97-year-old protestor arrested in Newcastle for ‘doing his duty’

Alan Stuart is concerned about future generations and climate change. Source: Getty Images.

A 97-year-old grandfather was recently arrested in Newcastle along with more than 100 people during a protest at sea.

Alan Stuart, a Uniting church minister, was amongst the group at the Port of Newcastle protesting against climate change “inaction” when they were arrested for deliberate civil disobedience.

Children were amongst those apprehended by police.

As Australia’s deep water global gateway, the Port of Newcastle is a major seaport and currently handles 4,697 ship movements and 166 million tonnes of cargo annually.

It conducts trade to the tune of approximately $71 billion annually and enables Australian businesses to successfully compete in international markets.

The port recently lit up with brightly coloured kayaks as the group of protestors took turns paddling into the shipping lane for the 30-hour action.

Comfortably ensconced in a rowboat with his life jacket, Stuart joined in the fray for two hours before the police turned up and told them they had contravened the authorised 4pm cut-off time.

They were then filmed helping to lift the reverend from his vessel.

Speaking to SBS News, Stuart said he felt it was his “duty, to stand up and be counted”.

“I’m concerned about the climate. We’ve had a good climate and we’re not bequeathing a good one to our progeny,” he said.

“I’m doing this for my grandchildren and for future generations because I don’t want to leave them with a world full of increasingly severe and frequent national disasters because of climate change.”

Social media followers’ reaction to Stuart’s one-time brush with the law was mixed.

Stuart said he has been to other climate actions and had imagined the likelihood of his arrest.

“I want to assure myself, and I just want to be certain that climate is not going to be altered or worsened because of our inactivity or because of our indifference,” he said.

Protest organiser, Alexa Stuart, who is also Stuart’s granddaughter said, “If the government will not take action on climate change, the people will use civil disobedience”.

We wish we did not have to do this but the Albanese government needs to understand we are serious,”she said. 

49 men, 60 women, and five juvenile protestors were arrested with two of the men remanded to appear before the Newcastle Local Court. The five minors will be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act and the remaining demonstrators will appear in court early in 2024.

Police said the charges are for operating a vessel and interfering with others’ use of waters.

Speaking to reporters, NSW Premier Chris Minns expressed his regret that the protest action, which happens annually, places the police in a difficult situation and jeapordises the state’s ability to extract, sell and export minerals.

“Not only is the extraction and sale and export of minerals in NSW legal, it’s our single biggest export,” Minns said.

“If we don’t take some of the royalties from coal export, we will not meet our renewable energy targets in NSW.

“We won’t even come close.”

Minns acknowledged people’s climate concerns but also reminded them that the revenue was needed to fund the renewable energy transition.

Stories that matter
Emails delivered daily
Sign up