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 below 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.

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

image Land Rights Struggle – 1982 Commonwealth Games, Brisbane

This is the first time I have placed a film that I helped make 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 Printing Society, a collective of sorts. 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 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.

“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.”

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.

24 thoughts on “What do we want — Land Rights!

  1. Thanks John for the links to the photos, reports and broader history.

    I have placed relevant photos in the story of the commonwealth games protests above and included some more recollections that I have of those events.

    If I am able, I will put up some more film that LeftPress took of those protests.

    Much of this film has not been seen in public, although some was shown at the “Taking to the Streets” exhibition put on in 2007 by the Museum of Brisbane.

    Others like yourself and Ciaron may have more detailed accounts of what happened during that time and what it means for how we organise today.

    Ian Curr
    20 Feb 2008

  2. In fulfillment of Ciaron’s prophesy that I should blog about activists while they are before the courts, I would like to mention Bryan Law’s role in the non-indigenous support for the land rights protests leading up to 82.

    Brian, like myself and Lynda Rushton (mentioned in the class and race post) were part of the Griffith Uni Land Rights Support Group. I shall talk of that group later, but for now – Brian.

    Anyone who has worked with Brian will know he has a tendency to pig headed autocracy, a trait I admire in him. Brian had schemes scams and plans in 1981 which we, his comrades largely dismissed. But that didn’t stop him. Against the better judgement of myself and many others Brian bulldozed a motion through the student union to facilitate a land rights conference at the campus. We all turned up to the meetings and raised our hands when we needed to, but the truth is Brian pushed this by himself. He got the money and the venue and proceeded to invite Aboriginal leaders from all over Australia, offering them air fares and accomodation to get there – and they did in their hundreds and blew Brians budget by tens of thousands of dollars.

    As has been mentioned on other threads, the Black Protest Committee had undergone some divisions and changes and had to an extent dropped the momentum of the campaign.

    Brian’ conference provided the time and space for the broader leadership to sit down and cook up a plan, which they did and reinvigourated the campaign giving it a solid national and international focus, and recreated the unity and momentum that had previously wained.

    I believe that conference was the most significant event in building the protests. It was the only time in the whole lead up that a large meeting of national Aboriginal activists had the opportunity to thrash out, on the podium and behind the scenes, a coherent strategy and focus for the protests.

    And it was all Brian Law’s fault!

  3. Still arguing about 1982

    “I lived out ignorant rants
    “I’m not afraid to fight the Governments”…
    Given sentences over one person’s
    judgement is as god, whishes calmer
    the chair sat in lent…
    The lasted lusts rusted as struggle drank every
    night happy time mime…”
    Lionel Fogarty in “Fig it out” Keeairia Press @ http://www.kpress.com.au/

    While we are laying blame at the feet of political activists for past deeds, I want to address the allegation against Gary Foley by Ciaron O’Reilly elsewhere on BushTelegraph that Foley was convicted of statutory rape [Statutory rape is the crime of sex with a minor under the age of consent].

    Ciaron’s allegation read: “These are uncontested convictions not allegations. They are just one of the reasons we don’t take his leadership or authority seriously”.
    These remarks originally appeared in Ciaron’s comment in “Comments on class and race” [Ed’s. Note: Subsequently Ciaron requested that his comments be deleted, which has been done.]

    I knew nothing of these allegations against Gary Foley.

    If true, Ciaron would have basis for not ‘taking his (Foley’s) leadership or authority seriously’.

    I wish to place on the record published refutation of the rape allegation against Foley – an allegation first made so long ago in 1968.

    A refutation to these allegations [Ciaron is hardly the first to repeat them] appeared in an article 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 [1968]’.

    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.”

    OK. Where does that leave us? Do we believe the coppers? Are we any the wiser of the events of 40 years ago? Do we believe the courts? What was Foley supposed to be admitting to?

    My concern is that this whole discussion arose from political naivety.

    I do know this. I heard Foley speak at the 1982 Commonwealth Games protests. At the time he expressed a materialist critique of white society. He said that colonialist settler societies like Australia are based on the ‘love of money’. In response he said that Aboriginal society should seek to create its own economic wealth based on its own ideals.

    Land and money is still being taken from Aboriginal society by governments through the facade of 99-year leases. This is to abolish communal ownership — the very thing that distinguishes white settlers from indigenous people. White colonial settlement is based on individual ownership of land and the means of making profit.

    So, Ciaron, in answer, I still find Foley’s argument on that hot summer day in 1982 compelling.

    Can we dismiss his message?
    I say no! Foley’s message derives from Koori and Murri history. It derives from working class history in England, Ireland, Australia … everywhere.

    Can we dismiss the messenger? I see nothing in Ciaron’s 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.

    So Foley is a doer, not just a talker.

    Ian Curr
    21 February 2008

  4. Ciaron,

    Your attempt to legitimise police racism and violence in your last sentence is disgusting.

    Is the 1968 incident that Ian refers to the same statutory rape that you refer to?

    If so, you are indeed a low-life dog for doing the police’s ideological dirty work.

  5. So, Ciaron, I assume that the 1968 incident is what you have been refering to.

    Your insistance that a rape occured shows an ignorance of the nature of statutory rape. The only statutory offence appears to be that the woman was a ward of the state. Obviously the real crime in the eyes of the police was young black people and white people associating with each other.

    Again I say that your defense of the police charges and conviction is the act of a racist dog. It is KKK ideology.

    If this was your attitude at Jabiluka, as it seems it was, there should be no surprise that Aboriginal people did not support you. Your whinging about persecution by Gunjhemi is pathetic given the gross disrespect you showed them.

    It is ironic that given your villification of Green politicians that you now have to resort to one to try and manufacture some credibility for your Jabiluka adventure. I suppose that is better than your personal attacks and slurs routinely dished out to anyone that disagrees with you. However, I fear it is just another reason to call Kerry Nettle naive.

  6. Ciaron and John,

    I too am doubtful of the merit of all this — something that has evolved into a three-way conversation between the three of us, Ciaron, John and me.

    Going back through all this stuff. What is to be achieved?

    Ciaron, you and John were both young in 1977 when we first became involved in Democratic Rights campaigns in Queensland. I do not say this pejoratively.

    From what you have said of the 1980s and 1990s you may understand how bad things got during the democratic rights struggles of 1977-79. I have never been quite been able to write what that experience was really like. The political opportunism, the idealism, how badly people were treated.

    People in movement politics — in the years after it all happened — knew the superficial things – but did not understand how bad things were and how badly it affected the participants.

    In the early 1980s, I lived in a house at 608 Brunswick Street in the Valley with some friends. None of us had any money, only one of us had a job, and he was a gambler. We had socialised our poverty.

    608 Brunswick Street was a divided house with a wall that separated the tenants. In the flat next door there was daily violence, or, to be more accurate, nightly violence. One of my friends moved out because of it. The lawyer landlord kicked out the people next door and replaced them with a young woman who worked at 4ZZZ, brought up from Sydney to cover the 1982 Commonwealth Games protests.

    The previous tenants next door were poor white folk from the Darling Downs. A week after being evicted, the mother and daughter killed the uncle — they had all been living next door with the daughter’s baby. The daughter was barely fifteen and already pregnant with a second child.

    Our flat was near Kent Street in the Valley — the murder capital of Queensland at that time.

    Aboriginal people in Kent street were routinely dragged by cops from their houses into the street and when the Murris got upset, they were arrested for obscene language or charges like that and taken to the Brisbane watchouse.

    Yet it was the cops that called me a terrorist, beat me, verballed me, threw me in jail and had me charged with indictable offences.

    During the time I lived in the Valley, a person was killed in a fight at the nearby corner pub.

    There was a brothel beside our house, later named in the Fitzgerald enquiry. In the evening, when I was making tea, businessmen would mistakenly come to our front door looking for sex. The 4ZZZ person told me that she had seen police drive around the back of the brothel and had taken money from the brothel keeper. Yet another thing that never came out in the Fitzgerald enquiry.

    A previous flatmate on the Left who lived through this period, and, like some on the Left, went through the drugs bit, went mad.

    These are examples of things that went on in so called ‘movement politics’ — the egotism, the routine stacking of meetings, the cover-ups and individual opportunism went with all that.

    It is very hard in today’s superficial world to dissect things meaningfully — things that happened so long ago — even though such a dissection may open up some slim possibility that mistakes may not be repeated. Although I suspect that the opposite may be true.

    By the way, the International Socialist Organisation [ISO] no longer exists in Australia. It was liquidated a few weeks ago. There is, however, a new formation called Solidarity, I can only hope that they will do better than their historical counterpart, the ISO. One comrade thinks that eventually the Socialist Alliance will re-form the Socialist Workers Party — the original group from which they came so long ago. Personally I am no longer sure the organised Left really exists — save in the minds of the few.

    Ciaron, I can’t edit BushTelegraph. It is supposed to be an open forum. Occasionally, where warranted, I put in an editor’s note in square [] brackets.

    I do worry about libel and defamation. The publisher is liable as far as I know. I am told that truth is no defence against libel? I don’t have much in the way of material possessions, they could take our house, my share is really all I have, it would be a great shame to lose it.

    Also, I worry also about exposure of other matters that are personal and private – things that may hurt individuals – things that are not really part of the collective.

    John, I hope that you will read between the lines to work out who and why.

    Ian Curr
    22 February 2008

  7. Ian,

    This started from the Michael Noonan controversy. As I assume you are aware and I know Gary Mc is aware, there is considerable personal information about individuals I could have put on the table in relation to those matters, especially in the terms of Ciaron’s recent tack, but I have chosen not to play those cards.

    Perhaps it is Gary’s pre-emptive defense of his supporters that motivated him to call his dog off me. But I won’t go there. I did at one stage consider opening the lid on that box because it is an important story of redemption, healing and forgiveness, a story that has had a significant impact on my own life, but in the end it is not my story so I left it alone. I also suspect notions of redemption, healing and forgiveness would go right over Ciaron’s head as he is obsessed with condemnation and judgement, especially towards Aboriginal Australia.

    However I claim a righteous license to attack Ciaron because he has accused me of being a collaborator and an agent of the state, an accusation that I do not take lightly and I have in no way finished dealing with.

    Ciarons attacks on me, and my responses, should not be understood as just personal animosity, they have a deep and serious political context.

    Ciaron is an influential spokesperson and his opinions affect many young or new activists. As an international spokesperson for Australian struggles he propogates dishonest and self serving myths about Aboriginal struggle, undermining international support for Aboriginal self determination.

    Ciaron’s racism cannot be dismissed as the youthful ignorance of the 80s. It manifested during 82, it manifested in Jabiluka and in manifests today on your blog. There is a historical continuiuty, as tends to be the case with racism.

    Ciaron attacked the 82 Aboriginal leadership, he attacked the Jabiluka leadership, he persists on his attacks on Foley and he persists on his attacks on me because of my connections to black leaders. He is an enemy of the land rights movement and needs to be exposed as such rather than embraced in the loving and uncritical arms of “the collective”.

    His Roman Imperial theology that motivates his egotistical political adventures is another matter, and perhaps would warrant a discussion somewhere else in understanding the deep psychological influence that the Roman church has on left wing movements.

    But in terms of the topic of this post it is important to decide, in terms of Aboriginal Self determination, “Whose side are you on?”

    Ciaron has made it clear whose side he is on, as have I. The attempt to straddle the two positions in the name of workers solidarity or the “collective” is, it seems to me, a matter of your own personal loyalties and anxieties, not an attempt to forge any political or collective direction relevant to our historical conditions.

    Ciaron is a racist dog who has persisted through history, and continues to this day, to undermine the very reality that Aboriginal Australia and its white supporters are trying to build – sovereignty and self determination.

  8. KKKiaron,

    Your “expose” of the Jabiluka leadership is, in part, based on your affirmation of the police verballing of Foley which, despite being in possession of the facts, you still persist with to today.

    The multiculturalism of your housemates in this particular stop in your nomadic and disconnected life does not in anyway justify the attacks on Aboriginal Australia that you have continued with throughout your adventures, right up to today.

    I have avoided defending my own life in the face of your unfoundd critique, but I will at this stage say I have faced the courts many times in the last 25 years. Several of these occaisions have been NVCD [Ed. Note NVCD = Non-violent direct action] , which I now reject as an egotistical western perversion of the strategies of King and Ghandi. (You attack Gundjehmi for negotiating with the enemy yet this is one of the pillars of Ghandi’s strategy against colonisation).

    However most court appearences, and all tose in the last decade, have not been because I marched into the jaws of the lion but because the state has continually intervened, uninvited, into my black family. “Resistance” is a luxury of ideological self obsession, the real task is defense, defense of Aborigines crushed by the racism of the state and the consciousness of the white population. defense of the people of Iraq, who I might add have bravely destroyed much more U.S. military infrastructure than your movement ever will, defense of disabled people whose life project and hope was caught up in an irrelevant academic ideological struggle over post modernism.

    “Resistance” is the word used to describe the articulation of opinion in public. No matter how militant the resistance is it is still just the promotion of egoic opinion and neither connects positively with building movements for change or with the forces of oppression.

    I worked full time (wages were accomodation and food) between 1989 and 1993 for the Incarcerated Peoples Cultural heritage Aboriginal corporation (IPCHAC). I was directly accountable to a committee of murderers, rapists, bank robbers and thugs. IPCHAC not only drove major reforms in the prison system during that time, the criminals were also playing a key leadership role in the Brisbane Aboriginal community, and some still do since their release.

    Such redemption, such honour and strength shown by criminals belittles the petty moralism of your condemnations of Aboriginal leadership.

    ( Ian – I must challenge your statement “If true, Ciaron would have basis for not ‘taking his (Foley’s) leadership or authority seriously”. if Foley were correctly convicted, which it seems he wasn’t, then you have no less obligation to accept the leadership that Aboriginal Australia choose for themselves than if he was squeaky clean. Questions of suitability for leadership is not a white concern. Aboriginal people are not stupid and can and do make sensible decisions of their own in this regard)

    There is a real struggle in Australia, between the sovereign Aboriginal population and the invader pirate population. This is not a simple matter of ideology, religion or any other opinion. It is a lining up of forces who either defend Aboriginal Australia or who attack it.

    You, KKKiaron, are part of the racist attack.

  9. To return to 1982 and. as foreshadowed, a comment about the Griffith Uni Land Rights Support Group, and a response to Ian’s question on post 2 about ” what it means for how we organise today.”.

    Griffith was one of the main focii for the build up to the games because the university itself was to become the athletes village. The students union and the black protest committee had been threatening to occupy the campus during the games so their was a lot of dynamic tension. Also the student union was very supportive and put money and resources into campaigning (above and beyond Brian’s conference).

    Central to the support group was the authority of the black protest committee to call the shots of the campaign. This was of course confronting to many of us who were used to defining campaigns and planning action within our own frameworks. There were a few anarchists and a few trots. I remember conversations with Judie McVie who was with IS at the time as we came to terms with Aboriginal self determination. We had been ordered not to display our own banners and propaganda at the land rights events so we had to sit down and decide how to deal with it. It was a simple question of do we support self determination or not, and the answer was (to us) obvious and we accepted the conditions of our involvement.

    The lessons of FCATSI, mentioned in the Foley essay “Whiteness and Blackness in the struggle for Koori self determination” were spoken of during this campaign. No longer was the Aboriginal movement going to allow well intentioned white people to define the Aboriginal struggle. Seperate organisations were created for white supporters under the direct authority of an Aboriginal leadership.

    I have mentioned on another thread the behind the scenes Aboriginal decision making processes such as the will of elders. The complicated customary law process that was the real authority in the Bris community, not the BPC, was protected from the white supporters who had no input into the real process.

    This model was replicated in 86 or 7 with “Justice 88” which was created to build support for the bicentenary protests. It was created by FAIRA and remained tightly under their control. FAIRA, in turn was accountable to the whole community.

    This model of self determination, also employed by the Mirrar to coordinate white support at Jabiluka, has been forgotten recently. ANTAR, which was created in the same model during the native title debate has now become an organisation under white control and has less Aboriginal direction than even FCATSI did. While it has liason people and patrons, it does not take direction from Aboriginal people and as such has created a white notion of the issues. For example, ANTAR, Getup and OXFAM focused on the “Close the Gap Campaign” in the federal election. As such they promoted an essentially assimilationist philosophy with no reference at all to structural oppression and colonisation, the causal factors of Aboriginal disadvantage.

    Today in Brisbane, beyond ANTAR, the structure of Aboriginal self determination and control of white support is the connection between Sam Watson and the Socialist Alliance and other independent leftists. In nuts and bolts terms, Sam calls the shots and supporters do what they can to facilitate what he wants done. The marches about the Palm Island watchouse death were the manifestation of this support.

    Unlike 82 and 88, Sam has encouraged the propagation of white leftist frameworks in the movement, rather than repress it as was the will of leaders such as Ross Watson and Bob Weatherall in those previous movements.

    I have some serious concerns about this development because, at least as far as Socialist Alliance is concerned, it has allowed the Aboriginal struggle to become just another dot point in the Canon of left agendas. The Aboriginal struggle has been understood and described in neo-Leninist terms of class struggle, not indiginist notions of colonisation.

    My fear is that, as part of the ongoing cultural genocide, Aboriginal perspective will be diluted and eventually disgarded as an irrelevant anachronism, disconnected from the “real” struggle of the workers.

    However this development has the potential to redefine and reinvigourate Australian socialism by the ideology itself adapting to the historical reality of invasion, colonisation and Aboriginal sovereignty in that context.

    The real sovereign Australian government, exiled in its own country, could be affirmed and supported by socialists, not just be reduced to talking heads representing the “Aboriginal issue” amongst all the other left issues.

    But for Australian socialism to evolve to a point where it understands and affirms Aboriginal sovereignty, it must be willing to leave its own ideological baggage at the door in order to have a clear look at what Aboriginal sovereignty might mean.

    Oodgeroo said you cant listen to anything if you are talking. I have been to Aboriginal community meetings where activists have tried to explain Aboriginal oppression in terms of class struggle, as if they were soapboxing in the mall. As long as the left tries to apply a class struggle (or NVDA) template onto the Aboriginal struggle they lose the capacity to listen to Aboriginal perspective.

  10. Editors Note:

    At Ciaron O’Reilly’s request I have deleted his comments to this article.

    Ian Curr
    25 Feb 2008

  11. One thing worse than an outspoken racist is a racist that tries to hide their racism.

    KKKiaron did the same thing on Andrew Bartlett’s blog when his abuse and slander was confronted.

    What a pathetic individual he is, unwilling to stand by his own words, although I do understand why he would be ashamed of what he said, especially his defense of police verballing.

    It is a pity that he has withdrawn his perspective because it is important for all of us to understand that our movements are capable of harboring such resentment towards Aboriginal Australia. Unfortnately KKKiaron is not alone in this regard. Like his withdrawal of his comments here, such racism in our movements is usually kept safely under the carpet.

  12. Thank you Ciaron for again articulating your dismissal of and resistance to Aboriginal self determination and the demonisation of Aboriginal people that you use to justify your resistance.

    I hope you have the guts to leave it up this time.

    You have called me a child, a collaborator and an enemy of the state. Your attacks on Gundjehmi, the Mirrar and especially Foley is similarly based on petty personal abuse.

    Your name calling not only exposes your knee jerk racism but also a complete vacuum of ideas with which to engage in discussion.

    You keep insisting that you are defending poor old defenceless Gary. He chose the battlefield, the mass media. He used the Murdoch press and comrade Alan Jones to attack and villify Noonan and discredit his work. To somehow expect that his oppressive and catholic attitude to disability should be left unchallenged in public, especially since Noonan’s work is so progressive, may well indicate your loyalty to Gary but it also indicates the mindlessness that informs your politics, and indeed those who rallied around Gary’s criticism of Noonan.

    The latest edition of West End Neighborhood News had a comprehensive article continuing the villification of Michael Noonan and supporting Gary and John – signed by Brian Laver but I doubt he wrote it. The gang who supported Gary have not signed any confidentiality agreements and they continue their public villification of Noonan and his work as you do. Poor old Gary is not as defenseless as you make out.

    It has been most instructive to see you call for open forums to be censored and Brian Laver call for films to be banned. In your unquestioning loyalty to Gary you have both abandoned the principles of freedom of expression that has characterised most of your political histories.

    Your new politics of gang solidarity, villification and censorship is fascism, you have fallen a long way from your anarchist roots.

    As for Brian Law, unlike you he encouraged discussion through his propaganda surrounding his court case, and I engaged in discussion. I challenged the philosophy and tactics of CAAT and in no way retreat from or apologise for that.

    The unfortunate reality of your and CAAT style activism is all you ever talk about in your campaigns is yourselves and your courtcases. This however should not insulate you from other opinions that arise in the discussion about you and your court cases. Your demand for uncritical loyalty because of your misguided march into the Lions mouth is just arrogant egotism.

  13. John and Ciaron,

    This is a public forum.

    It is not an open forum for personal abuse.

    Who wants to listen to white guys abusing each other while talking about Australia’s black past?

    We have to take responsibility for our own failures, not preach to others.

    I have learnt that blogs do not achieve much.

    Ian Curr
    26 February 2008

  14. I’m sorry Ian, but as mentioned before I do no take lightly to being called a collaborator and agent of the state, especially by someone who endorses police verbals and bashings to discredit an Aboriginal leader.

    Ciaron has made it quite clear his motivation for his attack on me is to defend Gary Mac. It was a mistake of you (Ian) to move this argument from the thread discussing Gary Mac to this thread discussing the 82 games (via a brief stop at race and class).

    I have made, what I believe to be, serious contributions to the discussion of 82, especially the issue of Aboriginal self determination in 82 and today. In so doing I have been again attacked by Ciaron and simply will not ignore such personal and dishonest criticism.

    The point I made on the original thread was that notions of solidarity are meaningless when, for example, such attitudes to Aboriginal leadership as Ciarons are disguised by rhetoric of solidarity with Mirrar, as they were at the time. Similarly, Gary Mac’s plea to “hold the disabled close to our heart” (presumably a plea for solidarity) can exist in the context of a cruel attack on two disabled men and their families.

    It is the white left’s own responsibility to confront the racism of white leftists. It should not be ignored in the name of solidarity, politeness or pleasant reading in the same way as mainstream Australia sweeps its own racism under the carpet.

    On the race and class thread I said your (Ian’s) comment “I think that there is a tendency against racism in Australia and America.” was naive. This comment sees racism as a matter of personal manners, in the same way that Ciaron claims a multicultural harmony with his resent housemates. However racism is much deeper than that and relates to the inherent power relationships of white and black consciousness in a colonised country. The dismissal of Aboriginal self determination is a much more political and potent racism than politically incorrect manners or language, it is the essence of white power.

    I thank you for bringing to light the details of the police verballing and bashing and your defence of Foley’s perspective. However such attempts at editorial accuracy are inadequate to deal with the racist sentiments that exist in our movements. The consciousness and philosophy behind the demonisation of Aboriginal leaderships is what needs to be confronted.

    On the question of the personal accusations against myself and Gary Foley, Ciaron is unrepentant as he is on the dismissal of the will of the Mirrar. Therefore, from my perspective these issues remain unfinished business.

    When Ciaron has made a heartfelt apology as publically as he has his unfounded condemnations, then and only then will these particular issues be resolved.

    (note – I have met Foley briefly in 98 but I doubt if he remembers me. I am honoured to be tarred with the same brush as him. Ciaron’s attack on me and my associates (whoever they might be) in the following comment are not related to Foley but (I assume) to prominent Murri leaders in Brisbane.

    ” The white OZ left has been soft on rape and abuse of women and children (both indigineous and white) by a minority of aboriginal activists – some of who you are alligned with.”

    Ciaron’s attacks on Aboriginal leaders did not end at Jabiluka, they continue today, in Brisbane, with the above comment and the racist world view that underpins such a comment.

    I understand your uncomfortableness with these matters and I thank you for allowing them to be exposed on our blog.

  15. But to return to the topic of the thread, in particular issues for organisation today, I would like to also return to the notion of solidarity that is espoused by this blog and other left wing entities.

    What is solidarity? In particular, how can we, members of the invading society and culture, be in solidarity with the Aboriginal struggle? How can a protestent in Northern Ireland be in solidarity with the Republican movement? How can a white South African be in solidarity with the Zulu?

    It seems to me that the white Australian left has developed a notion of solidarity that is identical to the white church’s notion of intercessory prayer, that is we create a list of people and places that we commit to our own thoughts. We, within our own thoughts, define and create an illusion of the people we are thinking about that conforms with the psychological matrix of all our other thoughts.

    We leftists are no more relevant to those we proclaim solidarity with than the rich christians in their affluent churches are to the starving babies that they pray for.

    Like the churches, we have sophisticated ideologies of social justice into which we contextualise our solidarity, but it is still just a manifestation of our own thoughts and cultural/psychological presuppositions.

    In order to avoid semantic confusion, I do not use the word solidarity but rather “connection”. How do we white folk connect to Aboriginal Australia in real nuts and bolts, bread and butter terms?

    As distastefull as it is to praise the Socialist Alliance, they alone amongst the left organisations in Brisbane have built a real connection to Aboriginal Australia, especially the Mulrunji marches, and this connection empowers and reinforces the leadership of Sam Watson, within the terms that Sam chooses. More pallatable is to acknowledge Ian and leftpress providing resources and infrastructure to Aboriginal community rallies and gatherings, as there are many other white folk who lend a hand where they can to assist Aboriginal agendas.

    These infastructural connections build relationships and understandings and create a shared history that is worthy of the term solidarity, just as the Joh struggle seems to be the basis of solidarity Ian and others have shown to Gary in his battle with QUT.

    However a white cultural manifestation such as the solidarity of the Joh era does not of itself entail a similar solidarity with a key dot point of our propaganda – Aboriginal Australia. In general, since 1988, the organised left has not connected with Aboriginal Australia and where it has such as the Jabiluka blocade or the present Wilderness society wild rivers campaign in Cape York, the connection has been one of conflict of world views, not working together on a common goal. As such, white solidarity, in general, remains as a white notion of white imaginations. The whole ANTAR and reconcilliation movement is another case in point.

    The 82 protests were not just about land rights but also self determination, as the signage in the historical photos show. Since the FCATSI split in the 60s(?) Aboriginal Australia has demanded self determination, Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs. This means that if we are going to connect to Aboriginal Australia it must be on Aboriginal Australia’s own terms. Our choice is simply whose side are we on, not what are the preconditions for our support. It is a question of whether the weight of our own bodies add to the momentum of colonial society or Aboriginal society.

    If within our white thoughts, we impose conditions or prerequisites on our support, if we cherry pick leaders that agree with us and support them we are simply engaging in the historic colonial mode of imposing our superior white morality and ideology onto Aboriginal reality, or at least our thoughts of what Aboriginality might mean.

    I expect no support from Ian’s historical materialism or Ciaron’s Roman Catholocism for this next comment, but the challenge to the white left as it is to the whole white society is a spiritual challenge. It is spirit that transcends cultures and ideologies and it is on this level that real connection can occur. As long as white folk cling to our white ideas and thoughts then there is a psychological blockage to spirit and to real connection. Something like what Krishnamerti was talking about http://www.katinkahesselink.net/kr/core.htm

    For what its worth, I believe Krishnamertis notion of the mutation of the mind through the deconstruction of historical thought is the basis of non patronising connection with people with intellectual disabilities too.

  16. Hello John,

    “It was a mistake of you (Ian) to move this argument from the thread discussing Gary Mac to this thread discussing the 82 games (via a brief stop at race and class).” in Comment # 18

    I had to move the comments because I wanted to include picture and
    film records of the 1982 Commonwealth Games Protests that we were discussing. It is not technically possible to place images in the Comments section on a WordPress Blog so I had to start a new ‘post’.

    Also the topic moved away from MacLennan and Hookham case to issues of class and race.

    Ciaron has asked me to delete his comments in each of the following threads: What do we want — Land Rights!, Comments on class and race, and Philistines at the Gates.

    I have done so and in the process I note that the allegations against you have been removed.

    The charge that you are a collaborator or agent of the state is absurd, meaningless, and not relevant to any of these discussions.

    Perhaps I am naive when I say there is a tendency against racism in Australia and America.

    Sure, there is a lot of racism and not just in these places.

    Perhaps the move is only a minor one, but I think that what happened on the Sorry Day 13 Feb 2008 would not have happened 10 years ago.

    Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of institutional racism in Australia, but the level of organisation against that racism started by the Murri and Koori people shown in the film above during the 1982 Commonwealth Games Protests has grown stronger.

    As far as America is concerned, I know little. But if I were a betting man, and the race for the Presidential election was between the republican John McCain and the democrat Barack Obama, I would be putting my money on Obama — if only because Obama is drawing crowds of 20,000 in the Primaries, meanwhile McCain is drawing groups of 300.

    Also the Democratic Primaries are attracting far more votes than the Republican primaries.

    We will just have to wait to see what happens in November 2008.

  17. Ian,

    you said….. “Perhaps the move is only a minor one, but I think that what happened on the Sorry Day 13 Feb 2008 would not have happened 10 years ago.”

    You seem to have forgotton Keating’s Redfern speech 16 years ago which acknowledged responsibility for the rapes, murders, massacres and dispossesion from land, forshadowing a policy package of land rights, self determination and compensation.

    Such comments from a prime minister is almost unthinkable today, as the N.T. intervention and the roll back of the racial discrimination act would have been during the Keating era.

    Rudds puny apology for one small part of the government’s genocidal past, with the promise of no compensation, is pathetic compared to what was possible (and achieved through ATSIC, native title and the RCIADIC) in the pre-Howard era.

    and secondly, on structural racism….

    Racism is defined differently by the oppressor/coloniser than it is for the oppressed/colonised. for example, the racial discrimination act gives everyone the equal right to be white. There are no indigenous rights protected in the act, in fact technically it defines rights above and beyond the normal Australian, such as Aboriginal rights inherent in customary law, as racial discrimination. Native title has only been accepted by the high court because it is a common law right of British subjects, not a right based on Aboriginal sovereignty or customary law.

    The anti discrimination laws themselves are instruments of structural racism.

    The Americans may well pat themselves on the back for rejecting racism if they manage to elect an African president. However this means nothing to the American Aborigines and their systematic genocide to establish “American” society. Nor does it deal with the generations of stolen wages and opportunities of the African slave era which built the American economy (and black poverty) to what it is today.

    Rudd and Obama’s smiling faces, like our discrimination laws, do not in any way challenge racism if racism has something to do with colonisation and economic exploitation.

  18. Perhaps you are correct Ian, that things are better now than 10 years ago but I certainly do not think this is the case.

    I believe John Howard has done enormous damage to Aboriginal Australia through the abolition of ATSIC, the gutting of native title law and the new (and remaining) policy direction of the NT intervention which has already been introduced to Qld and today it has been announced that this mode is now to be introduced in W.A.

    How did John Howard do this? How did he redirect the spirit of the Australian population to support such regression from the high point of 88, Native title, Atsic and the RCIADIC? Even the ALP supported the abolition of ATSIC, their own creation.

    The answer is quite simple – Howard demonised Aboriginal Australia as child rapists, adult rapists and woman bashers.

    Howard used the rape allegations against Geoff Clarke (and they were just allegations at the time) to demolish ATSIC. Clarke was the first democratically elected chair of ATSIC, all the others were government appointments. It was crucial to not just demolish the individual Clarke but also the the very concept of independent Aboriginal representation.

    The last 2 years of the Howard regime saw media sensation after media sensation about the Horrors of Aboriginal family violence, especially child abuse. What was missing in the sensations penned by the likes of Tony Kosh was that child abuse occurs, per capita, at the same rate in Aboriginal communities as in the mainstream and that much of the child abuse in Aboriginal communities was perpetrated from white people in or around the communities. Like the children overboard lie, the allegations of widespread child abuse at Mutijulu were exposed as propaganda of government allies, but the mud still stuck and Mutijulu was demonised (despite having child abuse statistics comparable to the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds).

    Since the demise of ATSIC Howard has promoted and sensationalised family violence, in particular against children, as being the central issue of Aboriginal Australia. Howard and his ideological allies have turned the genuine concern of white Australia for the suffering of women and children into a potent weapon against Aboriginal Australia just as he did with those immoral refugees who are so low that they would even throw their children into the ocean.

    I hear no voices from the Aboriginal world trying to justify family violence, I hear many desperately calling for assistance to tackle it. But these voices are not calling for the demonisation and incarceration of Aboriginal men, they are calling for healing, for a break in the cycle of violence.

    Because of the recent 4 corners show on self help groups for perpetrators of domestic violence these issues are again being discussed in the context of white Australia. The self help model featured in the show, though based on notions of healing, is failing. Apparently they are not succesfull at stopping violence and while they may be of some personal benefit to the perpetrator they have little if any relevance to the victims. The alternative promoted by feminists, and the police is to acknowledge the criminality of the violence and prosecute and punish.

    The punitive mode of police and prisons only reinforces the cycle of violence in all communities including Aboriginal communities. While it may well give temporary relief to individual victims, in the long term it increases the incidence and the intensity of the cycle of violence.

    The reason the self help model fails is because it identifies the problem and the solution to be inherent in the individual. It fails to address the basic dysfunctionality of the nuclear family which is the major cause of family violence and the social context into which the “healed” individual returns after (or during) their healing journey.

    A basic question such as the design of public housing in Aboriginal communities not only reinforces the dysfunctional nuclear family, all the houses are designed for suburban nuclear families, they also are the central cause of overcrowding (many people still live in extended families) including the inevitability of drunk and/or stoned adults sharing a room or even a bed with children – a recipe for disaster inherent in the architecture..

    The model presented by, amongst many others, the “Qld. Premiers (former) Indigenous Womens task force on Commnity violence” http://www.atsip.qld.gov.au/pdf/taskforce.pdf is for the strengthening of Aboriginal culture and extended family processes in order to empower these families to deal with their problems in the way the choose themselves as most appropriate. This could mean gathering the family support to launch a prosecution which is very traumatic and unlikely to succeed, or it could be invoking some customary law intervention or it could be by enforcing womens business and mens business time and space which itself is a strong preventative measure.

    The Indigenous womens taskforce report was immediately rejected by Beattie and Tony Fitzgerald was commissioned to write another report which was instituted lock, stock and barrell – litterally.

    The real power on the ground in Qld’s Aboriginal communities is a fusion of fundamentalist christians and police in the communities with feminist (or post-feminist) bureacrats (men and women) in the state government. They have, like John Howard, focused on family violence as the central policy issue and, like John Howard, have used the police as the primary agency to execute indigenous policy.

    The demonisation and criminalisation of Aboriginal men, while quite a comfortable fit with white, even radical white perspective is simply a continuation of the cycle of colonial violence. Any healer worth their salt will tell you that the causes of problems must be addressed, not the repression of symptoms which, if repressed will remanifest somewhere else in an amplified form.

    John Howard and others demonisation of Aboriginal men by way of sexual or family violence is a clever bonding of genocidal policy with progressive white sentiment, a factor that has entrenched the intervention mode into ALP policy.

    The very policies that might have a hope of addressing family violence in Aboriginal communities and households (and everywhere else) are directly undermined by the sentiment of concern for women and children by white Australia.

    The very leaderships that might bring about healing change have been undermined by their sexual demonisation by political opponents.

    Such cleverness on the part of John Howard and others is straight out of the KKK handbook on cultivating sexual fear of black men.

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