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.
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:
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.
4 Mar 2016
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.
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.]
We have no country – inspired and dedicated to our aboriginal brother, Kevin (pictured), who passed away in 2015 long before he should.