secret US military facility at Pine Gap, by groups advocating for the base’s closure.

Founder of the Quaker Grannies Helen Bayes said: “We are asking Australians whether it is appropriate for a foreign country to be operating a secret facility with no transparency on Australian soil; a base that may well be implicating Australians in wars that our government has not entered into.”

Located half-an-hour's drive south-west of Alice Springs, Pine Gap is one of Australia's most secret sites. It collects various kinds of data from the Asia Pacific and the Middle East, including targeting data for American drone operations and assassinations.

Partly run by the U.S.Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Pine Gap is a key contributor to the global surveillance network ECHELON. (New Zealand’s Waihopai Spy Base is also a part of ECHELON, or Five Eyes. It is a secure communication facility, located near Blenheim, run by New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).)

Helen Bayes is a Melbourne based English-born activist who won the Australia's Human Rights Medal in 1999.

She was born into a Quaker family in Northern England and migrated to Australia in 1966, at age 22. She has 4 adult children and 13 grandchildren. She holds a BA in Social Work and BA (Hons) in Social Administration, and had a 15-year career in the National and State Public Service in the areas of Social Policy and Community Services.

Helen resigned from the Public Service and set up an international child rights advocacy NGO called the Australian Section of Defence for Children International, and has served that organisation in Australia, in Geneva, and on the International Council for 20 years. Helen Bayes was awarded the Australian Human Rights Medal for this work in 1999.

Helen's concern for the rights of children grew into a fascination with early Quakerism. As Eva Koch Fellow at the Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, she researched the views of the earliest Quakers on the nurturing and guidance of children and young people. She was the James Backhouse Lecturer in 2002 (the Australian equivalent of the SP Gardner Lecture), entitled Respecting the Rights of Children and Young People: A New Perspective on Quaker Faith and Practice.

On a lighter side, Helen collects Quaker bonnets, one of which she is wearing in the above photo.




Quakers – who are they



You can about the book, “Dangerous Allies,” by Malcolm Fraser, (Australian PM from 1975 to 1983) which argues that the time when it was in our strategic interest to have a strong military relationship with the US is over, and that now Australia would be better off with a more independent foreign policy. (New Zealand too!)




and our Greenplanet interview with Murray Horton on why New Zealand needs an independent foreign policy:


This interview was sponsored by The Awareness Party


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Lisa Er

Lisa Er

Born in the UK Lisa emigrated with her parents to New Zealand at the age of 16. Already politically active Lisa has continued to have a passionate interest in peace, politics, and the philosophy behind what we do.

A primary school teacher for 14 years, Lisa then turned her hand to business and created the well known Lisa's Hummus, which she sold a few years ago. Now Lisa is immersed in creating a better political system via www.theawarenessparty.com