We have no country, we gotta get it back!

i can tell you a story.

i do not know if any media organisation would be interested … but i tell it to you just the same.

The story is about what happened to an 11 year old aboriginal boy, Denzel Mickelo and why.

It begins with his great grandmother Jenny Mickelo who lived in Musgrave Park in 1981.

The police used to come and kick the people out of Musgrave Park where we met during G20 … both jenny and her friends Mona Hart and others tell their story in a video made by a friend of mine. It is called ‘The Whole World is Watching’ and was made in the lead up to the 1982 Commonwealth Games. [Jenny speaks at 01:05]

Jenny Lo (as she was called) predicted accurately what police would do as the 1982 Commonwealth Games approached and as senior dignitaries from countries all around the world arrived at the Games. Jenny said that police would come and move the old people out and her friend Mona Hart said that they would be forced down to the river bank in the cold of winter to shiver without blankets.

Aboriginal organisations responded to these attacks by setting up their own hostels so that people would have somewhere to sleep and to get a meal. Aboriginal people worked hard to establish these places, and a few still remain. Places like BJs named after Bowman Johnson who set it up. Like Pastor Don Brady, Adrian Jones and Ronny Daylight; Bowman Johnson was a hard man – but fair. And there are other hostels like Born Free in Brookes Street Highgate Hill, the 139 Club in Fortitude Valley.

Over the years, governments and developers have been trying to get rid of these hostels and to drive aboriginal people off land near the centre of the city, their old meeting places. Resistance comes and goes, people adapt to change when they can. Many find their way into public housing which governments try to privatise so that landlords can collect greater rents. The idea is to drive aboriginal people out of the city, to make them fringe dwellers.

Come forward three generations and Jenny Mickelo’s grandson is shot by police in a flat at Capalaba, a suburb about 14 kilometres from the city. Police claim that Morris tried to throw a police officer through a window. Yet the window was smaller than the size of a man. Police broke into the unit with others after a complaint about noise from neighbours. A policewoman said that she tried to shoot Morris with a taser, however the weapon malfunctioned and so she used her Glock pistol. White woman, black man. The policewoman shot him in his stomach … was it a shoot to kill, i don’t know?

morris mickeloMorris is an artist and fine digeridoo player. Morris knows where he is from and understands his culture.

Police handcuffed Morris to a bed while he was fighting for his life at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

One of Morris Mickelo’s friends, mysteriously ‘fell’ from the top floor of the Fortitude Valley police station in 2007. A media photo showed a picture of the poor brother’s shoe on the ground where he lay. Why would the brother take his shoe off if he were to jump from such a height? He died of brain injury some time later at the Princess Alexandra hospital after a surgeon tried to save his life. That surgeon was terribly shaken. Think how the brother’s family felt. There was no coronial inquiry. Yet there are many questions that remain unanswered by police about that death in custody. Like his brother from Cherbourg, Morris Mickelo is a police target. Out of love and respect, Morris Mickelo wears a tattoo in memory of his brother on his neck. You may have met this man’s mother, Karen Fusi. Karen is a rock to her people. She runs the food program and the grannies group to stop DOCs from taking aboriginal children from their families.

To justify their actions police charged Morris with the ‘terrible’ crimes of ‘grievous bodily harm‘, ‘acts intended to maim’ and ‘serious assault with intent to prevent lawful detention’ and two counts of ‘obstruct’. The police union president, Ian Leavers, praised the policewoman for her bravery when she shot the unarmed Morris.

Recently Morris’s son Denzel was taken from his mother Beverly because she was suffering from depression. Beverly had recently lost a child. Eventually Denzel was placed in the Wacol detention centre, a juvenile prison. In the detention centre Denzel was bashed by three guards who broke his jaw and caused other injury. Morris can tell you his son’s story:

“My son is 11 years old. He was incarcerated in Wacol detention centre. Three officers brutally assaulted my child, fractured my child’s jaw, gave him two black eyes, broke his hand and sent him up to Ipswich hospital in handcuffs. How does this make me and his family feel, two days before Christmas to know our child is getting bashed? My son has to have an operation on his face to deal with what the officers have done to him… we need justice for the children of this land, for the Aboriginal people. Enough is enough. How many more kids have to bashed?”

Why am i telling you this story?  Well, some years ago an aboriginal elder, Sam Watson, recognising that there was a problem with the juvenile justice system, made a bid on a property in West End to try to set up a community centre, a safe house, for aboriginal children like Denzel. This community house for young people was to be run and controlled by the aboriginal community.

Sam Watson made the offer to the Public Trustee of Queensland, to an officer in that department by the name of Ian Campbell. The building at 26 Horan Street was under the control of the Public Trustee because of fraud by two occupants of the building. They were international tennis coach and libertarian bookshop owner, Brian Laver, and everyman architect, Will Marcus. Both these men had ripped off an old man, Ross Taylor, who put up the money for the community centre, AHIMSA (Peace) house, and who was suffering from ‘a legal disability’.

Anyway this building was ideal for the purpose that Sam Watson had for it. It was near a school, a block away from Murri radio, near public transport and he had the funds [from a federal organisation called Link-Up] to make a bid on the building in West End at market value ($2.2M – $2.5M).

The Public Trustee put the fully documented offer in his drawer and ‘FORGOT ABOUT IT’. Ian Campbell never mentioned it when the receivers sold the building on behalf of the bank.

Why the Public Trustee did this we do not know.

Was it because the public trustee owned the building next door at 28 Horan Street? Was it because the West End Primary school did not want an aboriginal juvenile community house opposite? Did the police who owned the building behind AHIMSA house object? Was it the local P&C (= Parents & Friends of the school) who objected? I do not know.

However I do know that the building was sold to a pasta retailer (CJs) for less than half market value ($970,000). And I do know that the fraudsters (Laver & Marcus) who ripped off the old man were never prosecuted. Despite a petition of 600 residents that we collected and had tabled in the state parliament, despite complaints we made to two premiers (Bligh & Campbell Newman), two attorney generals (Bleijie and D’Ath), the police commissioner, fraud squad, local police, media (Mark Solomans, then from the Courier Mail, now with the ABC) and a number of courts including the highest in Queensland, the Supreme Court. I spent $10,000 of my own money and another person spent more to try to get justice in this matter.

But people in high places simply do not seem to want an aboriginal community centre in the heart of a thriving, gentrified, middle class suburb, West End, a place where judges and high ranking public servants and politicians live.

I do know this … if Sam Watson (on behalf of Link-Up) had been able to set up that community centre for young people, Denzel and aboriginal children like him would have had a place to go where he could mix with his own people in a non-threatening environment, where his mother and father, his extended family could have worked out with Denzel what was best for him.

And it does seem that it is still lawful to shoot a blackfella (Morris) in Queensland and to take an 11 year old boy from his family; and, if he objects, to bash him and place him in foster care.

As for the Courier Mail version and Channel 7 (police news) well you can always read their version, its everywhere, aye.

We have no country 
We are refugee, aborigine 
This is a country of words 
Cell door, concrete floor
bernie on ahimsa house roof
Bernie Neville protesting sale of AHIMSA house from the roof

Ian Curr

The Whole World Is Watching (1982) from Radical Times on Vimeo.

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