Monthly Archives: February 2008

Aside

PRESS STATEMENT Queensland Police accused of brutality against Aboriginal leader Bob Weatherall and Daughter. Aboriginal Leader Pepper Sprayed  by Qld Police in Brisbane Sunday morning (24.2.08) Queensland Aboriginal leader, Bob Weatherall and his daughter were last night assaulted by police … Continue reading

Book Launch — Iraqi Icicle

“Life is murder, in and round, up and down Brisbane, between 1986 and 1992. Murder everywhereimage131.png but in the cathedral — on the racetrack, in the theatre, at the office, within halls of academia, on the streets. Self-named, half streetwise Steele Hill is staying alive while rock music is dying and the international warriors are having a party. Who will help him make it through the night? You know, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll and a bit more.” — from Iraqi icicle by Bernie Dowling.

What do the following people have in common?

Carole Ferrier, John Jiggens, Greg Mallory, Pam Young, Ernie Lane, Paul Rollo, Sam Watson, Susan Johnston, Sam Waggan Watson, Phil O’Brien and Lionel Fogarty? [Answer at the end of this article]

The Iraqi Icicle book launch had a big crowd of about 60 people at West End (Kurilpa) Library.

There was an interesting speech from the author, about how he came to write a novel in the crime thriller genre. An anti-war book really.

There were readings of the book performed by Shanti and Victoria, Lionel Fogarty poetry was read out.

A display of books from local authors showed the range of writers in Brisbane over the past 25 years. some printed and published over the years by LeftPress Printing Society.

Excellent organisation was provided by the staff of the West End Public Library. Thanks to Darshan, Sue, Victoria, Marcus, and Maria.

Sue Monk and Lachlan Hurse from Jumping FencesLive acoustic music was performed by local band, Jumping Fences, there was a great song, On the Chain, about workers at Cannon Hill Abattoir. The band were up to their usual high standard.

Unfortunately only 11 books were sold on the night. Strange with such a big crowd?

People must be feeling the pinch if they wont pay $30 for a novel.

Anyway 8 copies of the book are available at Brisbane City Council Libraries so people can borrow the book.

Thanks to all the people who organised the launch and those who came and supported this local creative endeavour.

Ian Curr
29 February

The people named above are all local Brisbane authors.

***

Thursday
4:30 – 6:30 pm
28 February 2008

West End Library

Address:

178-180 Boundary Street
West End [Just next to the Pensioners League Building]

“QUEENSLAND journalist Bernie Dowling launches his first novel, the detective thriller Iraqi Icicle at West End Library on 28 February 2008. The book is set in 1980s and 1990s and this place (South-East Queensland)

See review of book in quest Newspaapers @ iraqi-story1.pdf

The launch starts at 4:30 pm and features original songs and music from local band Jumping Fences back from their trip to Mexico and Cuba.

The book will be on sale for the discounted price of $30 and for the impecunious will be available for loan from the library.

Food and Drinks provided.

Bookings are preferred at West End Library — Wednesday to Saturday on 3403 8620

Books can be ordered by writing to Ian Curr, PO Box 5093, West End 4101.
Price is $40 (includes postage).

***

American unionist against war – speaking tour

Why U.S. unions oppose Bush’s war on terror

INTERNATIONAL GUEST: KATHY BLACK, Co-convenor, U.S. Labour Against War

Kathy Black Labour against the War

MAJOR PUBLIC FORUM

Saturday March 1, 1:30 for 2pm start
CEPU Auditorium, Cnr Peel & Merivale Sts, South Brisbane. Donation entry: $5/3conc. Drinks avail.
Speakers include Kathy Black; Andrew Dettmer (AMWU State Sectretary)
Organised by Stop the War Collective. Endorsed by: Electrical Trades Union; Rally for Peace & Nuclear Disarmament; Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom. For more info or to endorse the tour, call Paul 0410 629 088; Rob 0424 265 730; email: mgillespie3@gmail.com

QLD COUNCIL OF UNIONS AFFILIATES MORNING TEA

Monday March 3, 9:30am
QCU Building, 16 Peel St, South Brisbane. Organised by Beth Mohle Ph: QCU 3846 2468

UNIVERSITY OF QLD FORUM

Monday March 3, 1pm
Forgan Smith Building, UQ (Follow the signs for exact room details). Ph Ewan 0401 234 610

US Labor Against the War is a national network of unionists committed to educate & mobilise for peace, workers and civil rights, within the US union movement. The group has almost 200 affiliates across the US including state and city-wide labour councils and local union branches. In 2005 it won a policy of rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq at the convention of the peak US union body, the AFL-CIO.
This will be an opportunity to hear first hand about how trade unions in the US are resisting Bush’s criminal wars, & the cost for ordinary working people in the US from massive cuts to healthcare & other government services.
Further information on US Labor Against the War see: www.uslaboragainstwar.org

HOW YOU CAN HELP WITH THE TOUR:

1. Spread the word – forward this email to your union, peace, student and justice networks, get it in union journals, tell your workmates to come….
2. Endorse the tour – add your organisation’s support, donate to the tour costs (Brisbane needs to raise over $500 to cover costs), build through your networks….
3. Organise for Kathy to meet with your union or organisation – contact Paul 0410 629 088, Rob 0424 265 730; or email: mgillespie3@gmail.com

Thanks and solidarity,

Paul Benedek,

Stop the War Collective

Ph 0410 629 088

Brisbane Activist Centre, 74b Wickham St, Fortitude Valley

Home of Socialist Alliance, Green Left Weekly, Resistance + books, badges, t-shirts, more!

Ph: (07) 3831 2644 Mob: 0410 629 088 Email: brisbane@greenleft.org.au Web: www.greenleft.org.au

Howard is history! Now let’s stand up for our rights

www. socialist-alliance.org

Pine Gap 4 have won their Appeal!

by Donna Mulhearn

Dear friends

Today [22 February 2008] Bryan, Jim, Adele and Donna were acquitted of tPhoto shows the four protesters outside court following their successful appeal. (Jack Kerr)heir convictions under the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952.

It was a unanimous decision by the full bench of the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal.

The three judges agreed with our submission that there was a miscarriage of justice at last year’s trial because we were not able to bring evidence before the jury about the function of Pine Gap.

There were other grounds to the appeal, of a more technical nature. The judges will publish the detailed reasons for their decision in coming weeks.

The Prosecution quickly sought a re-trial, but was quickly rebutted.

“What would be achieved for these individuals or the community if there is a re-trial?” asked Justice Riley rather sternly.

The judges unanimously ruled there would be no re-trial.

The fact that we had already served prison time was a significant factor in their decision to refuse a re-trial. We are all very glad we did this as now our slate is clean regarding the other charge of ‘damage’, under the crimes act. So now it’s all over!

This ‘David vs Goliath’ outcome is a result of the excellent work of our legal team: Ron Merkel QC, Rowena Orr and Russell Goldflam. Their commitment, persistence and brilliance was amazing. They should be heartily congratulated. (I hope to have a way for you all to do that soon).

The result now raises significant questions for the Government about the use of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952. It was the first, and mostly likely last time it will be used in this context.

It is a victory for fairness and common sense, and a slap in the face for Prosecutor’s who seek to use draconian legislation to respond to pacifists partaking in non-violent civil disobedience with an extreme witchunt.

Congratulations to our Pine Gap colleagues Jessica Morrison and Sean O’Reilly and thanks to everyone involved in our journey since December 2005.

It’s been an amazing experience for all of us!

Rise Up!

Put Pine Gap on trial!

cheers from

Donna, Jim. Adele, Bryan

PS: Within 10 minutes of the ruling there was national media coverage on most major newspaper websites as well as ABC Radio and TV.

PPS: Some pics to come, news reports below

http://news.smh.com.au/pine-gap-protesters-conviction-quashed/20080222-1txp.html

http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23257820-5005961,00.html

See also the pamphlet published by the PG4:

“Liberating Pine Gap” by Jim Dowling (ed.)

Court finds in favour of Pine Gap protestors

ABC Online Posted February 22, 2008 14:15:00
Updated February 22, 2008 14:22:00

The Territory’s Court of Criminal Appeal has quashed the convictions of four protesters who broke into the Pine Gap defence facility three years ago.

Last year, Bryan Law, Adele Goldie, Jim Dowling and Donna Mulhearn were found guilty of breaking into the spy base using wire cutters in the Northern Territory Supreme Court in Alice Springs. They were the first people to be charged under the Defence Special Undertakings Act of 1952. The foursome were fined a total of $3,000.

They appealed against their convictions, and today the Territory’s full Court of Criminal Appeal found in their favour.

It’s now off to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether to pursue a retrial or drop the matter.

Minor convictions for trespass and criminal damage will still stand.

Gallery

American Torture— Aussie Style

This gallery contains 1 photos.

by Pamela Curr, Campaign Coordinator, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Melbourne, http://www.asrc.org.au —- —- —- My father had a rawhide whip which his father had brought from Africa. He told us that it was a symbol of man’s inhumanity to man. … Continue reading

What do we want — Land Rights!

This article arises out of the discussion on Workers BushTelegraph about the Democratic Rights struggles in Queensland in the 1970s and 1980s. I have posted above a small film about one part of that struggle. It is about the 1982 Aboriginal Land Rights protests at the time of the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

image Land Rights Struggle – 1982 Commonwealth Games, Brisbane

BushTelegraph advises Murri readers that the following essay and film contains images of aboriginal people who are now dead.

Land Rights Struggle – 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane

This is the first time I have placed a film that I made on the web … and it shows.

During that time, in the 1970s and 80s, a small group of democratic rights activists would shoot film and video of the protests and struggles that we were involved in. We later became LeftPress. Armed with a small super 8 camera and a microphone that did not always work, we filmed marches and rallies.

This small film is of a rally in Roma Street forum and the ensuing march in Brisbane streets during the Land Rights struggle of 1982 during the Commonwealth Games. It was shot mainly by Lachlan Hurse.

I place it here as an historical record.. of what we were struggling for then and so that people can see how far we got and to see the good with the bad and hopefully to see how to continue the struggle begun in those early days, with few resources, under significant repression from the state. This small record explains what happened and shows what is possible in protest and what is not. It records what was said by the participants in speeches, on banners and in chants. These were the dying days of the Fraser government. At the rally we heard Labor promise Land Rights for Queensland Aboriginal and Islander people.

I also have footage of the tent city that was set up in Musgrave Park and of a march that occurred at QE II where the games where held. I will upload this film one day if I can. You can see other films on these questions at

Aboriginal Land Rights — low budget films

March on the Commonwealth Games Venue at QE II

This was the first march on police lines for several years where my participation was one of a supporter rather than organiser. Political marches were still banned in Queensland. Special legislation had been passed by the National Party government to exclude land rights protestors from the games venue.

The organisers of this march were Brisbane blacks. It was they who formed the front lines. They did most of the speaking. They worked out the tactics in the confrontation with police. I had confidence in the leadership. I had marched many times like this with these people over the prior five years – often ending in arrest and police violence against the demonstrators.

It was the aboriginal leaders who formed up and gave instructions to the non-indigenous support group at Garden City shopping centre prior to the march into the prohibited area of QE II.

I remember being particularly nervous that day. This was partly because I was not aware of what was likely to happen. I did not know the tactical games that would follow. I was nervous that the marchers would be attacked by police. There were the usual special branch and task force thugs to contend with. I remember seeing special branch and uniformed police along the route of the march lurking in a parking area called “Red Park”. And there was a large media pack.

My nerves were for the leaders and those up front. The support group was kept out of the action. At one point I thought that the police would throw the the leaders off a bridge over the S-E freeway. This was a bridge we would have to pass in order to get to the restricted games venue.

When the arrests started I thought that things may get out of hand. But the Brisbane blacks kept their cool, they limited the number of arrests by calling for a tactical retreat when the cops started to lose it and the police thugs and media moved in. There was discipline that day – from the marchers, at least. The days of mass arrests and detention had passed for the time being at least, until the SEQEB dispute in 1985.

The Commonwealth Games protests were a defining moment in the sense that it was the first time there was Murri control of rallies and marches – at least since the street march ban five years earlier in 1977. This leadership grew out of the focus of the protest – the struggle for aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land rights in Queensland.

The film above features some of the leaders of that struggle in Queensland: Oodgeroo Nunuccal (the poet from image Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah), Oodgeroo was formerly known as Kath Walker), Neville Bonner (Liberal Senator for Queensland), Mick Miller (leader of the Northern Land Council), Cheryl Buchanan (chair of the rally and aboriginal activist), Susan Ryan (ALP Senator and shadow minister for Aboriginal Affairs), Gary Foley (Koori, radical, actor and filmaker from Melbourne).

The sound on the film is not good so I will describe what each speaker said.

Neville Bonner pointed out the large infant mortality rate among aboriginal people. He urged people to march but to march in such a way that there could be no comeback by police and the public.

Many have said that Neville Bonner was against marching but if I have listened to his words on the film, and he was not against marching, at least not on that day. Some say Neville Bonner was a coconut, but his people needed him as much as they needed all the other murri leaders. I remember hearing him speaking on Palm Island in 1980 during NAIDOC week. He had a lot of support that day — he must have built up a lot of support on Palm when he worked up there as a carpenter.

I know that Neville Bonner accepted the decision of the Fraser government to mine and export uranium — this was a bad choice by him — but he was the first aboriginal person elected to the Australian parliament and through this, Bonner gave assistance and hope to many aboriginal people. The failure of the government to recognise the will of the people that was opposed to uranium mining and export was not down to him.

We do not live in a democratic society, we live in a society where the power of executive government reigns supreme.

It was a failing of the anti-uranium movement not to realise this fully, and, having done so, failing to adopt strategies to counteract executive power. So, lets hear no more arguing about how Gary Foley or the Mirrar people thwarted the anti-uranium movement at Jabiluka. We have to take responsibility for our own failings, not to press them onto others.

Oodgeroo said at the rally how appalled she was about what was happening to her people in Queensland. She pointed out the contradiction of aboriginal people being subject to British justice. She called on the Queen of England to intervene to grant land rights to her people.

Oodgeroo asked that her people look up, look forward. She then read out her poem of hope.

image“Look up, my people,
The dawn is breaking,
The world is waking
To a new bright day,

When none defame us,

No restriction tame us,

Nor colour shame us,
Nor sneer dismay.

See plain the promise,
Dark freedom-lover!

Night’s nearly over,

And though long the climb,
New rights will greet us,

New mateship meet us,
And joy complete us
In our new Dream Time.

To our fathers’ fathers
The pain, the sorrow;
To our children’s children

The glad tomorrow.”

image Mick Miller stressed that we march and protest, this was the best way to get our point across.

Cheryl Buchanan said that they (the Murri leadership) would allow a supporter to speak at the rally.

Gary Foley argued that Land Rights were vital for aboriginal society to survive. He pointed to the symbols of corporate capitalism and the corrupt bureaucrats in Canberra.

Foley argued that Aboriginal people create their own economic future, to own their own money. The march that ensued was through city streets — the street march ban was a selective one — we were not allowed to march to the Commonwealth Games but we were allowed to march around the city streets. I remember filming the marchers coming down Adelaide Street with their land rights flags and banners. A bus crossed the intersection in front of the march. The sign on the side of the bus read “Boomerang Tours”.

Perhaps this march was only a small victory, but it was a victory nonetheless.

Ian Curr
19 February 2008

PS: Thanks is due to Lachlan Hurse for his excellent camera work in this film.

Aside

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

Sorry Day at Jagera Hall in Musgrave Park

Brisbane Community Elders, ANTar and the Musgrave Park Cultural Centre in Brisbane put on a great day to celebrate the apology to the Stolen Generations yesterday (13 February 2008).

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Over 500 people crowded inside and outside Jagera Hall to celebrate the apology given by the Federal Parliament to the Stolen Generations. People from as far away as Cuba were at Jagera yesterday to witness this defining moment in the history of our community, made more significant because of the Howard government’s refusal to say ‘Sorry’.

Members of the Stolen Generations and their relatives spoke out about the sadness and grief they had been put through when taken away.

Mike Reynolds, the speaker of the Queensland parliament, endorsed the apology along with Helen Abrahams – Councillor for Dutton Park ward on Brisbane’s inner southside. Helen Abrahams promised to hand over control of local arts and community projects to the Murri community.

One young brother spoke strongly saying that it was important for Blacks to Unite first and then to bring in the White people.

Thanks to Natalie (Director of Musgrave Park Cultural Centre), Monique (ANTar), and eleders Aunty Joan and Aunty Valda, Uncle Huey (especially for his gum leaf renditions of Advance Australia Where) and the dancers. The food and drinks provided were plentiful and delicious.

The SORRY mural signed with the Black and White hands was beautiful (see pictures below). BushTelegraph includes a few of the photos taken yesterday to share the the experience with others who could not be there (thanks to Marcial for the photos).

A screen had been set up to show Rudd’s apology speech. Rudd’s speech was not even played, it was lost in the speeches of the stolen ones and community celebrations.

In the end, Howard’s refusal to give an apology and Rudd’s subsequent apology played second fiddle to a display of Murri determination and community solidarity displayed on Sorry day at Jagera Hall in Musgrave Park.

Hopefully the organisation that was shown yesterday will remain strong for the struggles ahead.

Ian Curr
14 February 2008

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Uncle Huey, a Burragubba elder welcomes the people to Sorry Day at Jagera Hall in Musgrave Park on 13 February 2008.

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Dancers perform a fire ceremony and welcome for the crowd

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Mike Reynolds, speaker of the Queensland Parliament ‘signs’ the Reconciliation banner (above)

Murri Elders (including Aunty Joan and Aunty Valda, and Uncle Huey) place their hands on the reconciliation mural.

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Reading for Reconciliation

WANTED
YOU!

TO JOIN US IN
READING FOR RECONCILIATION

HOW DOES R4R WORK?
Before each meeting, we all read a particular title, then come together to discuss what we ave learned from it.

For March 2, the title is “Auntie Rita” by Jackie Huggins.

We try to select titles that are available from various public libraries. A list of titles for future meetings will be available at the March meeting.

We do not try to read many “heavy”, scholarly tomes, but principally biographies and autobiographies of Indigenous people – some well known, some not.

We have been fortunate to have had Jackie Huggins, Albert Holt, Thom Blake and Timothy Trudgen come to speak about their books and experiences – we hope to continue this.

If you need to find out more, please eMail Helen Carrick – helen.carrick@uq.net.au

WHAT?
Reading for Reconciliation (R4R) is MORE than “just another book club”, we
seek to expand knowledge, understanding and empathy of contemporary
Indigenous issues in an informal, friendly setting

WHO?
ANYONE is welcome – whether familiar with the issues (we can always learn
more) or not: R4R includes students and retirees and those in between, from
a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs; R4R has no political affiliations

WHERE?
We have been meeting for the last 4 years in the Western Suburbs of
Brisbane, but have now decided to meet in a more central location at the
State Library of Queensland: in the Loris Williams Room within kuril
dhagun – the Indigenous Knowledge Centre on Level 1

WHEN?

Sunday mornings, 10.30 – 12.30, at approximately 6 weekly intervals.

In 2008 the dates are:

March 2; April 20; June 1; July 20; August 31; October 5; November 16; and December 7

Pine Gap Four jailed

This is an unscheduled email but we thought it important to let people know that the Pine Gap 4 – Jim Dowling, Bryan Law, Adele Goldie & Donna Mulhearn – have been arrested and taken into custody. Media release below.

PACIFISTS ARRESTED

Three Christian pacifists were taken into custody this morning (Wed 13 Feb) as they prepared for a planned 2pm vigil at the Supreme Court steps in Darwin. A fourth member of the group (Bryan Law) was arrested yesterday afternoon.
The Pine Gap Four, convicted last year under the untested Defence (Special Undertakings) Act of 1952, will next week contest the DPP’s appeal against the leniency of their sentences in the Darwin Supreme Court.
Bryan Law of Cairns, Jim Dowling and Adele Goldie of Brisbane and Donna Mulhearn of Sydney will serve short jail terms (5 days – 2 weeks) as a consequence of their decision not to pay the fines imposed by Justice Sally Thomas in June 2007.
“The Federal Government,’ said Ms Mulhearn, “is involved in funding wars around the world and involved in various wars and so we made a decision that we would be very happy to take responsibility for our actions but we’re not willing to contribute financially. But we will serve our prison time in lieu of that.”
On January 4, 2008 Richard Ackland published an article in the SMH discussing “an impressive list of civil liberties violations in our relaxed and comfortable land”, listing the Pine Gap Trial as one of the “fresh outcrop of abrasions to our rights”.
The ‘Pine Gap Four’ entered the prohibited zone of the Pine Gap Joint Defence Facility on December 9th 2005 to conduct a Citizen’s Inspection, with the intention of highlighting the base’s – and Australia’s – role in the Iraq war.

Previous incursions into the base resulted in charges of trespass, but then-Attorney-General Philip Ruddock created legal history by directing the DPP to charge the Four under the 1952 Act, carrying a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment. Barrister advising the Four, Rowena Orr, said “The Defence (Special Undertakings) Act limits the fundamental right of freedom of movement of citizens.”

Prosecuting Counsel Mr Hilton Dembo claimed the group’s deliberately non-violent and transparent actions “struck at the heart of the national security and national interest”. Justice Thomas noted that Pine Gap has a significant history of protest and trespass. “It’s a big step up to talk about a jail sentence,” she said during the 2007 trial, “a prison sentence is one of last resort.”

The group were found guilty and sentenced with minor fines on June 15 2007. Several months later the DPP decided to appeal the sentences (see below)* saying Justice Thomas failed to have regard to the maximum penalties and that the imposition of fines was “manifestly inadequate”.

“What this journey so far tells me” said Mr Bryan Law “is that the Commonwealth (in this case ASIO, the AFP, the DPP, and the DoD) is seeking to increase the criminal punishment for civil disobedience in what can only be an effort to curb political dissent.”

Ms Mulhearn and Ms Goldie have also lodged appeals against the group’s convictions. “This is based,” said Ms Mulhearn “on various points of law relating to the use of the Defence (Special Undertakings) Act and other matters that did not allow us to have a fair trial.

“I don’t believe I committed a crime. What I did was an attempt to transform a military base into something open and honest. I’ve witnessed first hand the activities of Pine Gap and the result of what occurs there. I’ve seen women and children’s bodies ripped to pieces and maimed.

“We felt we had a moral obligation. As human beings we have a responsibility that rises above technical law.”
Mr Law agreed: “What’s moral is not always legal, and what is immoral is not always illegal. If there is a minor law that has to be broken in the pursuit of moral faith then I will break it.”

The Pine Gap Four follow the non-violence philosophies espoused by Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day. The appeal starts on Wednesday 20 February.

Further information:
http://www.pinegapontrial.blogspot.com
http://pinegap6.org/media
http://webdiary.com.au/cms/?q=node/1064
http://www.nt.gov.au/ntsc/doc/sentencing_remarks/2007/06/20070615lawors.html

* NOTICE OF APPEAL
The appellant appeals against the sentences imposed by the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia at Alice Springs on 15 June 2007 on charges of damaging Commonwealth property, contrary to section 29 Crimes Act 1914 (Cth), entering a prohibited area, contrary to section 9(1) Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cth) and use a camera in a prohibited area, contrary to section 17(1) Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 (Cth).

GROUNDS:

  1. The Learned Trial Judge failed to have regard to the maximum penalties;
  2. The Learned Trial Judge erred by placing inadequate weight on general deterrence;
  3. The Learned Trial Judge erred by placing inadequate or no weight on specific deterrence;
  4. The sentence imposed by the Leaned Trial Judge failed to accurately reflect the objective seriousness of the offending and lack of contrition;
  5. The Learned Trial Judge erred in considering the Second and Third Respondents gave considerable cooperation;
  6. The Learned Trial Judge erred when referring to the antecedent report of the Second Respondent;
  7. In imposing fines, the Learned Trial Judge did not consider section 16C Crimes Act 1914 (Cth); and
    Having
    regard to the objective facts and circumstances, the imposition of fines by the Learned Trial Judge was manifestly inadequate.

    For more information contact Katie McRobert 0408 468 992
***
 How do I feel?

Thoughts of a pilgrim en-route to prison

My friends groaned with concern when they heard I would spend a few days in prison.

“Be careful,” they advised with big eyes and a solemn tone, “you remember what happened on Prisoner.”

Thankfully I never watched Prisoner – that 1980s prison drama set in Cell Block C or D of some women’s prison somewhere. But I do recall there were some big, butch, angry prison officers, and less than charming inmates whose tense interactions kept the attention of Australian viewers for many years.

So with a mind free from the unpleasant images my friends have of Cell Block C, I am going into this experience naively optimistic.

That’s not to say it won’t be damn hard. But not every experience that is hard is bad.

I’m in Darwin now (Wed). They took Bryan into custody on Tuesday so that’s why I’m trying to get my thoughts together now – notes to people, instructions, what did I forget to do.

Just about everyone I have spoken to in the last month has asked me: How do you feel about going to prison?

So here’s my thoughts and questions about prison:

I will be relieved when the strip search is over.

I am not as worried about what prison officers might say to me, as what I might say to them. You may have noticed I’m one who tends to speak my mind, whether invited to or not. If I think there is a situation that is de-humanising, I will most likely challenge it, in a friendly but firm manner. I have been encouraged to do this by experienced people, but don’t worry; I will play it by ear!

I will not be allowed to bring in anything. My clothes and possessions will be taken and I will be issued with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, the colour of which will indicate which security risk I am: low, moderate or maximum. I am curious about which colour I will get, I am also curious about how the other prisoners will cope with the sight of my legs considering I have not worn a pair of shorts for 15 years!

I am disappointed I will not be able to watch the historic Government apology to the stolen generations on Wednesday, but what an interesting place to be – a prison in the Northern Territory where 85% of the prison population are indigenous. I will be curious about their opinion.

The questions I have in my head are simple, (perhaps the same as what you might ask) they include:

Will I be able to have a pen and paper (this will essential to keep me sane!)
Will they give me a toothbrush?
Will I share a cell with Adele, or someone else, or be on my own?
Will I have any privacy at all?
What will the other prisoners be like?
If I joke with the prison officers will it be well received, or frowned upon?
Can I have a cup of tea when I want to?
Will I get any sleep with the noises and lights?
Will I be rehabilitated? (just kidding!)
Will I hate it and try to organise a break-out?
Will I wish I had watched Prisoner as a child so I least I was more prepared?
Am I gonna cope?

My attitude is this:

I was not prepared to contribute financially to the Government’s coffers by paying my fine, but in the tradition of civil disobedience I am prepared to take responsibility for my actions and accept the penalty of prison time in lieu of the fines.

It will be the next stage of a journey that started a long time ago. It is a journey that has a lot of meaning and purpose, and that’s what I will draw on when I get frustrated.

I am treating the next five days as a kind of spiritual retreat. I have made a schedule of activities in my head that includes meditation, tai chi, exercise, gospel reading and journal writing.

I have connected with prison chaplains, and they will bring me books and company. I have requested to receive communion.

In the season of lent, a time of deeper spiritual discipline, what better place could I be? The desert of Cell Block C.

I am told we will be locked in our cells from 3.30pm until 8pm the next morning – sounds like a boring stretch but I am a contemplative – solitude and quietness is food for my soul.

I am wary, I am curious, I feel strong and I feel alive.

Speaking the truth to power, despite the consequences, is always liberating.

Your pilgrim
Donna

PS: I hope to get some messages out via the prison chaplains, if not, you might hear from me again on Monday.
PPS: “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God.” Martin Luther.

Coming Together of the Spirit

Forum

With the long-awaited apology to the indigenous Stolen Generations to be made in parliament on Wednesday 13 February 2008, is this a time of celebration, grieving, sharing and looking to a better future?

One way of reflecting on what it means is to see the documentary Liyarn Ngarn

Indigenous leader Sam Watson will lead a discussion in this forum initiated by the 17 Group at BWCC

Liyarn Ngarn – only available through ANTAR with

Patrick Dodson, Archie Roach & Peter Postlethwaite

Liyarn Ngarn, in the Yawuru language of the West Kimberly region around Broome in Australia’s far north-west, means “Coming Together of the Spirit”.

This documentary tells of the devastation and inhumanity encountered by Indigenous people in every aspect of their daily lives.

Renowned English actor Pete Postlethwaite recounts a personal story told to him by Patrick Dodson and Bill Johnson, an old English school friend, whose Indigenous son Louis died tragically. Respected songman, Archie Roach, adds his powerful lyrics and voice to this often painful journey.

It recounts just some of the many injustices that Indigenous Australians have suffered and reminds us of the lack of interest there has been on working towards reconciliation.

Liyarn Ngarn aims to change peoples’ perception and attitude to Indigenous people and to assist with the process of true and lasting reconciliation. It also offers some kind of meaningful epitaph to the Indigenous lives lost through sheer inhumanity.

When: Tuesday February 19, 2008

Where: Brisbane Workers’ Community Centre

2 Latrobe Tce Paddingon

Time: 6:30 pm – Acknowledgment of Traditional Custodians

7:00pm – film

8:15pm – Discussion and light supper

Entry by donation at the door

Stolen Generations at Musgrave Park

Celebrate the federal parliament saying

SORRY

to the

Stolen Generation

11:00 am — 1:30 pm

Wednesday 13th February,

Jagera Arts Centre,

Musgrave Park

[Parking entrance from 121 Cordelia Street, West End]

ANTAR

 

 

The Community Meeting, chaired by Sam Watson, (see below) supported Antar in co-operation with Brisbane Community Elders and Musgrave Park Community in the organisation of this function. Murri elders will speak of their experiences as the stolen generation. Community dancing, music and open platform will follow.

Includes broadcast of Apology by Prime Minister.

For more information on the stolen generations

See Australians for Native Title and Recnciliation (ANTaR)

and their media release

stolen-generations-antar.pdf

***

URGENT COMMUNITY MEETING, BRISBANE
JAGARA HALL, MUSGRAVE PARK
12 NOON
WEDNESDAY 6TH. FEB
TO ORGANISE THE CANBERRA CONVERGANCE
PEOPLE INTERESTED IN GOING TO CANBERRA SHOULD COME ALONG
BUSES, CARS AND PLANES
( sam watson 0401227443 )

Converge on Canberra: Stand up for Aboriginal rights on the first day of the new parliament

Start: 12 Feb 2008 – 11:30am

End: 12 Feb 2008 – 3:00pm

Details:

Minyung Woolah BinnungConvergence on Canberra on 12 Feb 2008

Calling all Aboriginal people and supporters to converge on Canberra:
Stand up for Aboriginal rights on the first day of the new parliament.

Tuesday, February 12 2008
Meet Aboriginal Tent Embassy 11:30am
March to Parliament for 1pm rally

Minyung Woolah Binnung is a poetry book by Lionel Fogarty

Lionel Fogarty is a fighter for social justice.

Burragubba I have heard him speak strongly for many years. He has campaigned like all the others: Sam Watson, Coco Wharton, Dennis Walker, Les Malezer , Bob Weatherall, Vanessa Fisher, Auntie Jean, Lilla Watson, Maureen Watson, Don Brady, Oogeroo, Adrian and Linda Burragubba, Charlie Perkins, Neville Bonner along with the Musgrave Park people, the Jagera Cultural Association, and the Brisbane Blacks since I can remember attending Land Rights rallies as far back as the early 1970s.

I have heard his poems and songs on the street against the Queensland Acts, our colonialist governments and their settler state.

Lionel was born in 1957, he is a Yugambeh man and their land stretches far and wide around the south east corner of Queensland [shown below].

I took the picture of Yugambeh land from the Mistake Mountains [sic] near Cunningham’s Gap.

Yugambeh land forms the banner of BushTelegraph as a mark of respect for this tribe and the other Murri clans in the place where we live.image

White settlement in Australia has lasted only 8 generations (200 years ÷ 25 years).

Aboriginal settlement in ‘Terra Nullius’ (sic) has lasted more than 1,600 generations (40,000 years ÷ 25 years).

Sorrow for aboriginal dispossession is not enough.

Aboriginal people must have land rights and the economic ability to live in the land.

Minyung Woolah Binnung is available from:

Keeaira Press
P.O. Box 139
Southport
QLD 4215 Australia

Phone: 07-55028853
Fax: 07-55028854
E-mail: info@kpress.com.au