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‘Queensland Faces’: we have no country

We have no country
Refugee, aborigine
This is a country of words
Cell door, concrete floor

 

It is a strange place we live in. I went to the state library of Queensland today and saw a big billboard of Jagera traditional owner Kevin Vieritz on the front of the building advertising a new exhibition “Queensland Faces“.

Kevin passed away last year.

He was hounded off his own land by cops and council rapid response workers and had restrictive bail conditions placed on him so that he could not visit Musgrave Park, part of his traditional lands.

Homeless, Kevin found refuge in the old St Vinnies up in Peel Street little more than a 200 metres from where his piercing dancing eyes now look from a lifeless billboard. During his life Kevin sought nothing more than respect and wanted his country back.

In death the State Library is haunted by his spirit. The photographic exhibition  Queensland Faces depicts Kevin carrying the sacred fire from the tent embassy site down to the lower part of Musgrave Park. All this happened only 3 years ago. But now Kevin is dead at only 57 years after experiencing a hard life especially in the early years.

Neither library nor photographer explain why a Jagera traditional owner is the main advertising image for SLQ’s Queensland Faces exhibition.

The billboard at the front of the library and the exhibition itself seem oblivious to Kevin’s role in his people’s struggle for sovereignty and land rights.

Kevin was talking sovereignty 30 yrs ago and even before he died, many people still didn’t understand what he was saying.

uncle20kevin20near20the20sacred20fire1

Jagera traditional owner, Kevin Vieritz, near the sacred fire. Photo: Brendan Qu

Upon Kevin’s request, every Wednesday for two years I carried wood to the sacred fire only to have council, firefighters and police extinguish it.

Kevin was arrested on several occasions defending the sacred fire.

Kevin died after we won a symbolic victory against Mayor Quirk in the court.

Kevin, Sam Watson and I went to court trying to establish the right of aboriginal people to conduct cultural business in Musgrave Park. The magistrate accepted everything Kevin and Sam said about the importance of traditional owners carrying on ceremony in the park.

Magistrate Callaghan’s judgement said this:

evidence-of-kevin-vieritz

The magistrate listened to the history of how Brisbane Blacks had always organised their community functions in that place. At least he showed some respect, which is more than I can say for our local and state authorities.

There is even a kind of respect in the photo exhibition at SLQ depicting in pictures (but not words) the way people from the tent embassy remembered past struggles and carried on new ones during the G20.

During the long court process Kevin was holed up in St Vinnies (OZ Care) up the road from where the SLQ billboard now faces.

It is shameful and hurtful that authorities did not show Kevin more respect during his lifetime. I dedicate my poem ‘We have no country‘ to Kevin and to his mob in their struggle for land rights and social justice.

Ian Curr
4 Mar 2016

kevin vieritz at smoking ceremony in musgrave park

Jagera traditional owner Kevin Vieritz carries sacred fire from tent embassy to the place below in Musgrave Park South Brisbane, land & sovereignty never ceded (2013).  Photo: Hamish Cairns SLQ collection Queensland Faces

 

We have no country
Refugee, aborigine
This is a country of words
Cell door, concrete floor
Pay respect to old people
Who lost life in struggle
Original owners of the land
Turrubul here, Jagera over there
Mununjali down Beaudesert way
Quandamooka over on Straddie
Who managed country for millennia
We sell our labour
When we hurt, old or sick
They lay us off
Don’t even see it coming
Is happening all around
Join the union when we can
Get dirt money or sick pay
Pension if we lucky
Big money days are over
When we fight they use laws
To crush our union
We have no country
Refugee, aborigine
This is a country of words
Cell door, concrete floor
Land and sea give us hope
Our dreams, our dreaming
Each morning the sun rises
Ruined land can be fixed
Broken bodies can be mended
If we lose our minds
Take refuge in spirit
Our mob, union
This is the life
We have no country
Cell door, concrete floor
But we are gonna get it back
Always was, always will be

Pay tribute to those who died or were badly injured in struggle: John Pat, Eddie Murray, Daniel Yock, David Gundy, TJ Hickey, Mulrunji, Lyji Vaggs, Greg Matheson,  Phil Perrier, Sheldon Currie, Ruby Hunter, Miss Dhu, Sheila Oakley, Nathaniel West, Kevin Vieritz, Shaun Coolwell.

Ian Curr
October 2015

Music
My Island Home – Warumpi band (1987)
[George Burarrwanga on vocals and didgeridoo, Gordon Butcher on drums, his brother Sammy Butcher on guitar and bass guitar, and Neil Murray on rhythm guitar and backing vocals. George Burarrwanga passed away in 2007 of lung cancer. Lyrics by Neil Murray.]

Poem
We have no country – inspired and dedicated to our aboriginal brother, Kevin (pictured), who passed away in 2015 long before he should.

References
Brisbane City Council v Curr [2014] QMC 28

One response to “‘Queensland Faces’: we have no country

  1. Six communities, one concern: delegation brings opposition to radioactive waste plan to Canberra.

    Media Conference: Today 11am Canberra
    Six communities, one concern: delegation brings opposition to radioactive waste plan to Canberra.

    Representatives of the six regional communities under consideration as possible sites for a national radioactive waste facility are in Canberra today to highlight their concerns and call for the sites to be removed from any further assessment or short-listing.

    A media conference will be held at 11am on Tuesday March 1 in the Senate Courtyard. The group will also be available for interviews throughout the day.

    In November 2015 Federal Resource Minister Josh Frydenberg named three sites in South Australia and one each in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory as potential locations for a facility where low level radioactive waste would be buried and long lived intermediate level waste stored above ground.

    There has since been deep concern and active opposition to the waste plan at each of the sites.

    Representatives are in Canberra to convey these concerns to a range of federal politicians ahead of the close of public comment on the plan on March 11. Resources Minister Frydenberg has indicated that while he is not personally available, two of his advisers will meet with the delegation.

    “We come from very different parts of Australia, but we share a common concern”, said Sue Woolford, who lives near the two proposed Kimba sites in South Australia.

    “We do not want to see this material moved into any of our regions where we live, work and raise our families. We are coming together as a community for our communities”.

    Individual landholders volunteered the sites at Hill End (NSW), Hale (NT), Cortlinye, Pinkawillinie and Barndioota (SA) and Oman Ama (Qld), but consent was not sought – nor required – from Traditional Owners, neighbours or the local community.

    Minister Frydenberg intends to narrow this list following the closure of the public comment period with a view to selecting a preferred site by the end of 2016.

    “This process has been completely back to front. Picking sites first and then consulting with the affected communities makes no sense,” said Robyn Rayner from Hill End,NSW.

    “The Government has repeatedly said that it will respect the wishes of local people. We are travelling to Canberra with one voice to make it clear that many people in our communities are concerned about and opposed to this plan. We are calling on the government to hear us as we are not going to give up”.

    Media conference: 11am Tuesday March 1 in the Senate Courtyard.

    For further comment or to arrange interviews contact:
    Kimba (two sites): Sue Woolford, 0427 274 058
    Hill End: Robyn Rayner, 0412 420 210
    Oman Ama: Mark Russell, 0439 420 470
    Hale: Loyola Jones, 0455 777 519
    Flinders: Regina MacKenzie, 0432 483 440

    friendsofomanama@gmail.com
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Friends.of.Omanama/
    Twitter: @nonukewasteoma1

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