"How We Won the War" - Yulanji & Emily's story

How we won the war

Ilana Tulloch - Work Experience | 28th July 2009


PEACE protester Emily Nielsen yesterday told how she survived on a diet of nuts and muesli bars for 11 days at Shoalwater Bay during Exercise Talisman Saber.

The 19-year-old gave The Morning Bulletin an insight into life inside the training area for her and fellow protester Yulanji Bardon, 21.

On Sunday morning, as the war games wrapped up, the pair arrived at the range control checkpoint to be greeted by military police offering green cordial, Tim Tams and editions of the The Morning Bulletin to read.

Emily and Yulanji, who have both noticed the weight loss of their altered diet, slept in a tent at the south-western end of the 170,000ha training area.

They survived by drinking water from the creeks, aided by purification tablets.

“We didn't go hungry, but you do notice the weight loss,” Yulanji said.

“I think it was partly due to going without grog for all that time, though.”

The two Brisbane women had been in the military training area since July 15, where they covered some beautiful and diverse terrain. Ten protesters entered the area and eight were arrested. Emily and Yulanji were the last to leave.

But Yulanji said this wasn't the point of their protest, and was surprised they managed to side-step the 24,000 troops.

“If two young women with a compass and limited tactical experience can get away with sight-seeing in a military base over the course of 11 days without detection, there may need to be an inquiry into just how effective these training exercises actually are,” Yulanji said.

Bathing in creeks, Emily said she joked it would be funny if they got caught naked, but it never happened.

The Talisman Saber military training operation officially ended on Friday, but there were still troops at the base when the protesters presented themselves on Sunday.

“We could have walked back to Rockhampton, but we chose to be arrested as proof of our eleven-day occupation,” Yulanji said.

The pair had dodged helicopters, military dogs and avoided thousands of military personnel.

But on Sunday morning, they were handed over to Rockhampton police, charged with trespass and given a notice to appear in court on August 17.

The two women are currently homeless, squatting in locations around the city.

They've been given bail conditions, one of which is that they must not be within 50 metres of a military vehicle.

“That should prove difficult, seeing as we've got to travel home now,” Emily said.

The pair will head home by bus, where they'll be welcomed back by Peace Convergence organisers.