Bryan Law

Bryan Joseph Law (1954-2013) was an Australian peace activist who became well-known after breaking into Pine Gap in 2005 as a passive protest against the Iraq War, and again for breaking into a military base in Rockhampton in 2011 and hammering a hole into a military helicopter to ensure that it couldn't operate. Law and his wife Margaret Pestorius coordinated the Cairns Peace By Peace organisation. Law also disrupted the logging on world heritage site Fraser Island, as just one of the many times that he proved that passive resistance and peaceful protests work, inspiring the next generation of Australian Peace Activists.


Law was born in 1954 in the Brisbane suburb of Moorooka. Both his parents had been in the army during the war. His father served in the New Guinea and his mother in Townsville.

Law attended Yeronga State High School excelling in the sciences. He attended the University of Queensland studying Chemistry briefly before dropping out. He then worked for the Education Department as a clerk; again only briefly. Ordinary work was not his thing, though he drove taxis for 15 years in Cairns.

In his thirties, Law returned to Griffith University to study history and politics with a special interest in Asia and Pacific history and regional militarism.

He was a campus activist in the years of free education and became President of the Student Union where he began his lifelong tussles with members of the Labor and Liberal parties.

The Campaigns

Law was radicalised during the government of Joh Bjelke Petersen and was arrested first in the large right to march street demonstrations in Brisbane.

Ciaron O’Reilly wrote:

“Of the thousands arrested and bashed during that period, some of us remained "beat up but upbeat" turning towards, exploring and sustaining nonviolent resistance against war and war preparations. As some turned towards the U.S. traditions of the Catholic Worker and Berrigans, Law turned to a deep exploration of Gandhi."

However, in his later years the Catholic Worker tradition also significantly influenced Law’s nonviolence practice.

Between 1982 and the mid-2000s, Law worked on a range of campaigns and was judged by colleagues as the "foremost nonviolence strategist in Australia."

He applied nonviolence theory and techniques to local, regional and national projects.

His work culminated fittingly in the regional Queensland town of Rockhampton at a time when most looked toward Canberra and Washington for political change.

Campaigns he was involved with included Aboriginal Rights. He initially explored this issue in relation to the Brisbane Commonwealth Games in 1982.

Law was involved with included the Daintree Rd, Skyrail and he lived on Fraser Island during the blockade there interrupting logging.

He was involved in local issues such as improving bicycle facilities, the Cairns Yacht Club and most recently the "Save City Place" campaign in Cairns.

He had a keen interest in opposing militarism and this became his primary passion. As an antimilitarist activist he first opposed visits of US and UK warships to Australia during the Bicentennial. It was during this time he started to explore the power of small group nonviolence. He teamed up with fellow nonviolent activist Margaret Pestorius and they followed their shared passion of educating ordinary people about the practice of nonviolence.

With the Cairns Peace By Peace group they began citizens inspections of visiting US warships in a time that Law considered Australia was in a state of perpetual war. Together they brought Joseph into the world whom Bryan loved deeply.

In 2005, he entered Pine Gap Spy Base near Alice Springs with 3 other people from Christians Against All Terrorism. This action was a turning point in Law's pursuit of more powerful types of action and ultimately led to his decision to conduct a ploughshare type action in Rockhampton during the 2011 Talisman Sabre Exercises.

Law had a sharp intellect and blogged widely. He had really wanted to be a lawyer but felt he came from the wrong class at the wrong time. He revelled in the intellectual stimulation offered by court room process. He enjoyed the chance to act on his own behalf in the court environment and was acknowledged by Judges, Barristers and adversaries as an honourable challenger. He was arrested more than 30 times.

During the court case in Alice Springs in 2007 he probably had his first heart attack and his health declined consistently from that point. He struggled with diabetes and heart disease and their consequences.

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