Chicka is our future

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.

A Proud Bgcolman
A proud Bwgcolman carries on the struggle of Uncle 'Chicka' Dixon

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.


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.

5 thoughts on “Chicka is our future

  1. Vale Chika says:

    Support for indigenous peoples

    Chicka Dixon

    The Waterside Workers Federation actively supported indigenous peoples in Australia and abroad throughout the 1960s and 1970s. One example was the establishment of the Moa Island Bakery in the Torres Strait Islands which was funded through a national levy of union members in 1965 after the Queensland Government refused the Moa Island community permission for the a bakery.

    The bakery was officially opened on the 22nd of November 1968 and served the communities of Saint Paul’s Reserve and Kubin Village with a daily supply of bread. In other moves, a cottage in Dubbo in western New South Wales was built in 1964 with funds from the union. It housed Aborigines visiting the Dubbo Base Hospital, or travelling through, who were denied accommodation in the town. Sydney Branch was represented by Aboriginal whariies at the 8th Annual Conference of the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines in April 1965.

    The committee included Jack Hanssen (former Australian lightweight champion), Charles (Chika) Dixon, Garvin Williams, Alan Ferguson, Roy Carroll, Harry Jard and Ray Walker.

    The committee conducted lunch hour and smoko meetings on the job prior to the conference.

    The Federation funded several scholarships for young Aboriginal people in the mid 1960s and in 1968, with other unions, purchased a Volkswagon car to be used for contacting and training Aborigines in northern Australia to advance the struggle for civil and trade union rights.

    A donation of £ 1500 was made in 1966 to assist striking Aboriginal stockmen at Newcastle Waters Station in Sydney wharfies demonstrating in support or Aboriginal the Northern Territory, who were rights mid 1960s. protesting the postponement of full award rates for Aboriginal stockmen. In 1971 a $1 .00 levy of watersiders provided a $10 000 donation to the Gurindji leaders to fence 500 square miles of land.

    The Gurindji conducted an extensive strike against the Vesteys Company in 1966 which culminated in the first cattle station owned by Aboriginal people.

    (Source: Maritime Worker, 28 September 1965; 25 May 1966, p. l; 25 November 1968, pJ; and passim for the period.)

    Thanks also to Wharfies: A History of the Waterside Workers’ Federation by Margo Beasley


  2. jim sharp says:

    chicka’ dixon said:

    “I got on the waterfront and become a wharfie and that’s where I learned the politics. The Communist Party Moscow liners were masters of organising. And I learned a lot about other people’s struggles.

    “That was my best political education. No doubt about that. I was very politically naive when I started. They taught me how to organise. We’d be talking politics all the time. It was second nature.”

    those were the days when communist/socialist influenced workers served the people by being there with them! even if! they didn’t follow our line ‘as well as we thought we did”

  3. jim sharp says:

    g’day all
    today is one of those rarest days when the boozh-wah media found a correct political savoir faire & reports about a fella as he were!& the legacy he left us

    Cheers for Chicka, wharfie, unionist and activist
    April 1, 2010

    IN DEATH, as in life, Charles Dixon remained political – Brother Chicka, Uncle Fox, father of the black power movement and elder statesman of Aboriginal activism. At his state funeral yesterday, the loudest cheers were for the battles still ahead.


  4. National Day Of Action — Rally Against Black Deaths In Custody says:

    National Day Of Action

    Rally Against Black Deaths In Custody

    No more police cover ups!
    No more police investigating police!
    We demand a new royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody!

    Saturday April 10th
    11am Queens Park
    Corner George and Elizabeth Streets, City

    Inquiries Sam Watson 0401 227 443


  5. Gilbert Jackson Junor says:

    Thank you for publishing this photo. My Grandfather is in this picture and im trying to find out everything i can about him. So if anyone has any information on him (Gilbert Wallace Jackson He is in the second row below full rights sign) He was in the federation for 30years. Any information would be great..

Please comment down below