I do not think there is much in the comments on the Philistines… debate about Michael Noonan’s film that addresses racism, class or disability.
I do not think that Gary (MacLennan) has ‘a hurtful and oppressive attitude towards disability‘ as claimed.
I do not believe Ciaron (O’Reilly) is a racist any more than I think that John Tracey is one.
I think that Michael Noonan meant well when he took Darren and James out to Boulia for his film.
I respect Gary Foley as a Koori activist and leader ever since I heard him speak in Roma Street Forum in Brisbane during the Aboriginal protests against the1982 Commonwealth Games.
In that speech and the activism that goes with it, down the years before and after, Gary Foley outlined a radical standpoint on the two issues that Workers BushTelegraph is about: class and racism.
I knew nothing of the allegations against Gary Foley until I read them being discussed in the comments by Ciaron and John. I am still not any the wiser. I see nothing in these comments to change my view and respect for Gary Foley as my respect derives from the political not the personal. Gary Foley helped set up Redfern’s Aboriginal Legal Service (in Sydney) and the Aboriginal Medical Service in Melbourne. He is a doer, not just a talker.
I have since looked at the allegations of rape made against Gary Foley in the comments section of Workers BushTelegraph. One view was published in the Melbourne Age by Martin Flanagan on 20th March 1993 in an article titled Looking through a black anger. The mellowing of Gary X
“Foley was an apprentice air-conditioning draftsman. ‘Just what was needed in black Australia at the time ‘. One day, walking along Railway Place, he approached a white girl whom he had previously met at one of Charlie Perkins’s Aboriginal Affairs dances and ‘got lumbered by two smart-arse uniformed coppers’. Foley was beaten until he admitted, falsely, that he’d had sex with the girl. `I didn’t even know her name.’ He was then made to watch while the girl was beaten by two policewomen for ‘sleeping with a boong’. The girl was a ward of the state.”
I have now read “Whiteness and Blackness in the Koori Struggle for Self-Determination” by Gary Foley (1999) as recommended by John Tracey.
Also I re-read the pamphlet “The Revolution will not be televised! — A campaign for free expression in Queensland” (sorry no hyperlink) written by Ciaron O’Reilly – a campaign in which John (Nobody) Tracey played a significant role alongside Ciaron and Sean O’Reilly, Jim Dowling, Linda Rushton and many others – all presumably as comrades and friends.
I know little of what caused the falling out between these activists, at least at the personal level, but I suspect a mixture of immaturity, idealism, arrests, sectarianism and eventually defeat by the government of the day had something to do with it. Also I suspect that there is much in the falling out that is personal – these things linger for years – but not too much of that is political. Regarding the relationship between John Tracey and Gary MacLennan, John says that he was never “in” with Gary MacLennan to fall out “with” him. [I accept what you say about that, John, but Gary and you share more than being part of the democratic rights struggle in Queensland.]
John Tracey and Gary MacLennan share the bond of both working class and Irish origins.
But many of the finer points of these differences will be lost on most.
Claims of ideological differences like ‘you are a marxist authoritiarian’ and ‘he is a Libertarian’ do not really amount to much.
As a friend pointed out to me the other day, some of the biggest authoritarians on the Left in Brisbane were anarchists and libertarians.
Equally, to say that Michael Noonan is a ‘a humble working class Catholic lad’ is not a defence for anything. Would Michael even claim it? I doubt it. Would Gary MacLennan. Certainly not.
Race and Class
We often hear right-wingers say that the Stolen Generations do not deserve an apology from the government because there were white children who were taken from their parents unjustly as well and that they never received a government apology (see “The Leaving of Liverpool“). What these naysayers fail to understand is that aboriginal children were taken from their parents on the basis of race whereas the white kids were taken from their parents on the basis of class.
These are different kinds of repression and require different responses.
The apology given by the federal parliament last week to the Stolen Generations was only one of the responses requested by aboriginal people. Both the government and the opposition are deaf to their demands. The apology only achieved the significance that it did on 13 February 2008 because the Howard government refused for 11 years to give it.
Aboriginal people and their leaders have asked for more than just an apology. I am pessimistic about what the executive-in-government will do now.
But I am not so pessimistic about the broader future as the recent comments on BushTelegraph would suggest.
For example, I think that there is a tendency against racism in Australia and America.
A black man is close to being nominated to run for President in the US because he has managed to mobilise black, brown and white. This has been achieved despite the superficial left-of-centre ticket offered up by the US Democratic Party. If Obama is matched against the Republican McCain, I think Obama will win because he has managed to mobilise so many more voters than McCain in a country where the vote is optional and so many poor people do not vote.
There is a trend against privatisation in America and here in Australia.
People are feeling that they cannot do it on their own anymore, as economic rationalist failures increase. Federal government has been unable to control inflation and interest rates. They have relied too much on the private sector which has not been productive, wasting money on the affluence of a few.
Workers want public health, public education, public housing, public parks and spaces. I am not saying that these things will come easily — that will mean class struggle, something not occurring in our recent history.
There is just a trend for these things. How it will play out is hard to assess. But let us not be fooled that Australia (or America) is a democracy. It is executive power that rules here. If the executive so chooses, an apology is given to the aboriginal people by the parliament.
Gary Foley’s papers at
The Leaving of Liverpool @
“The Revolution will not be televised! — A campaign for free expression in Queensland” by Ciaron O’Reilly