The story of the Peace bus goes back to 1998 but it appears in the recent project part of this site as it got painstakingly and miraculously brought back to life in 2011 but Tony Spanos.
The peace bus first became a mobile activist people mover in early 1998 when Natasha Verco from the Sydney Uni student union bought the vehicle from tour company Oz Experience. Originally it belonged to Murry’s coach’s who apparently furnished it with a new engine .
It was the Jabiluka call for all Australians to come an oppose the mine that inspired the bus’s acquisition by the Sydney Uni student union. The Ohms Not Bombs bus had also been purchased that year with the intention to take it on an Australia wide tour to Jabiluka opposing the new uranium mine up there.It made it up there to the blockade of the proposed urananium mine but broke down in Kakadu as it was about to return.
Natasha Verco used the bus prior to Jabiluka on several protest missions before it ran into mechanical and financial difficulties.
It was then sponsored by Graffiti Hall of Fame and renovated and revived for the mission up north to Jabiluka to join the Ohms bus that had reached Jabiluka having toured parts of Australia on an anti nuclear mission around called “Dig the sounds not uranium”.
The peace bus ended up having to rescue the Ohms bus crew in Kakadu when its engine failed. After returning to Sydney and was used by Tony Spanos/Graffiti hall of fame for various projects.
It famously was towed away at j18 protest in Sydney and blocked streets for a few Reclaim the were it was used as a giant anti nuclear billboard and was used as a DJ booth in Newtown and beyond.
It was used for the Goodwill festival series of events on the central coast in the late 90’s. After Jabiluka mine was prevented due to community opposition the Peace bus provided the transport and logistics for many local protest party and indigenous surf carnivals on Australia’s east coast (Fingal to Wreck bay).It was used in the Hemp Olympics in 2000 and traveled to Nimbin and back with a 40ft model joint on its roof.
It also helped shut down the Timbarra gold mine at Tenterfield supporting the blockade up there where the mine was polluting the Clarence river with Cyanide and clear-felling the rainforest.
The Peace Bus also ventured south to Victoria and went to Gippsland to aid the continuing struggle down there to stop old growth logging.Natasha Verco also took it on a mission to Woomera to oppose the treatment of refugees in the arid South Australian outback.
Thousands of young people got to escape their inner city life and travel away from the city on environmental missions and escape the ills of drug and alcohol and became inspired by helping to save the environment. Street theatre D.Js and live music was taken to the front line. The bus would take folk out into the wilderness, people could dance and make art and add color to the protests,the theatre,speeches and communal activism gave direction to kids on a natural high. The underground party movement was taken on outreach missions. The Aboriginal tent Embassy was often visited by the Peace bus providing people power and sound system, the bus consequently pushed indigenous rights wherever it went and enacted a grassroots blending of indigenous and non indigenous social and environmental justice campaigns.
The bus was a great vehicle to bring life and prosperity to young people live in the harsh inner city minefield of depression drug abuse and suicide. It traveled went further afield to Lake Eyre from 1999-2001 with Ohms Not Bombs who took it on the first South Australian Earthdream missions.
The Return of the Peace Bus
Now the bus is back after a 6 year hiatus where it ran out of steam and was abandoned in a paddock,a nine month restoration has seen the vehicle come back to life, Tony Spanos has done the unbelievable and revived a waterlogged rust bucket back to working order.
For years the bus’s location was not known after it was used for a series of activist missions, it apparently broke down beyond repair. Tony would ask me where it was and I would ring up people and be told to forget it, it was a lost cause. On a mission on the north coast I dropped into Bellingen and met a guy in a cafe that gave me a number of a guy that could see it from his bedroom window. I gave the number to Tony and he rang the guy, found out the location and stepped into action. Next minute he had booked a flatbed truck and was on the way up north to rescue the stricken bus. I met him at a yard in Botany when he returned back with the bus and witnessed the mess as he gernied all the mud out of it, I remember seeing large spiders running away. It really did look shocking. It took him over 9 months to get it back up and running and safe for use again. It probably would have been cheaper to get a new bus but this was an exercise in valuing a resource and reviving the spirit of a bus that inspired a generation.
Thanks to the Figure 8 warehouse for dry docking the bus for so long , consequently the bus was reborn, hours of work occurred, the total re skinning of the bus, rust repair, windows all taken out, sills fixed up, wheels, engine overhaul, brakes, airbags…the list goes on.
It will now be managed by the Bondi Boardriders who plan to use it for surfing and environmental events.