During the period (1960s — 2000s) mining companies, Queensland State Governments, and the Queensland Police Department have turned Aurukun into a war zone for the Wik people of Far North Queensland.
Labor Premier Beattie rang President Bush to ‘ask for US marines to be sent to Aurukun as a peace keeping force this week (Courier Mail, 10 Jan 2007)’
Premier Beattie said afterwards “he was prepared to risk regime change in Queensland to protect the interests of Comalco and Rio Tinto”. Infrastructure minister Bligh said “that the US troops are also needed to secure the Gladstone power station near the aluminium refineries so important to economic growth (see map)”.
Premier-in-waiting, Anna Bligh, has signed a memorandum of agreement for police to protect missionaries and witnesses at the Aurukun Aboriginal Settlement.
In a bizarre twist, Ms Bligh code-named the deployment “Fitzgerald”.
Member for Kurilpa (West End) Bligh said:
“Eye-witnesses are crucial to the labor government’s effort to write Australian legal history. Through this memorandum we will maintain an unblemished record of not charging police who kill aboriginal people. We are proud Queenslanders.”
Ms Bligh went on to say that she had seized Petrie Terrace police barracks from heritage groups to house police and marines while in transit to Gladstone and Aurukun.
Senior government sources said that all Qld police and US troops being deployed to the far north will be shown historic footage of police riots during the 1971 Springbok tour.
In 1971 at Brisbane’s Tower Mill Motel Queensland police broke ranks to bash anti-Apartheid demonstrators outside the lodgings of the the South African Rugby team. A young Peter Beattie was hiding in the nearby Trades Hall at the time.
Ms Bligh (who won ministerial leather with the support of the Left of the ALP) added that Qld police will be authorised to carry weapons on Cape York communities: “However, we have asked police to make sure that all firearms are unlicensed.”
“We wish to make sure that indigenous women can walk without fear” Ms Bligh added. [See No Licence for Rifle , Courier Mail, 11 January 2007].
By way of contrast, Labor politicians Beattie and Bligh should take a leaf out of Uncle Bob Anderson’s stories about aboriginal women from Aurukun about events in the 1960s.
“Uncle Bob was sharing his witnessing of the tears of Aboriginal women from Aurukun as they told him the story of their homes burned down by the Weipa police, and how this witnessing had become a part of his memory.
Not long after the houses were destroyed, Comalco moved into Weipa to commence their mining operations.”
“The oral testimony of these women is also recorded in David Bradbury’s “State of Shock” (1989) a documentary that deals with the background story of Alwyn Peters, jailed for the murder of his young wife.”
“The Peters family had been one of many forcibly removed from their homes and ‘resettled’ by the mining company, and made severely dysfunctional by the enforced dislocation.”
“Uncle Bob argued that once retold, this story became a part of his memory and he, as witness to those tears, retold it to us as a part of our shared history.”
‘Memories are history…we are our memories’.
— Comment by ‘Uncle Bob’ Anderson, Aboriginal elder and veteran trade unionist, at the Labour and History conference
The moral from Uncle Bob’s story is that nothing politicians Beattie and Bligh do can wipe away our collective memories.
(Thanks to Dr Debra Beattie’s PhD thesis, “The Wrong Crowd” for Uncle Bob’s quotes which are true.
All the quotes in bold are from Murdoch’s Brisbane Courier Mail and are entirely wrong, but true nonetheless.
Maps of Cape York and Gladstone were supplied without courtesy of mining company, Rio Tinto.)