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About I Am Active!

I Am Active! is a Radio Skid Row project that celebrates activists in our community and the role they play as agents of change. Radio Skid Row has a long and proud history of involvement in community activism across a wide range of political, cultural and social justice issues, and this project is a way of acknowledging the individuals that have worked and continue to work to improve the lives of others. Check out the stories of the activists we are profiling here and get involved with this project by sharing your own activist stories, images and videos with us.

How The Project Started

The idea for the I Am Active project was inspired by the demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt during the so-called Arab Spring of 2010–11. It got us at Radio Skid Row thinking and asking lots of questions. Questions like, ‘Would an Arab Spring ever happen in Australia?’ or ‘What would it take for hundreds of thousands of us to go out onto the streets?’ Then there was the whole idea that the Arab Spring, in particular the demonstrations in Egypt, started on Facebook that got us thinking about other questions. Questions like, ‘Is it possible to be an activist just online?’ So we got some help from the Community Broadcasting Foundation and a few of us put together lists of activists – some who work on local campaigns and some who work on national ones… and the I Am Active project got started.

What Is An Activist?

For a year a team of Radio Skid Row producers walked the streets of Sydney talking to activists who are fighting for change. In some cases, they are fighting for a change in their local neighbourhood. Others are trying to change the country, and still others are trying to change the world. We talked with over 30 people about how they see their activism, how much time they spend supporting their cause or causes, and how they see activism changing with the emergence of online activism. So what do we mean by the term ‘activist’? Wikipedia tells us that ‘Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis. Activism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, political campaigning, economic activism such as boycotts or preferentially patronizing businesses, rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, and hunger strikes.’ Some of the people we interviewed said they felt that you were not really an activist if you were being paid to do a job, while others said that was unfair because so many community jobs include a mix of paid and unpaid hours. Another suggestion was that to be an activist you had to be working on campaigns that go beyond your personal realm of family and social networks. Most people agreed that signing online petitions and supporting causes by liking and sharing them in social networks was not activism.

Barbara McGrady – Photographer

At an opening of Barbara McGrady’s photographic exhibition at the Redfern Community Centre, Gary Foley said that one of her photos was worth thousands of pages written by historians like himself. At the same time, Gary noted that while there are many community photographers, Barbara’s photos were different because they…

Cathy Nisbit – Local Activist

When Radio Skid Row reporter, Em Couch went to interview Cathy Nisbit from Kogarah Community Services about her work, Cathy wasn’t sure if she considered herself an activist. ‘I just never thought of an activist as having painted nails and wearing lipstick,’ she said. Cathy is a part-time community worker…

Frank – Cycle Re-cycle Club

The Cycle Re-cycle Club, sometimes known as the Nunnery Bike workshop, is a group of volunteers who spend their time fixing old bikes. Cycle Re-cycle accepts donations of old and broken bikes and then put the bits and pieces together. What we like best about them is that they give the fixed…

Jug Agius – Friends of Greenway

If you live in the inner west, chances are you have heard about the Greenway Project. What you probably didn’t know is that the project started with a handful of passionate people. Jug Agius was one of them. Friends of Greenway is a community group that started a campaign which…

Micah M White – Occupy Wall Street

When we started this project we spent a lot of time searching the Internet for people to interview. We were surprised, when we were looking for people to talk about online activism and its relationship with direct action, how hard it was to track down some of the key players.…

Nick Deane – Marrickville Peace Group

The Marrickville Peace Group is a collective of individuals of disparate political views who come together to foster activities in support of peace and in opposition to war as a means of settling international disputes. They meet in the back room of a Marrickville cafe once a month and Nick…

Paddy Gibson – Stop the Intervention Collective

Paddy Gibson is an organiser with Stop the Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS) and has studied the impact on those in the ‘prescribed communities’. Since 2008 he has been a researcher for the UTS Jumbunna House of Learning. STIC is an open collective of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people committed to the repeal…

Ray Jackson – Indigenous Social Justice Association

If you ever found yourself walking down the streets of Redfern in Sydney, you may have come across a well-known figure, Ray Jackson. He was pretty hard to miss as he always wore a hat covered in political badges – often with a matching vest. Definitely an old school activist,…