How Greenpeace Australia Pacific began

Standard Page - 5 May, 2011

The first action under a Greenpeace banner in Australia was against the last whaling station in the English-speaking world at Albany, Western Australia. This took place on August 28, 1977 at the gates of the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company's processing factory.  

Canadian Greenpeace co-founder Robert Hunter went on to lead the direct action, pulling together a dedicated group of Australians, using his expertise from Greenpeace direct actions in the North Pacific against the Soviet whaling fleet.

On November 20, 1978 Australia harpooned its last whale, and a few of the Australian activists involved in this campaign went on to establish Greenpeace NSW.

By 1979, Greenpeace Adelaide Incorporated was also registered and Greenpeace in Australia was taking its message around the world.

During the 1980s, this fledgling organisation protested against the slaughter of baby harp seals in Newfoundland, French nuclear testing in the South Pacific and other disarmament issues.  Back home, they campaigned against uranium mining.

By 1986, a worldwide shift in environmental awareness had begun. Greenpeace International proposed the merger of the NSW and Adelaide offices, for economic reasons and to maximise public support. Greenpeace Australia was incorporated, with much fanfare, in 1987.

Greenpeace Pacific opened in Suva, Fiji, in 1994, the same year the French underground nuclear testing program ended.

Pacific campaigns had previously been run from the Greenpeace New Zealand office in Auckland. It was in Auckland Harbour that the French bombed our flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, killing photographer Fernando Pereira. The bombing ricocheted around the world.

In early 1998 Greenpeace Australia and Greenpeace Pacific teamed up to become Greenpeace Australia Pacific (GPAP), an environmental force working on a range of issues for the region. GPAP now has more than 70,000 financial supporters.

Campaigning in the Pacific

Greenpeace’s long history in the Pacific began in the early 1970s, when  founder David McTaggart sailed his yacht, The Vega to Moruroa in protest against nuclear testing in Polynesia.

Since the 1980s, Greenpeace has campaigned extensively in the region establishing its first office in the Pacific (outside of Aotearoa/ New Zealand) in 1994. It now has bases in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.

In the 1980’s and 1990s the Warrior lead peace flotillas to Moruroa and relocated the population of Rongelap island who were suffering health effects from nuclear fallout. The ship's crew also protested against nuclear waste transports through the Pacific.

Today, in the Pacific, Greenpeace campaigns for sustainable fishing and to protect the ocean’s biodiversity, and works with local communities to oppose illegal and destructive logging and to develop eco-forestry projects in the Solomons and PNG. Greenpeace has also worked in the Pacific to eliminate toxic pollution and to prevent harmful climate change.