This week we are pleased to be able to publish a post from some very special Nannas who have some tips for the kiddies on how to maintain your cool and avoid burnout during a protest action. Aspiring Nannas take note! 

The Northern Rivers region of New South Wales (NSW), Australia is becoming well known for its courageous and effective protest against attempts by corporate interests to introduce unconventional gas mining, including coal seam and tights sands. Since early 2012 the movement has mobilised broad sections of the community to involve themselves in an extensive variety of non‐violent direct actions. This has been so successful that several mining companies temporarily withdrew their operations from the region earlier this year.

One group that has achieved some notoriety is ours, the Knitting Nannas Against Gas (KNAG). Using a variety of unconventional tactics we have managed not only to participate in direct action at protest sites but also helped to establish a culture of care that contributes to maintaining the physical and emotional health and wellbeing of the larger group.


Nannas knitting at holding ponds at Shannonbrook, northern NSW.

The central principle of our KNAG’s ‘Nannafesto’ emphasises nurture and care for community and country while protesting against corporate greed. We operate autonomously, but in consultation with Lock the Gate Alliance (LTG) and other similarly concerned organisations. All KNAG members engage in Non‐Violent Direct Action (NVDA) training before participating in any activity that has the potential for confrontation, such as blockading properties against drill rigs. Police, CSG workers and landholders are all treated with respect while implacable determination to prevent environmental destruction and community division is retained, the catch­‐cry being, “non­‐violent but non­‐negotiable”. For the benefit of others who engage in what can be a very draining and stressful experience, here are some tips and strategies that we employ to maintain wellbeing :

  • Adopt the Knitting Nanna persona: Part of the secret lies in the ‘nanna image’ of the elderly, affectionate, non‐threatening, slightly dizzy persona. This character is infused with charm and humour, while emphasising care and nurture of community. An integral part of the persona involves knitting. For those clicking the needles it is creative, calming, friendly and conducive to conversations that may disseminate information or encourage informal debriefings from stressful situations. The products of knit‐ins, that are sold, exhibited or donated to those in need at blockades exemplify our care for others and recognition of the hard work done by all protestors.


    Nannas outside Thomas George’s office. Photo Clare Twomey 2013

  • Create a non‐threatening atmosphere: The act of knitting at potentially explosive events such as blockades is also an effective de‐escalation strategy and mood lightener. It is difficult for anyone, police included, to continue to vent anger on someone calmly knitting. It has been observed that the presence of knitters has a calming effect on protectors and CSG workers as well as police.
  • Use humour to lighten the mood: A cluster of women knitting in the midst of potentially volatile circumstances has the power to defuse aggression and even generate humour. Being able to laugh while engaged in protest and disruption is essential for mental well‐being and physical endurance. Using language associated with an older generation of grandmothers, such as ‘concern for the kiddies’; and referring to ageing processes, such as forgetfulness, generates much amusement and merriment for protestors and Nannas alike.

Nannas at their regular knit-in outside Thomas George’s office engaging with the public.

  • Avoid burnout: The stress of organizational logistics prior to events, and confrontation during blockades, can take its toll. KNAG members ensure each others’ welfare by maintaining consistent communication, encouraging regular breaks from the protest front and always finding something to laugh about. We Nannas participate in actions at different levels according to our capacity and skills. This helps eliminate feelings of being overwhelmed whilst at the same time it utilises the variety of life experience that each nanna brings to the group. These are our main strategies that help to ensure physical, mental and emotional health for Nannas and for anyone present during protest actions.

These are our main strategies that help to ensure physical, mental and emotional health for Nannas and for anyone present during protest actions. For anyone interested in further information and/or participation, the Nannas maintain a Facebook site and website.

knag1Liz Stops and Yvonne Hartman are Knitting Nannas from New South Wales. Knitting             Nannas Against Gas are AYCC Climate Change Heroes for 2014.

Do you adopt a humorous persona for non-violent direct action? What else do you think helps people to maintain good wellbeing and avoid burnout during actions?