Magistrate Callaghan handed down his decision in the Brisbane Magistrates Courts today, 22 Oct 2014, concerning the sacred fire. He decided that the fire lit at the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy is a sacred fire and accepted the evidence of the two aboriginal elders.
The magistrate accepted that the sacred fire fell within the terms of the Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT) over the land in Musgrave Park. He said that the Lord Mayor had ‘no god given right to permit the lighting of the sacred fire from May 2012 till 11 December 2012′. The magistrate said that the law applies equally to everyone which includes the Lord Mayor (Walker v NSW).
Law vs Lore
In an ironic twist, magistrate Callaghan used aboriginal man Bejam Dennis Walker’s appeal to High Court on a criminal matter against the right of aboriginal people to have the sacred fire on DOGIT land in Musgrave Park. He said that in criminal prosecutions like BCC vs Curr the local law prevails and that this is not inconsistent with the DOGIT which states that ‘the land is to be used for aboriginal and not other purpose whatsoever.’
The magistrate accepted the evidence given at the trial by two aboriginal men, Kevin Vieritz and Sam Watson.
Lighting the sacred fire
Magistrate Callaghan convicted Ian David Curr of lighting (1) and maintaining (2) fires in the open air. He recorded no conviction. He ordered no penalty and awarded no costs. He said that the issue of the sacred fire needed to be ventilated in court and disagreed with another magistrate who said otherwise.
Magistrate Callaghan issued a certificate that Ian David Curr be acquitted of two charges of lighting and maintaining a fire in Musgrave park because one was for cooking and the other was based on Ian Curr bringing wood but not lighting it.
I carried the wood to the sacred fire organised by the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy for two years. I did so because I was told that the fire is where decisions are made under aboriginal law. This is an important thing for me. I believe in the democratic right to organise against repressive governments like the state government and repressive councils like the BCC. No one can take that away from us. An aboriginal man told me at the sacred fire one night that when they get their land back, he will recommend that I be made ‘Minister for wood‘. I took his joke as a positive sign for hope.
Lord Mayor’s acting unlawfully
In a strange twist Magistrate Callaghan observed that the Lord Mayor’s invitation on 16 May 2012 permitting aboriginal elders to have a fire on the DOGIT land was unlawful :
I wish to thank and give respect to aboriginal people in giving their permission for me to participate in their rich and sacred culture. I thank all those who have supported this struggle and for those that will carry it into the future.
I wish to thank my brothers and sisters at the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy (BASE) for their support. I especially wish to thank Kevin, Sam & Cathy W, Wayne, the BASE food Program (KC, Hamish, Brendon, Karen, Tony and others), Boe, Callum, Sam B, the Brisbane Sovereign Grannies Group (Karen, Jade, Kristy-Lee, Cepha) Alf, Sonny and Cephia, Pete S, Paul S, Toni McP, Judulu, Robin, DeeKay, Teila, Andy and particularly the 32 people arrested defending the sacred fire on 16 May 2012.
Included in those were comrades from the Electrical Trades Union ETU, the Construction Forestry Mining and Engineering Union CFMEU, the National Tertiary Education Union NTEU, Brisbane Blacks magazine, and all the visitors to the sacred fire including delegations from Cuba, West Papua, Turtle Island. Solidarity to all those warriors, women and men who came and stood up and best wishes for the struggles ahead during G2o and beyond.
Especial thanks to my barrister, Mr Rob Carroll, for so skilfully arguing the case in favour of the sacred fire.
The magistrate’s full decision is here:
The question is: should we challenge this decision in a higher court? Please leave your suggestions and/or comments below.
Support the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy – keep the fire burning!
22 October 2014