Updated: Dec 12, 2021
Celebrating the stories of people in the outdoors community who have inspired action on the climate crisis is very important for us at Outdoors People for Climate. Marion Crossman is a devoted teacher, inspires adventure in the most ordinary days, and recently helped to stop exploration for a potential coal mine in her local area of Rylstone NSW. She was the leader of my schools Duke of Edinburgh programme, and without her, I really don't think I would have the same passion for adventure and the outdoors that I do now.
Recently, the Australian Government started exploring the potential of a new coal mine in the beautiful area surrounding Wollemi National Park, including Dunns Swamp (Ganguggy), a much loved campground by many Sydney siders. Alarmed by the thought of the destruction of this beautiful landscape, Marion worked with her family and other locals to self-fund and create Rylstone Region Coal Free Community, to promote awareness on the issue. The work of the community was recently rewarded as the government announced that they would stop coal exploration in the area. Read on to hear Marion's inspiring story, and see how persistent action from a small community, can create a lasting and meaningful impact for future generations.
My name is Marion Crossman. I am 62 years old and live on a 200-acre farm at Cox’s Crown near Rylstone on the Central Tablelands of NSW.
I grew up in Toongabbie in the Western Suburbs of Sydney. When I was very young our area was semi-rural and the road was unsealed. Our property backed onto Greystanes Creek and weekends and after school time was spent playing down at the creek with my sisters and friends from school. Most weekends and holidays my parents took us hiking, kayaking or camping, and so much of my life was spent outdoors. I became involved in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Program in my first teaching job, moved to Springwood in 1986 and became heavily involved with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program when I was teaching in the Mountains.
Around 2005 or so I started to notice the change in climate at Springwood. Our house was built in the 1930’s and so stayed cool even on the hottest days however increasingly we had to have fans on at night to sleep, as the level of humidity started to become uncomfortable. Furthermore, our pool which had been created in the 1940’s by walling off a small cliff and was usually almost too cold to swim in, had become warmer and we could stay in for much longer.
In 2015 on an extremely hot and humid day we decided to look for somewhere cooler to live in the future and after extensive research on average temperatures, elevation, rainfall etc. we bought the farm at Cox’s Crown near Rylstone.
Earlier this year all landowners in the district received a letter from a man called Craig Shaw. He had been a landowner in Bylong Valley and had been heavily involved in the action against coal mining in that valley. He wrote to tell us that in June 2020 the NSW State Government had made a decision to open up a large area for coal exploration extending from the top of the pass at Growee Gulch down into Bylong Valley sweeping around north of Rylstone and extending out to Wollemi National Park and Ganguddy, voted best camping area in NSW by the Getaway! TV program.
The letter from Craig Shaw included a map (shown above), and an invitation to a public meeting to advise landowners of the process which lay ahead of us. At the end of the meeting a committee was formed and the Rylstone Region Coal Free Community (RRCFC) was established.
Since then there have been more public meetings (before State wide lockdown rules), pressure on the Department of Planning to hold more Zoom meetings for interested and affected parties and a local awareness campaign involving signage, petitions to sign, offers of help to write submissions and the construction of a large A-frame board mounted on a trailer to spread the word.
The trailer was parked outside the newsagency in Rylstone and in less than 24 hours was impounded by Council. It was released without fines paid a week later after meetings with Council and much patient, quiet and persistent discussion around Council’s complete lack of disregard for the 1993 Impoundment Act.
At first, the primary motivation for becoming involved in action against potential coal mines in this area was purely selfish- we, our neighbours and our daughter and son-in-law stand to lose our beautiful properties if the coal mine goes ahead. However, the greater motivation is a sense of anger and outrage that in 2021 it is still possible for a government to contemplate coal mining let alone one that would ruin an area like this. I have friends and family who live in Tamworth and Nowendoc and on my drive up there I have been horrified at the destruction of the landscape around Singleton. Rylstone has an unusual topography with many pointy mountains that look like old volcanic plugs, many springs and limestone which acts as a filter to rain water making the springs clear and clean.
We are close to Wollemi National Park and there are a lot of pagoda formations in the area including many on our property. This is Wiradjuri Country and there is evidence of habitation in the form of artwork and tools in rock shelters on our property and on 2 neighbouring properties. My neighbour and I are currently searching for more to add to the national register, particularly as one of the preliminary reports on this area (prior to coal mine exploration) stated that there was no evidence of indigenous occupation in this area!
I read the Sydney Morning Herald every morning and most days there is an article about the decline of the coal industry or a power station being closed or yet another country deciding to cease coal imports. This news makes it even more astonishing that the NSW Government can be thinking of committing time and money to this industry. It would be just as ridiculous for them to announce major investment in Betamax or horse drawn carriage production!
The Department of Planning received 2064 submissions and only 16 did not oppose coal explorations in our area. A decision will be made towards the end of this year and the action group continues to meet via Zoom and discuss ways in which the pressure on the government can be maintained.
Marion and the Rylstone Region Coal Free Community created a petition to stop coal exploration in the area hosted by The Wilderness Society that received over 10, 000 signatures. On November 3rd, a surprise announcement by NSW Deputy Premier Paul Tool, stated that he intended to rule out coal and petroleum exploration in the Hawkins and Rumker areas near Rylstone. This is a fantastic outcome, and a result of community collaboration and meaningful action. But the fight is not over yet, as a third area is still under threat.
This December, we are urging our fellow outdoors people to switch over their banks and supers to providers that do not fund fossil fuel and gas projects. The exploration of a new coal mine in Rylstone is unfortunately not the only project that threatens the beautiful ecosystems of rural NSW. Right across Australia we are seeing proposed coal seam gas and fossil fuel projects that will devastate the natural areas we love to explore. Switching your investments is a simple way to make a huge difference. Click here to discover more about these concerning projects, and take the pledge to move your money for good.
Stories like Marion's inspire at OPC and remind us that there are some amazing people doing good out in the world. Are you someone working to support action for climate or do you know someone else who is? We would love to hear from you to continue to share the stories of the hardworking people in our community!