“Here for the kiddies”: the Knitting Nannas calling for an end to fossil fuels

The knitting nannas assemble outside the Supreme Court of NSW in Sydney, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. Self-described "knitting nannas" Helen Kvelde and Dominique Jacobs are challenging NSW protest laws, with the backing of the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO)
AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts


They knit, they sing, they even have their own ‘nannafesto’, and these unlikely environmental activists are a force to be reckoned with.

Australia is in the midst of a climate and biodiversity crisis.

In response, people are rolling up their sleeves and fighting for something better. But environmental activism often gets a bad name, denigrated by some in the media and hostile special interests.

The Knitting Nannas, a group seeking “to ensure that our land, air and water are preserved for our children and grandchildren”, are changing that.

“We get a pretty good response because we look bright and cheerful, and we do things like sing,” said Marie Flood, a Sydney-based Nanna, on the latest episode of Follow the Money.

“Craftivism is very much a part of our group – combining craft and activism,” said fellow Nanna, Kathy McKenzie.

“When we get together, we’re on serious business, but we have a lot of fun.”

The Nannas formed in 2012 in Lismore, New South Wales, in opposition to a proposed coal-seam gas project. Since then, their mission has expanded to more environmental causes (outlined in their full ‘nannafesto’), but opposition to new gas projects remains a major focus.

“When I first started to protest against gas, all my friends said I was absolutely crazy and that I didn’t stand a chance against these big companies,” McKenzie said.

“Within about a year or two, they sort of slowly said, ‘well, yes, you’re right’.

“And now, the Narrabri gas project has been delayed for over 10 years.

“And we’re still going to delay it – and we’re going to stop it. There’s just no way that it’s going to go ahead because the community is so against it.”

The Nannas are a constant force in the campaign against new fossil fuels, getting out into their communities and lobbying elected officials for change, according to Australia Institute Principal Advisor Mark Ogge.

“It’s incredibly important because it’s a constant reminder to people about these projects and these super important issues,” Ogge said.

“It’s just really inspiring to see local communities come together and say, ‘we’re not going to allow this’.”

For the Nannas, an inclusive approach to activism and a simple, hopeful message are part of their winning formula for change.

“We’re here for the kiddies,” Flood said.

“We really just have to stop all new fossil fuel projects around the country.”

Follow the Money is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Between the Lines Newsletter

The biggest stories and the best analysis from the team at the Australia Institute, delivered to your inbox every fortnight.

You might also like