The Tall Man

The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper was my best read of the summer holidays, a book I could not put down. If you love court room type investigative dramas you will love this true story.

0241015375On the 19th November 2004, Cameron Doomadgee swore at a police officer. The 36-year-old aboriginal resident of Palm Island off the coast of Queensland near Townsville was arrested by Christopher Hurley and 40 minutes later was found dead in a cell of the local police station.

In January 2007 Hurley was charged with manslaughter, the first Australian police officer to be charged over a death in custody. He was acquitted in June 2007.

With such a controversial subject, it is a pleasant surprise to discover that Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man Penguin, 2008 handles the matter with such restrained sensitivity and intelligence. (source)

I wept as I read the last chapter of this brilliant book. I know a country copper, a tall , big guy, who I know ‘roughs up’ people a bit, could he do something like this when his temper is pushed to the limit? Would you? Would I? But more than all these questions about our temper and what it can produce, I was challenged by white Australia’s attitude to our indigenous people, the first Australians. Sadly the verdict was handed down just 24 hours before Howard marched the army into the Northern Territory as part of that government’s intervention and ‘answer’ to The Little Children are Sacred report, so most of the drama of it all was lost, but I do remember the news about the riots in 2004 and subsequent reports.

Can I again recommend, for all those who think I may be a bit biased towards Australian Aboriginals, the SBS series The First Australians. You can watch online at

Oh and – Read The Tall Man


Why I Boycotted The Olympics This Year

I decided to not watch any of the Olympics this year due to my outrage that China was allowed to host them when they have so much unfinished business with the international community – meaning, they need to answer for their actions on so many fronts and in so many instances. I guess the fact that they are now a powerful economic force makes all their wrongs right…it has worked for most of our western countries right? I guess some might ask, and have, why allow just about any country to host the games, we all have a log in our eye in some ways regarding human rights. A good point. But I feel China are very brazen with their attitude, yet we in the west keep embracing them like a long lost brother. Should we not call them to account? I guess in Australia we are allowed to protest the fact that refugee children were held in detention, and something happened, international media focused on the US treatment of prisoners of war and something happened…we hope!  The fact that we make money and are a significant player in the western consumer capitalist world seems to cover over a multitude of sins…like the one in the clip below. I found the clip here.

Rev. John Green and the People of Coranderrk Station

There are stories you find that you wonder how they have ever been kept a secret. The story of Scottish preacher man John Green, described as a

“Devout Christian man, yet a gentle and understanding man. He was a freak, he had almost no prejudices, whether, a black or white or whatever. There were few people around like Green…

He transcended the popular racist mindset, he had full faith in the aboriginal people, their community, their capabilities and what they were able to achieve.”

I discovered John Green in episode three (Freedom For Our Lifetime) of “The First Australians” on SBS online. He is an amazing and inspirational example of an incarnational missionary. He gave his life for the people he loved, the Wurundjeri Aboriginal nation near Melbourne Vic around 1860 and beyond.

Green stood with Simon Wonga and Barrack, leaders of the people whilst they asked for just a portion of their own land back. They gained victory as they were given what they called Coranderrk Station, named after a tree growing nearby. They claimed the land as their own, they set up their own settlement, independent, very unique at the time. Although the government continued to hold their finances and dictate much of what happened on the station they were given local right to govern. The model Green helped them establish was so successful that others began. But none with the same ‘feel’ as Coranderrk station, others were ruled over by white fellas, and you had to ‘convert’ to Christianity before being allowed on the land, Green allowed the aboriginals the right to choose, it was their land wasn’t it?

After some years of very successful lifestyle the government decided to  set up a brewery at Coranderrk, growing the grain and everything on site with promised return of profits into a new hospitalal.

This was the beginning of the end for the settlement because;

1. They put a white fella boss over Wonga, Barack and Green.

2. They refused to pay any money to the Aboriginals for their work.

“The board is under no obligation to pay any aboriginal. They must be attentive and civil to all persons or they will be sent away.”

The government sold the entire project out from under Wonga, Barack and Green and their community and kept the $1m – a promise broken.

The grain gardens drained the energy of the community and of Green. He was forced to resign and struggled as he was the meat in the sandwich between two races of people. Green found himself living just outside the settlement banned from entering by government officials who saw him as a threat, he allowed the aboriginals too much self governing rights, too much freedom!

One aboriginal man says “Green had lost hope with Government officials, he had no friends there. he was a black man on the inside, all his friends were aboriginal. He lived with them and let them live in and run their own community”

By now, the government ruled the town, Wonga dies, some say of a broken hert. His friend Green at his side despite not being allowed there. Coranderrk was a pain to manage for the government as the locals all had tasted self rule and were quite independent thinkers and doers. So they decide to sell the land and just get rid of the problem. After massive appeal to the government the local aboriginals were given the land and their good friend Green back in their community.

In 1886 the “Protection Board” makes a new law that begun what we now know as “The Stolen Generation”, it is called the Half Cast Act. If you were not a full blood aboriginal you were removed from any settlement, more than halving the populations of the communities and the governments budget for them. Children and grandchildren, aunties and uncles mothers and fathers, families were destroyed and torn apart.

The beginning of the end for Corunderrk. This was genocide. Absorbtion of aboriginals into mainstream white Australia. Although at this time Corunderrk was given over to the Aboriginal people, the people, their heart, was taken from them and Corunderrk collapsed.

We hear nothing of what became of Green in these latter years, we hear much of the leader of the Corunderrk people – Barack, and so we should! It seems fitting that the ledgend of this man Green and his ministry to a wonderful people seems to fade away. That the story finished as a tribute the the last great leader Barack as he drags himself, crippled, the 60 mile journey yet again to Melbourne to plead for his people.

At that time in Victoria it is suggested about 300 Aboriginal people remained. Today there are approx        30 000 and traditional ceremony and teachings have begun again as young aboriginals reconnect with the stories of Wonga and Barack…oh and a white fella named Rev, John Green.

The First Australians – SBS

I read a great book by Tom Kenealley called A Commonwealth of Theives, a great historical read on the settling of Australia, the first fleet and Sydney Cove etc. He gives a fair bit of detail of the issues regarding the relationships between the indigenous culture (The first Australians) and the invaders (or settlers), but his focus is broader than these issues.

I have just watched episode 1 of the SBS doco The First Australians, similar in date and geographical foci to Keneally, but rather more a direct commentary on the indigenous people and the effect the invasion of their land had upon them.

If you are interested in our history as a nation and in particular the history of our interaction with the first Australians, the Aboriginal people of the land we live on, I highly recommend this series, viewable online.

Great Story!

The Fish and the Shadow (as retold by Richard Trudgen in Why warriors lie down and die, 2000, pp. 161-163). This story was originally told by an Yolngu man (Arnhem Land, NT), Tony Binalany Gunbalga, in response to a government worker who was trying to get their community to embrace unemployment benefits in the late 1970’s. The government worker couldn’t understand why the old people were resisting the generous offer…

He told the following story.

A long time ago, somewhere near here, there was a billabong. It was very beautiful, with calm clear water and water lilies growing across the surface. In the water lived some fish families – mother and father fish, old fish, young fish. They were very happy and loved their home.

Every morning the fish woke up and went about their work. The mother and father fish went off hunting for food, working hard all day. The young fish went with them, learning everything they could from their parents: where to find the best food, how to catch it and how to be on guard against sea eagles, ducks and other enemies. Their parents taught them many things about life while they worked together.

In the evening all the fish came together and shared the different types of food they had found during the day. They also told stories about the day’s activities. If any fish had done something funny during the day, other fish acted it out, making everybody laugh. At night the fish went to sleep early, tired from their day’s work.

The old fish taught the younger ones discipline of mind, body and soul, giving them direction and advice on all aspects of life. The young ones listened in awe to their wise counsel, hoping not to miss or forget even one word. The fish all shared responsibility for life in the billabong. They lived well and were very happy. They didn’t depend on anyone else or leave their work to others.

Then one day about four o’clock in the afternoon, the fish saw a shadow fall across the water. Something stood near the billabong. The fish had not seen anything like it before. The shadow threw something white into the water. The fish saw it land on the surface, sending rings out across the billabong. They all shrank back, fearful as the white stuff sank to the bottom.

After a while a couple of brave fish – there are always a couple in any mob – swam up gingerly to the white stuff. They nibbled it, finding the taste funny at first. But they nibbled it again and again until there was none left. When the white stuff and the shadow had gone, all the fish went back to their hunting and other work.

Four o’clock the next day the shadow came again. This time, because all the fish had been talking about the shadow and the white stuff, many more came out of hiding to taste it.

The shadow came again and again at four o’clock every afternoon. Now the fish quickly grabbed at bits of this white stuff, trying to eat as much as they could because it was free for the taking. The fish found the taste bland but it filled them up. As time went on they named the white stuff ‘bread’. The shadow threw bread to the fish every day, giving it freely.

Slowly the life of the fish started to change. They waited for the shadow to come every afternoon. At first they still went out in the morning to gather some tasty food for themselves and returned in the afternoon for the shadow. But when the shadow saw that lots of fish were interested in the bread, it threw more and more into the billabong. Soon the fish were not going out in the morning any more. They just waited around for the shadow to feed them.

For the first time in their existence, the fish found themselves bored at night. There were no more interesting stories to tell about the day’s experiences and they were not tired because they had done no work. Many stayed up most of the night because sleep would not come until the early hours of the morning. They started to find other ways to take up their time, gambling and things like that. This caused many arguments. Soon the fish were getting up late, but this was not a problem because they only had to wait for a while before the shadow came. The bread was still bland, but it was easy food and the fish had grown too lazy to care.

Trouble, however, was brewing. Some fish, completely forgetting their old cooperative ways, raced to get to the bread first. ‘We were the first to taste the bread when you were all scared, so the shadow’s bread belongs to us. You mob go away and find your own shadow,’ they argued. Others said, ‘the shadow comes to our end of the billabong. That means the bread belongs to us.’ They fought and jostled each other out of the way. Fish got hurt, which caused arguments between families. Sometimes these arguments went on for a long time, causing bigger fights. The fish had stopped thinking about each other; they only thought about themselves.

Then the old fish became very sad because the young fish had no respect any more. They did whatever they liked, following their undisciplined desires. It was all too hard to deal with. Many old fish became so sad that they died.

More and more the fish’s life changed. They didn’t teach their young ones the old ways any more. And they took and kept the bread for themselves, wanting it desperately, their hearts held by it. Many fish mistakenly thought the bread must be good for them because it made them all very fat.

Then the shadow began to change. Usually it came right on time and the fish were happy. But sometimes the shadow came a little late. This made the fish angry. ‘Why is it keeping us waiting?’ It knows we’ve been waiting all day,’ they cried. Then the day came when the shadow forgot to bring bread at all. As this became more frequent, the fish got really mad, swearing at the shadow and even threatening to hurt it in some way. But these threats only made the fish feel very weak because they knew their threats were hollow. They could not hurt the shadow; it was too powerful. It lived outside the billabong where no fish had ever lived. And only it knew the source of the bread on which they had come to depend.

There was now a deep feeling of emptiness and shame within the fish. They didn’t value or even think about anything other than bread any more. They lived badly, unhappily, with their hearts and spirits bound. Their lives became powerless and meaningless. They got sick because of their troubled thinking and couldn’t sleep at night. They had no peace of mind and felt deeply insecure, not knowing who they were or where they belonged.

Then came the time when the shadow no longer fell on the water. maybe the source of the bread had dried up. All the fish grew skinny and lamented its passing, because they were too weak to go hunting for themselves or didn’t know how. They had forgotten the way of the ngurrnggitj (black charcoal) – the time-honoured way of their ancestors.

Canberra Forces Give the Nod…

I have always been a big fan of Midnight Oil but in particular Garrett’s edgy ability to speak up for things that matter. In the past year I have seen a steady comprimise in him for the sake of ‘the party’ and I guess his career. This decision (which overides the Premier of Tas not to extend the reporting time for Gunns) is just the last nail in the coffin for me, my old hero of environmentalism is gone as far as I can see. Every time I listen to The Oils now it is with a sense of sadness 😦

Peter Garrett ‘grants further favours’ over pulp mill

Christian Kerr | September 09, 2008

THE Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, has been accused of granting favours to forestry company Gunns over its controversial pulp mill project in northern Tasmania.

Mr Garrett yesterday granted Gunns an extension until January next year to complete the environmental impact management plan for the mill.

“It is not unusual for major projects to need additional time to ensure that all environmental matters are fully investigated and properly addressed,” he said.

“The comprehensive assessment of every aspect of the Gunns EIMP by both my department and the Independent Experts Group must not be rushed.”

Gunns welcomed the decision. “Approval of the EIMP modules is a complex and time-consuming process,” Gunns’ resource manager Calton Frame said.

Ed Cooper, from activist group GetUp!, accused Mr Garrett of “granting further favours to Gunns”.

The Opposition said Mr Garrett was “doing his best to indicate” the approvals process “has nothing to do with him”.

Environment spokesman Greg Hunt said: “Every time he is quizzed about the planned mill, he hides behind the work carried out by his department, the Independent Experts Group and the former government.”

The extension was slammed by the Greens.

“It was a condition of Malcolm Turnbull’s approval that Gunns would have 12 months to finalise their approvals process,” Senator Christine Milne said.

“Gunns knew that, and they failed to meet that deadline.”

Source The Australian

Obama Speech…MLK’s Speech

Barack Obama has accepted the Democratic Party’s historic nomination to run for president of the US in front of a crowd of some 75,000 people. more here

Interesting that this speech is on the 45th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream…” speech.

Surely it fulfills some prophesy or something??? Ok maybe not, but for something that was not really able to be planned (it could have been Clinton making the speech) it seems a cool coincidence…like Obama is black you know…and so was King…and …. oh you get it?

Worlds Largest City Farm Destroyed

Last night I watched the movie “Escape Form Suburbia”. In it were some powerful and disturbing scenes of the LA Council bulldozing the worlds largest urban farm in order to put a diesel truck warehouse in its place. People were screaming and crying and being carried away by police etc.
I thought that was it, I thought it was all over, this movie was made many months ago.

Today I get a random email from someone over there (Greg Greene – Escape From Suburbia) asking me to sign a last minute petition (which didn’t seem to work on line) to save the site before developers move in.
It turns out that today 23rd, (tomorrow in US time) is the day the City Council will decide upon whether or not to listen to all the submissions from people who have a concern for this issue and maybe even give back the land, albeit now void of all their plants!
This was the email –
“As a result of the July 2 hearing, there is a 21 day extension (till July 23rd, 2008) on comments that can be submitted to the Advisory Agency of the Planning Commission. They will render a decision in 5-6 weeks.
Please consider what YOU can commit to doing to help this effort RIGHT NOW.
Sign this petition NOW, the extension for submissions ends on WEDNESDAY! (July 23rd)”

As I felt my name on a petition would do little at this time, I decided to find the phone numbers of the City Councilors and start leaving messages so when they come to work in the morning they know where the world stands on this issue!

Anyone want to join me? I guess the cost of calling could be seen as a kind of donation to their cause!!

See the LA South Central Farm here –

All the councilors numbers are here –

You need to dial 0011 then 1 then the area code listed on the above website (213) and the number. (From Australia)

Counselor Jan Perry is the one pushing it all through, but I say ring them all! Tell them people all over the world are seeing what they are doing. We should be adding urban food lots not removing them!!

At the time of this post (here in Oz) it is around 6.30pm on the 22nd July in US, they make up their mind on the 23rd July. Lets get this out there!


Boycott Olympics?

I know there is the argument that suggests that having the Olympics in China is good for the human rights issues as it shines a spot light upon the place and forces them to do something about them, or at least makes them less obvious. And I know that every country hosting this event could have a finger pointed at it for some kind of abuse – Australia and its treatment of refugees and the lack of apology to its indigenous peoples at the time of our Olympics, LA Olympics and so on.

BUT – every time I hear or read something about China it seem that they have just such an obvious and harmful reputation for disrespecting individual rights that I question how any good can come from a few weeks of spotlight, In fact the was a good article on the ABC radio national on a ll this a few weeks ago. They had a guy who has made this issue an area of study and he suggests that once the games are over, historically most cities are just left behind. People literally pack their bags and walk away. A few photos are all that remain. The games are over, the spotlight is off. All the people who once had homes and were abusively evicted to make way for a decorative garden bed, still have no homes and we no longer care as the games have finished, spotlight is off. I just can’t sit and gain any pleasure from watching these games knowing as much as I know (and that is very little, but enough).
So I wont.
Nope, I am making a personal decision not to view any Olympic telecasts.
What will it do?
Well nothing really, I have signed a few partitions and joined a Facebook Cause group, but I have doubts as to this being of any effect, so why do what I am doing? I guess it is personal, it is just that idea of drawing pleasure, personal pleasure, of watching a massive ceremony and the games that follow, knowing that the whole thing has happened at the expense of defenseless people being pushed aside, abused etc in order for me to enjoy some sport. I guess also, I have issues with the west’s obsession with China now that it’s getting rich and our lack of ever calling them to account for human rights violations of that past including their current treatment of Tibet and support for Zimbabwe and the like.
So I for one will not participate in any way with the Olympics this time around.

Post Script –
I just got this letter –

The spectacle of the opening ceremony. The competition in the pool. The drama in the glamorous stadium. All of this and more will be broadcast around Australia and the world when the Beijing Olympics get underway in just a few weeks time.

But what about the executions still being carried out by the Chinese Government? Or the ‘Re-education through Labour’ camps where hundreds of thousands of people are detained without charge or trial? What about the torture that is frequently reported? The repression of free speech?

This is the China the authorities do not want you to see. Please don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes. Get the full picture on China.

Thank you,

Claire Mallinson National Director, Amnesty International Australia

How Are Your Tax Dollars Spent?

Compassion and $400 million thrown out to sea
Canberra Times, May 23, 2008

Within the next couple of weeks, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship will be handed the keys to Australia’s newest detention facility, the Christmas Island Immigration and Reception Centre.

The Howard government facility has not come cheap: a staggering $400 million of public money has been spent constructing this 800-person detention facility. Yet only 400 people are held in immigration detention centres across Australia and no one is currently being detained in Christmas Island’s existing facility.

Most Australians could be forgiven for knowing little about the new centre. Christmas Island is so far away that it may as well be part of Indonesia. It lies 320km south of Java and 2630km north-west of Perth. The island has about 1400 permanent residents. It is best known for the annual red crab migration, when millions of tiny crabs make the dangerous journey from the island’s jungle to the sea. But dangerous journeys and migratory movements are not confined to the crab world on Christmas Island. Since the early 1990s, Christmas Island has been the first port of call for many asylum seekers who escaped persecution in their homelands and made the perilous journey across the Indian Ocean in the hope of being allowed to settle in Australia.

In the wake of the Tampa crisis, the Howard government created the so-called Pacific Solution, whereby asylum seekers would be detained and processed off-shore, in Papua New Guinea or on Nauru. The aim was to deter and punish people who tried to exercise their right to claim asylum, a universal right bestowed on all human beings.

The government also introduced legislation to excise Christmas Island and other islands from the migration zone. In 2002, it announced that it would construct a 1200-person
detention centre, at an estimated cost of $197.7 million. By claiming that its construction was a matter of urgency, the government prevented the proposal from being scrutinised
by the Public Works Committee.

The Howard government was not afraid to spend millions of dollars to ensure that this would be a maximum-security detention centre. It contains lockdown zones, which
allow staff to separate detainees from one another, and has CCTV directly linked to Canberra. It is heavily guarded by two fences with high-tech detection systems. To prevent detainees from hanging themselves, shower fixtures are positioned on sharp angles and the hooks behind cell doors flick down when too much pressure is placed on them. The building is built low into the ground to prevent detainees from seeing beyond the tropical jungle walls of the detention centre. It is troubling to think about how this maximum-security island detention centre may affect the mental health of those detained there.

Since Labor has come into power Australia’s asylum policy has changed. The detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island have been shut down and the Pacific Solution has been scrapped. While the Rudd Government ought to be applauded for abolishing the Pacific Solution, it remains to be seen what it will do in relation to the new Christmas Island facility.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans has said that no children and families will be held in detention. Essentially, this means that the centre will be of little use if there were boat arrivals similar to that in 2000 and 2001 – inevitably including families including children. Where would families be accommodated?

While the Howard government had to turn to the Pacific to overcome the challenges created by its uncompromising stance, the Rudd government has a different problem to contend with: how to find a use for a $400 million island detention centre so that this project has not been a total waste of taxpayers’ money.