Aaron, Kahn, Sarah and Emma Spencer, who now live in Cedar Springs, were raised on a 20,000-acre ranch in Australia and moved to the Grand Rapids area over 10 years ago. They are the four eldest children of Peter Spencer, an Australian farmer. The children have been following the hunger strike story online and became increasingly concerned for their father’s health and decided to immediately book flights from Grand Rapids to Australia. The four children and Spencer’s 4-month old grandchild, Saxon, whom he had not yet met, traveled for over 30 hours and arrived in Canberra, A.C.T, Australia on Christmas Day.
As dark was moving in the four children drove up into the snowy mountains high country where their father is 50 ft up a 300 ft wind monitoring tower a mile above sea level. The two sons, Aaron and Kahn work for Kent Power in Kent City, where they climb and reinforce cell phone towers and install wind turbines all over the U.S. They put on their harnesses and climbing equipment and climbed up to embrace their Father on Christmas Day. A cold front was coming in and the first rain the dry terrain had seen in months mimicked the tears streaming down each of the children’s cheeks as they talked to their father.
Spencer’s sons had brought special Carhart clothing from the U.S for him and carefully helped him to change his clothes, get warm and find shelter from the harsh and wet weather.
According to an interview that Spencer did with Steve Truman, of Agmates.com, seeing his children arrive so unexpectedly buoyed his spirits. “By dark I had gone from the deepest depths of despair to being elated. What a Christmas gift it was,” he said.
Spencer has been protesting to bring attention to the actions of the Australian government, because of laws passed to prevent farmers from clearing their land, keeping them from making a living. He believes that farmer’s are paying the price for the government’s agreement to bring down carbon dioxide emissions.
“There are official Australian government documents including the 2005 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) report that clearly state that 88.2 million metric tons are needed for the Australian government to meet its Kyoto International agreement; 87.5 of which was taken from Australian farmers. Essentially the Australian economy was saved at the expense of the Australian farming families that lost their farms,” said Spencer.
“His condition is deteriorating and he is determined to continue his hunger strike until the Australian Government acknowledges that farmers land has been stolen to meet the Kyoto protocol treaty commitments,” said Sarah Spencer. “He claims that this is one of the largest injustices in Australian History and involves the land of more than 30,000 farmers affecting 280 million acres.”
In his interview, Truman pleaded with Spencer to come down and live to continue the fight. But Spencer would not relent. “I have put 30 years of my life into building up my farm. The beautiful family home that I built, in two weeks the Sheriff will come and take it all. Take the beautiful dining room table that I built for our family to eat dinner around, the beautiful beams in the dining room, it took me eight years to put them in place. I’m nothing without my farm. I’m 61 years of age…my whole life is in this property and I’m about to lose it…through no fault of my own…this is wrong, Steve…” said Spencer.
He noted that his sons said he could come live with them in America. “But I would have nothing…61 years and nothing…this has happened to so many people…it has to stop,” he said.
According to Sarah, her father has made more then 200 court appearances regarding this issue in the last five years and is yet to have his case heard.
The Spencer family plans to be in Australia for two weeks, and hopes that they might be able to meet with the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to take their case to him.
Sarah Spencer is a public health nurse for the Kent County Health Department and Emma Spencer works in customer service for Grand Rapids Chair Company.