Phil Perrier’s send off was held on Friday, the 2nd of February, 2007.
Phil was a worker, political activist, artist, brother, partner, father and friend.
As a political activist Phil gave all his energy and talent to support the SEQEB workers who were sacked by Bjelke-Petsersen in 1985. He made drawings, cartoons, banners and placards in support of the workers. One of his drawings of a SEQEB worker is pictured here. Bernie Neville, himself a sacked SEQEB worker, read out a memorial to his friend and comrade Phil at AHIMSA house described later in this epitaph.
Early in the morning, at Kurilpa, there was a Murri ceremony held for Phil in the Sorry Place. This is near Orleigh Park at Hill End, Brisbane.
That ceremony included this eulogy by Sam Watson.
“Welcome to this ceremony, we are gathered on the sacred lands of the Jagara tribal nation and across the other side of this river, are the lands of the Turrbal people.
I am a member of the Munnenjarl tribal nation and I have blood and dreaming ties to the Jagara people.
This place is a very important place for our community.
This is the Sorry Park where we honour the pain and tragedy of the Stolen Generations. Every year we hold a dawn service here, on National Sorry Day.
This place is also the ending place for the very special Kurilpa Dreaming story, that belongs to the Jagara people and is shared with many other tribal nations and communities. The Kurilpa are the little water rats that used to be abundant on the bend of the river that is now called Kurilpa Point. One day we hope to be able to share that story with the general community. Since the cement barges have stopped the dredging this part of the river, we have seen some evidence that the Kurilpa are coming back into this area and that is good. We have also seen some Pelicans in the river and there are fish also coming back.
This place is also the starting point for the dreaming story of Kabul, the great Carpet snake. That story is one of the most important stories in south east Queensland. Kabul was one of the most powerful guardians of the pathways that ran through this country and carried people up to the Bunya mountains. Every second year our people from many tribal nations would gather in the Bunya mountains to celebrate the harvest of the Bunya nut. That would be a very important time of feasting, dance, singing and story telling.
This entire peninsula was a place where important ceremonies and rituals were conducted at different times of the cultural year. There are places here that only belong to men, there are also places here that only belong to women. Up the hill where that great battle was fought for the last piece of rainforest that we had here in South Brisbane, there was also an ancient birthing tree – it was kept secret for many years; but sadly, it has now been destroyed by the developers.
I have told you these things, so you would understand that this ceremony this morning is very important to us as Aboriginal people. We want to do this thing, on our sacred land – to show the respect and to show the love that we hold for our brother Phillip and his family.
Phillip has been called on to the Dreaming and we have come together to honour his life and to wish him farewell. By conducting this ceremony here, we can show that in our way – Brother Phil is a senior man and he is respected in our community.
It is also appropriate that we talk this up here, in this place on the side of the river. The river represents the cycles of life and it is sacred to our people. The river travels westwards to the mountain ranges and to the east, the river runs into Quandamooka, which is the birthing place of many of our Dreaming stories and rituals. The tides and the currents represent the cycles of life, the times of renewal.
The passing of Phil is only one step in that eternal cycle. We believe that Phil has been called onwards to the Dreaming and this point of time, is only one step in his own individual journey of discovery and learning. When we say farewell to our fallen heroes, we mourn very deeply as we feel the pain and the loss. But we also celebrate as a community because we know that our brother is now beyond pain and suffering.
In so very many ways and at so many levels, Phil has paid his dues and he has earned this moment, he is now as one with our ancestral earthmothers and earthfathers. In this life we stood beside our brother and we watched over him and we shared his burdens, now it is the great totemic beings who created all life – who will now take our brother into their care and keeping.
We have come together as Phil’s family, in blood, in dreaming and in the great struggles that he fought. We have come together to honour our brother and acknowledge the importance of his contribution to our onward march. We have come together to stand with his loved ones and to share their Sorry Time, so we can share their pain and anguish. We have come together in his name – to say farewell.
To say thank you, for allowing us to be a small part of your life.
To say thank you for the gifts and the wisdom that you gave to us.
To say thank you for creating a space in our circles that will never, ever be filled.
To say thank you for walking with us as we struggled with life, for being there to share, for being there to laugh and to cry, as we lived our lives and tried to make this small corner of the world – a better place.
But now my brother we close our eyes and we open our spirits as we approach this moment. We drink in the air, we smell the cooking fires, we hear the laughter of the children, the talk of the people.
We know that your place in that high circle of Elders has now been prepared for you. This will be a time of feasting, a time of celebration as your totemic brothers and sisters, welcome you and sing of your mighty deeds. The Old People will now care for you and watch over you. It is left to us to bid you farewell, to say those final words –
WARRIOR GO HOME
WARRIOR GO HOME…
YOUR TIME IN THIS PLACE HAS PASSED.
BUT WE SHALL NEVER FORGET YOU
WE SHALL REMEMBER YOU AND WE SHALL CARRY ON THE GREAT STRUGGLE THAT YOU FOUGHT WITH HONOUR, COURAGE AND COMMITMENT,
WARRIOR GO HOME
WARRIOR GO HOME…”
From there we went with the coffin to Mt Gravatt Cemetery where he was buried in a downpour that his youngest son, Shaun, later described as “tears from heaven”.
At the graveside were his sons, Lionel and Shaun, together with their mother, and his brother, Robert.
Brian Laver made a farewell on behalf of us all as the rain fell. Nearly all Phil’s old comrades were there from the International Socialists, from the Trade Union Support Group and the Rank and File group and from AHIMSA house.
Afterwards, we all went back to AHIMSA House for a “Joy filled Celebration” — Phil’s words, as specified in his Will.
One of Phil’s closest friends and carers’, Maggie, said that Phil wanted people to have a good time and if they want to say anything good or bad, okay, but nothing religious.
Much was said about Phil, mostly good things. There was talk of the indispensable one, of the fighter who participated as a rank and file worker in the Castlemaine bewery dispute in 1979.
Songs were sung by Jumping Fences (Sue Monk, Lachlan Hurse, and Ross Gwyther). They played some of Phil’s favourite Jumping Fences songs. The lyrics to one they sang were:
Say it strongly
let them hear
Let your whispers overflow
Take your chances
don’t wait for years
or the moment’s lost
before you even know
(Just Go Gently)
Maggie and her helpers made sandwiches and put on the customary AHIMSA hospitality. John Duffy sang the blues about the IR laws that made him and Phil “really pissed off”. His brother Robert told us of Phil’s youth growing up in Zillmere with a violent father. Phil was mentored by Uncle Eddie Douglas, from Jimmy Sharman’s Boxing Troupe
One of Phil’s favourite singers was Kev Carmody. Kev sent a CD of his songs for Phil to listen to — sent with a kind note (pictured here). Unfortunately Phil had already passed on.
But Phil knew these words by heart. Phil had stated his own epitaph by reciting the words ” You may take my life and liberty friend, but you cannot buy my soul” in hospital before he died.
The full verse goes:
“The cleverman spoke precisely, humanity he said was done
It’s creed of greed could not proceed if our struggle’s to be won
For humanity’s more important here than that constant quest for gold
You may take life and liberty friend but you cannot buy our soul”
BushTelegraph is trying to celebrate the life of Phil Perrier, feel free to help below.
As the kind note from Kev Carmody said:
“As the old black fella saying goes:— our Spirit Walks with you”