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Farmer ends hunger strike in Australia

Farmer ends hunger strike in Australia

By Judy Reed

Children in Cedar Springs are relieved

Solon Township residents Sarah and Emma Spencer watch brothers Aaron and Kahn waterproof the platform where their father endured a 52-day hunger strike in Australia.

Solon Township residents Sarah and Emma Spencer watch brothers Aaron and Kahn waterproof the platform where their father endured a 52-day hunger strike in Australia.

A 61-year-old farmer protesting land rights in Australia ended his 52-day hunger strike Tuesday evening. And his children couldn’t be happier.

“I feel like since I got home Saturday I’ve been walking around with a knot in my stomach,” said Sarah Spencer Smith, 30, of Solon Township. “Knowing that he came down and is getting medical assistance means I can start to live my life again. It’s a huge relief.”

Sarah and her siblings, Aaron, 33, Kahn, 32, and Emma, 27, all of Solon Township, flew home to Australia at Christmas to support their father, Peter Spencer, who was in the midst of a hunger strike in a protest for farmer land rights. Sarah recently returned, while her siblings stayed with her father.

Spencer’s hunger strike was initiated to correspond with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at Copenhagen. He spent that time on a suspended platform part way up a wind-monitoring tower on his Shannon’s Flat property called “Saarahnlee” near Cooma, N.S.W.

Sarah’s father 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 farmers are paying the price for the government’s agreement to bring down carbon dioxide emissions under the Kyoto Protocol International Treaty.

Many of Spencer’s supporters urged him to come down and continue the fight on the ground. “As much as the nation is concerned about me, my concerns are directed at the families of the hundreds of farmers who have suicided and the politicians who have failed to show any concern, compassion or morality for what the government has done to these families and the nation’s Constitution. My committed stance on the tower was to press the point,” he explained.

Peter Spencer is now in the hospital recovering from his hunger strike. Here he is shown with two of his children from Cedar Springs, Emma and Aaron. Photo courtesy of the Spencer family.

Sarah noted that the story has been picked up worldwide. It’s been headline news in Australia, and has appeared in many newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, the London Financial Times, the China Post and the Cedar Springs Post. “I had 17 different media outlets call me last night after he came down,” she said.

Spencer earlier refused to come down unless Prime Minister Kevin Rudd or an envoy agreed to meet him. According to the Washington Post, Rudd said in an official statement that policy would not be changed by threats of violence or self-harm. He also said that it should be decided by the courts. Spencer has already been to court over 200 times.

Sarah does not feel like her father was defeated. “It means a lot knowing that there was such a groundswell of support for him coming down, and that he did it with dignity,” noted Sarah. “It’s still like he won.”

Spencer said he will keep up the fight to have Rudd set up a Royal Commission to find out how millions of hectares could be locked up without compensating farmers.

In the meantime, he will be in Cooma Hospital for about two weeks.

According Sarah, Aaron, Kahn and Emma are expected to be home in Cedar Springs this weekend.

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