by Les Malezer
Many recipients of this email [/readers] will not need to be reminded of Chicka Dixon and his impact on Aboriginal affairs.
However, because of his illness over recent years his persona may not be known to many people of the younger generation.
I want to pay this small tribute to the man.
I doubt that another person like Chicka will come along. He was well liked by everyone because he was a character. But at the same time he had fire in his belly and he used his ability to talk with colourful language, to look you in the eye, to give a twist of humour and to whip with a sharp tongue to tell it like it is in black Australia.
He was a man of the people, choosing to walk with everyone else, to protest in public rallies and union gatherings and the confront government head on for its sins of racism and neglect. When Chicka took the loudhailer, everyone took notice and listened intently.
I said that everyone liked him but I guess it is true to say that many public servants and politicians feared him. I doubt they would take him on in public debate.
The only other person that compared to Chicka was Charles Perkins, but Charlie was not quite the same because he held grudges and generated opponents. Chicka was beyond that, preferring to keep one-on-one and face-to-face with everyone he met, winning them over with his dry humour and easy charm.
I was a raw and naive youngster when I first met Chicka. It was in Canberra and we were amongst a gathering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had gravitated to Canberra under the new Whitlam government. Whitlam had brought Australia into the twentieth century by claiming national responsibility for Aboriginal affairs, appointing the full-time minister Gordon Bryant, and declaring self-determination for the first Australians – all matters now lost to us by Howard and Rudd combined.
Chicka was one of the leaders brought into Canberra in the early 70s to shape the future of Aboriginal affairs. As I remember he was not in Canberra all the time, preferring to be back out there, in the community as much as possible. He was wise and experienced, hardened in the union movement which had held up Aboriginal affairs for most of the years since Federation / Damnation.
While he was the recent recipient of NAIDOC awards, Chicka was not adorned with the titles given to ‘great Australians’. This is to his credit, as a true ‘lefty’ disrespecting British / white Australian class distinctions and false honours.
I do not need to expand on Chicka’s activities as many articles have and will cover those. I only want to say that his real importance will be recognised posthumously and his legend as a fighter in the modern era will grow because he is a good model for an Aboriginal leader, not the trashy stuff that the government is trying to infuse into our young generation.
We need fighters and more of them. I hope the passing of Chicka Dixon will be the signal for more fighters, real people with a toughness to stand firm, to step up to the mark. It is time to meet the next Chicka.
STATE FUNERAL FOR ABORIGINAL LEADER – INSTRUMENTAL IN 1967 NATIONAL REFERENDUM
Monday 22 March, 2010
The Premier of NSW and Minister for Redfern Waterloo today announced the family of Aboriginal leader Mr Charles “Chika” Dixon had been offered a State funeral.
Mr Dixon is a national figure and was active in the campaign for the YES referendum on citizenship for indigenous Australians.
In the 1950s, Mr Dixon became involved in the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) and setting up services in the Redfern community.
He was a foundation member of both the NSW Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Medical Service. He was also involved in the establishment of the Tent Embassy in Canberra in January 1972.
“Mr Dixon spent his life fighting for the rights of Indigenous Australians,” Ms Keneally said.
Born in 1928, Mr Dixon passed away on Saturday afternoon at his nursing home, following a period of ill health.
He is survived by his two daughters, Rhonda and Christine, his brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and extended family.
Mr Dixon grew up on the South Coast and at 14 worked as a labourer on the waterfront at Port Kembla.
Mr Dixon has been a statesman and ambassador for human rights and Aboriginal social justice.
In 2008, he received a lifetime achievement award as part of NAIDOC week and a year later, won the 2009 Deadly Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health.