Recognise is not a Treaty

Tell Me Unc is “black by popular demand”.  Following time spent in the tribal lands of the Kulin Nations, Unc has taken up the writing stick we now know as blogging.

Sitting on the side line as a spectator can be awfully boring after a while, especially when issues of world importance to Australia’s Aboriginal populations are being trampled over and ignored like never before.

Two recent issues have raised my interest not because they are controversial but because they are just wrong-headed from a moral standpoint.

The first is the continuing jingoistic razzmatazz surrounding the 26th of January. The second is the Recognise campaign.

Lets be clear about both of these issues. Aboriginal people and an ever-increasing population of mainstream Australians, are moving to the same position as Aboriginal people have held since it was first proposed by the New South Wales State Government in 1808 – that a remembrance day marking the arrival of the first fleet.

Not to be confused with Cook, who was sussin the place out in 1770 and went on to plant a flag on “Possession Island”. We don’t even know if this event is true.

Unc has been to Possession Island and it would take an effort to get out of the Endeavour pitching in a heavy sea. Then get a flag pole into a smaller boat and make the effort to row to the island against a strong current in a naturally difficult passage of water in the Torres Strait. Then plant a flag. It’s questionable.

All of this after repairing the endeavour in Cooktown. Cook would have wanted to get outa there and back home ASAP. The phrase “I did but see her passing by” comes to mind.

The 26th of January has gone through a few different titles,  Foundation day, Anniversary day ANA Day.  Following Federation in 1901 the States and Territories could not agree on a day, until 1935. At that point they agreed that the 26th January would be known as Australia Day.

But it was not until 1994 that it was a public holiday in all states and territories.  And that was the beginning of the marketing campaign by the Australia Day Council. Millions of dollars of taxpayers money has been spent on a what is now an ugly nationalistic campaign.  Where people wrap themselves in flags, get flag tats on their faces, get the esky full of grog go down to the beach, drive around in cars with flags out the windows, in some kind of nationalist fever.

This nationalism is dangerous in any society. It has taken 20 years to get to where it is now, what will the next 20 years bring?

Aboriginal people will still call the day Invasion Day, Survival Day, a day of mourning. They are never ever going to agree to celebrating it. The problem for Australia Day Council is that, as the population of Aboriginal people is rapidly increasing and there is no change, more generations of Aboriginal people will be on the streets every 26th January until it changes. How will the diplomats, quaffing Australian wine and Australian crayfish explain to their guests?  When they ask  the obvious question about Australia’s first nation people

Imagine how Aboriginal people and supporters of Aboriginal people felt, when they saw vision on TV of the convoy of trucks sporting flags outside the cabins of their trucks as they delivered hay to the farmers, who lost properties and feed stock in the recent bush fires. Watching a convoy of trucks brandishing flags honking horns with all the fanfare and nationalism of a Nazi parade, with full television coverage on the 26th of January. It would have made them all reach for the sick bag.

The morning television shows were no better, full as it was with their jingoism take on the day. Those two guys with their washing machine van for the homeless and their corporate T shirts and all their branding. Unc couldn’t help wondering about the people who have been working most of their lives to to try and solve the problems of homelessness who are rarely recognised.  Lets see if they do what Les Twentyman has done in his life in a few years time.  Those dudes will end up in the corporate world, you just know it.

To me we dont need a day that celebrates the dispossession of Aboriginal people’s land. Full stop. If we need to celebrate a national day then pick a day that symbolises something like the sprig of wattle. The first of September would be good.

It reminds me of Willian Barak a Kulin man, who said “when the wattle blooms will be my time to pass on.”


The second of my gripes, is the Recognise campaign. Australia is the only Commonwealth country that does not have a treaty with its Indigenous people. Not many people in the country know this. Not many people in the world know this.

The Recognise people running the campaign will poo poo what Unc writes. They will marginalise a view anti to the view they have. It is well know strategy used countless times by Government where they select a group of people to lead a debate to an outcome they want.

Recognise is no different to what has happened in the past; like native title not being land rights. People are fed up with this approach.

Recognise is not a treaty. Aboriginal people want a treaty that gives them rights to land and everything that goes with that land. They want education rights, to have a decent education in language if they want in schools, they want a better health system like all Australians, they want housing rights.

Recognise will not give that. Recognise is yet another diversion in the life of Aboriginal Australia.

The Recognise campaign is a lot like the 26 Jan marketing campaign. The Government will delay the campaign until they have enough of the population agreeing to it. 

The government want Recognise because they don’t want a treaty. Big business dosen’t want it so the government doesn’t want it. 

The people inducted into the campaign will have people believe that this is a first step to a treaty and that recognition in the Constitution will lead to better recognition of indigenous rights. Well that just does not make sense.

The anti-recognise campaign is gaining momentum, like the anti-26 January campaigns its just that we have to be prepared for a long struggle.

Chris Graham looks at Election Results

chris_graham[1]Given that Tracker Magazine journalist Chris Graham is a Walkley and Human Rights Award-winning Journalist, what he writes about can be taken as well researched and well presented, unlike the lazy journalism from the bogan alumni at the mainstream media outlets in the country. Graham  gets straight to the issues with all the facts.

His recent contribution to Tracker magazine, on the election voting pattern of indigenous voters is interesting reading.

What is interesting is something that the vast majority of indigenous people know and have been saying among themselves for many years. We won’t kowtow to anything other than self-determination. Governments and agencies who believe that kicking a football around is a panacea for everything indigenous, have been reading too much Brothers Grimm .

It has always has been and always will be self-determination, which will take the country and indigenous affairs forward. No amount of sport, taking kids out of their communities to flash schools, while leaving others behind, wasteful training programs, unnecessary job networks, will ever have outcomes of self-determination and happiness for indigenous people.

The new NIC set up by Prime Minister Abbott is the death-knell of the failed congress model, set up as a result of the trashing of ATSIC by a bipartisan parliament.  Chris Graham makes the point that of the 6,000 members of the replacement National Aboriginal congress, only 809 voted in the recent election held in Cairns.

I have travelled to more communities and sat down with more Aboriginal and Islander people than most and I have not found a community person that is a member, they don’t even know about it and don’t want to know about it. The Tracker magazine article is below.

Election 2013: The downside of democracy

by Chris Graham

One of the features of a modern democracy is that apart from getting the government we deserve, we’re also supposed to get the government that the majority of us want. Like Communism, it’s great in theory. But also like Communism, it’s often not so good in practice. At least, it’s not if you happen to be a minority group who has long been denied the right to elect your own leaders. And that explains how Aboriginal Australians awoke on Sunday morning to find they had a new ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’, a pledge Tony Abbott delivered during the 2013 election campaign.

One problem – no-one, including within the media, ever stopped to ask Aboriginal people if they actually wanted a ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’, and in particular whether or not they wanted Abbott. As it turns out, they apparently don’t. Believe it or not, there is a simple way to get a broad feel for Aboriginal voting aspirations. All you need do is look at booths around Australia that are identifiably Aboriginal.

That mainstream media are too lazy to invest the time and do this (it took me just four hours to analyse 48 identifiably Aboriginal booths) speaks some volumes about how effectively the rights and interests of Aboriginal people are served by that other pillar of democracy – a free and informed press.In any case, here are the facts.

The average vote directed to Labor in identifiably Aboriginal communities outside the Northern Territory (we’ll come to the NT seat of Lingiari shortly, because it’s a whole other train wreck) was 71 percent. The swing against the Coalition in some booths climbed as high as 40 percent, and averaged around 12 percent. That’s more than three times the national average (a 3.51 percent swing to the Coalition). And that’s in booths that overwhelmingly already voted Labor in the first place.

To put that into some perspective for you, if a swing of 12 percent were to occur against either party in mainstream Australia, both would have been reduced to around 25 seats in a 150-seat parliament, aka ‘minor party status’.One of the most interesting seats – at least from the black perspective – is Leichhardt, the electorate that takes in all of the Cape York Aboriginal communities.

Cape York, of course, is home to Noel Pearson, another self-styled ‘Aboriginal Prime Minister’ who has for more than a decade been advising government directly on Aboriginal policy, whilst repeatedly claiming that only a conservative Coalition government can deliver real change. If you look at the Coalition’s election statement on Indigenous Australians, most of its policies come from Pearson. But it seems the good citizens of Cape York don’t share Pearson’s views on the way forward, due in no small part, I suspect, to the reality that after more than a decade of Pearson dominance, their lives have not improved.

The tiny community of Lockhart River saw a two party preferred vote to Labor of almost 90 percent, with a swing against the Coalition of 40 percent. Kowanyama saw 87 percent of the vote directed to Labor. Bamaga and Napranum both delivered 72 percent to Labor. The only Aboriginal community which actually voted in favour of the Coalition was Pearson’s home town of Hope Vale, and even then, it was only by a margin of four percent while still delivering a seven percent swing against the Coalition.

The booth at Aurukun – a large community where Abbott visited last year to help build a school library – also saw a swing to the Coalition (10 percent). It sounds encouraging for Abbott… until you understand that 76 percent of the two party preferred vote went to Labor. In communities outside Queensland, the result was the same, and sometimes worse. In Toomelah on the NSW border, 82 percent of the vote went to Labor, despite the fact that across the rest of seat of Parkes the Coalition member won 72 percent of the two party vote.

At Wallaga Lake on the NSW South Coast, 94 percent of votes on a two party basis were directed to Labor. In Wilcannia – a town where 20 percent of the community is non Aboriginal – 62 percent of the vote still went to Labor, with a 14 percent swing against the Coalition. Of the 48 identifiably Aboriginal booths surveyed, only eight of them bucked the trend and delivered more than 50 percent of the two party vote to the Coalition, and six of those were in Northern Territory bush booths. And that’s the other train wreck. The seat of Lingiari takes in all of the 73 Aboriginal communities affected by the Northern Territory intervention. At the 2007 election, there were massive swings against the Coalition, amid promises by Labor to water the legislation down.

When Labor won office and then sat on it’s hands, there were massive swings back to the Coalition in 2010, with personal swings against Labor in Aboriginal booths of up to 70 percent. Now, in 2013, there have been wild swings all over the place – some to Labor, and some to the Coalition. But the underlying trend in Lingiari has been to retreat back to Labor. So what does it all mean? A couple of things.

Firstly, the wild swings over the past few elections in Aboriginal communities show that while black voters favour Labor, they are not wholey wedded to any single party.

Secondly, any suggestion that most Aboriginal people LIKE Labor is nonsense. They don’t. On most fronts, the ALP’s policies virtually match the Coalition’s – bipartisanship is only ever a good thing when you actually know what you’re doing.

Thirdly, by any reasonable analysis, Aboriginal people overwhelmingly do not want Tony Abbott as the ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’, and at a punt the Coalition’s stated election policies probably helped solidify that view. Only two of those policies ever got serious mainstream airing in the course of the election campaign.

The first was Abbott’s plan to appoint a new National Indigenous Council, a policy tried and failed the last time the Coalition were in power. The NIC is a group of hand-picked blackfellas who will advise the Prime Minister directly on Aboriginal policy. It will be headed by former Labor Party president Warren Mundine – a man who has never been elected to any Aboriginal leadership position – with support from Pearson and Professor Marcia Langton. Pearson and Langton, in their defence, are formidable intellects. But they also happen to be possibly the only two people in the nation less popular than Mundine among Aboriginal people.

So much for a love of democracy from a group of people – conservatives – whose synapses would start misfiring if you ever threatened their basic rights. The only other policy to get any mainstream coverage – and only then by accident in the dying days of the campaign – was incoming Treasurer Joe Hockey’s admission that more than $40 million would be cut from Aboriginal Legal Aid.

The area has been grossly underfunded for two decades, and Labor continued that during its first term in office. It finally lifted funding marginally a few years ago – at a time when jailing rates reached stratospheric dimensions – and now the Coalition is planning to axe it again. It’s puzzling how this fits Abbott’s stated mantra of ‘ruling for all Australians’, unless of course you accept that managing a population of blackfellas is much easier if you can confine most of them to penal institutions. To sum it all up, the political process – and the election – has not worked for Aboriginal Australians.

They were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t, and in fact most didn’t – half the Aboriginal population eligible to vote is not enrolled, which speaks some volumes in it’s own right. But not all volumes, because the black parliamentary system is currently working no better than the white one.

During the election campaign, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples – the new body which is elected by Aboriginal people and aims to represent the views of Aboriginal people nationally – released the results of its own bi-annual elections. Of the 6,000 eligible members, just 809 cast a vote. It’s a bitterly disappointing result, by any measure, and proof that Aboriginal people are increasing disengaging from any political process, not just the mainstream ones. There’s a simple reason for this. Aboriginal people want self-determination, and every step Australia takes – from an Abbott hand-picked council to constitutional recognition within a document designed to deny Aboriginal sovereignty – is a step further from where Aboriginal people want to be.

Genuine self determination – where a distinct people choose their own leaders, make their own laws, govern their own lives – never comes easily, nor quickly. It took Australia more than 100 years to even make a dent in it. It is, however, the only solution that has ever worked for nations facing the same problems we face – the displacement and brutalization of a First Peoples. In New Zealand, Maori have seven seats (10 percent of the parliament) which sit over the entire country which anyone can contest, but in which only Maori can vote. There’s also a variety of models that have worked successfully in Canada and the US, where First Nations people have varying degrees of autonomy over their communities.

These other nations, of course, have not collapsed into civil war. Indeed, by comparison to Australia, First Nations peoples in Canada, the US and New Zealand are way ahead in every single social indicator. They don’t have world record rates of curable diseases, such as trachoma and rheumatic heart disease. They don’t have suicide rates that are the highest on earth. They also don’t jail their First Peoples at world record rates. Those honours, of course, are reserved for Australia, a nation that continues to stray further and further from the only real solution – self-determination.

Tony Abbott can quite rightly claim to have a mandate to govern Australia. But he has nothing even closely resembling a mandate to claim to be ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’. For some reason, I doubt that’s going to stop him claiming it, nor prevent the mainstream media circus from blindly embracing and reporting it. Democracy, it seems, isn’t necessarily for everyone.

Chris Graham is a Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist, and the former managing editor of Tracker magazine. He’s now a freelance writer based in Sydney.

Bess Price and Parliamentary Privilege

Parliamentary privilege is a legal immunity enjoyed by members of parliament, in which elected members  are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course of their parliament duties.

Parliamentary privilege is controversial because of its potential for abuse; a member can use privilege to make damaging allegations that would ordinarily be discouraged by defamation laws, without first determining whether those allegations have a strong foundation.

Unc would argue that Bess Price made an error of judgement in attacking individual people for their affiliations and for their opinions in the NT Assembly. It should follow that those people have a right of reply in the parliamentary process. It is not that Bess should not be able to present her views, it is what she said under the privilege of parliament.

Unc would argue that the material in the address was not part of her function, and therefore breached the immunity of privilege given to members of parliament.

Hiding behind privilege, and dismissing everyone that has a disagreement with your views as left-wing, or worse, in support of violence against women, is not what we need from a member elected to represent. So also is the trashy language, referencing white people in the same way as white folk talk about black people.  Racism has no place in a democracy. Democracy has made it possible for Bess to take a seat in the NT Assembly.

Unc’s view is that there is nothing to be gained by anyone in the Pan Aboriginal movement defaming other Aborigines, who have worked hard all their public lives and have worked tirelessly to lift the participation rate of Aboriginal people in society and give them and their families a better life.

Methinks that the pressure by critics, including Bob “Northern Myth” Gosford,  Chris Graham, Chris Sarra, Larissa Behrendt, Marlene Hodder, Barbara Shaw, Koori Radio  and others including community people in Central Australia, are taking their toll on the Aboriginal members. The people are entitled to feel duped by their representatives, who in good faith voted for Bess. Now, under parliamentary sanction, it in effect tars them all with the same brush of racism.

Bess Price owes her success to a clique of white journalists and editors in the mainstream press. By contrast, Barbara Shaw from Alice Springs Mount Nancy town camp has never been given the same press, simply because she opposed the Intervention. Barb Shaw has not been on Q&A or had glowing articles written about her in The Australian. Barb Shaw has lived all her life in town camps and has the knowledge and respect of many people. The ABC, which prides itself on it unbiased presentation has shown that it will always go with the flow and is prepared to present a view of Aboriginal Australia is through the eyes of a single person

Bess Price statement read into Hansard is a cry for help from Government to do more. It’s a message to Aboriginal people and the people and businesses who are living off the misery of Aboriginal people. It’s a message to the Elders, store owners, shires, councils, pubs, road houses, cattle stations, tourist operators, the mining companies, footy teams, educators, health centres, and bureaucrats, barricaded behind chain wire fences. The message is you all bear some responsibility for the carnage.

Bess Prices concerns are real, lets not forget that. It makes no sense to talk economic enterprise, in these communities and towns, spending millions of dollars on fly in fly out programs, when the problem is that there is not enough water to have a decent shower. Not enough food to have a decent feed. Not enough teachers to have a decent education. Not enough health workers to have decent health. Not enough activities or jobs.

Unc can understand the frustrations of Bess. What is happening is a national shame. Every death or youth suicide, of an Aboriginal person caused by petrol sniffing, by violence, or by drunk driving with family in the car “shames us all”.

In the Territory, it seems to be easier to get a change to the drinking register, take kids away again (that idea came a gutser) boot camps, and now mandatory rehabilitation centres for 12 weeks, effectively jailing people, then it is to get real change to grog laws.

The Territory Assembly reminds me of ATSIC, it appears that blackfellas are on one side and bureaucrats are on the other. They are prepared to let blackfellas fight among themselves. It’s a distraction that allows them to fund their pet projects in Darwin.

I have not lived in the Territory for a few years. Can someone tell Unc what measures have the Aboriginal members of the Territory Government done to shut down the animal bars, prevent the grog flowing to towns, communities and to the town camps? The rivers of grog still flow even though some of the Intervention measures were well received.

Is this a good thing? Some parts of the Intervention were and are needed. But dis-empowering men and taking away their money is draconian and unnecessary. Unless you have lived on community and grown up witnessing this (Unc has walked the walk and so has Bess), unless you have seen the turmoil caused by grog, you have no idea of the real situation. Bess is like all of us who have witnessed the carnage and feel that nothing gets done.

Grog and Aboriginal people, has been a problem since the ships sailed into Botany Bay 1789. It’s ironic that people coming by boat are now classified as illegal, while the people that sailed down Botany Bay in 1789 are “settlers” and convicts. What did Aboriginal people learn from that early experience? They were exposed to rum, witnessed the brutal floggings of convicts, “Yeah” a great model for Australia’s Aborigines.

History will judge the Intervention as being a policy failure made on the run, it is ABC “lateline policy” and an ABC /SBS view of Australia who both have a “sense of entitlement”, to promote their brand of Australian culture.

The answer to the problems is not more papers from right or left think tanks for that matter, or weekly stories from journalists hunting for a Walkley Award.

The goal posts have changed in politics in Australia; we now have even  right-wing think tanks and politicians agreeing on policies that they previously stayed away from, such as  Gay Rights, Aboriginal issues, parental leave, NDIS. It is only recently that the conservatives have shown any real interest  in everyday Aboriginal affairs.  Yes they can claim Fraser and land rights, but that was already in place. The same as they will claim NDIS and parental leave.

It has always been people like Frank Hardy, the trade unions, labour, and recently the Greens  leading the way, dragging the conservatives along. They were nowhere to be seen on Aboriginal issues until recently.

Sometimes Bess. “It is better to keeps ones mouth shut and be thought a fool, then to open it and leave no doubt”.

Blackfellas vote themselves into a gulag

Blackfellas got the result they wanted in the Territory elections, as people voted on tribal lines and for the continuation of the Intervention. Black politicians and their “white advisers”  cleverly manipulated the communities into voting CLP not fully understanding that they were voting to put their families in to “concentration camps and gulags”.  They were led to believe  the policy of prison farms was a whole law and order policy approach to fix the problems of fighting and drinking.

Blackfellas should know by now that when the CLP talk about law and order, they are not talking about the whitefellas that commit crimes, they are talking about the blackfellas on the streets of Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek, Bagot and Alice Springs.

Sources close to Tell Me Unc reported that a voting booth at Yuendumu was closed down because of the continued fighting in the community. The source told Unc that one of the electorate has around 5,000 registered voters and only 2,400 voted. So much for democracy. It is clear that blackfellas don’t have an understanding of how important the vote is, or they did not vote because they did not have a family affiliation.

The disempowering of community councils and the move to super shires has had an effect on the vote for the ALP. The community councils were the go-to places for people in their community and gave people a sense of self-determination, of being able to  help themselves and plan for their communities future. That was all taken away, and on top of the intervention, people either did not vote, or turned to the CLP to punish the ALP.  The community councils  were political structures in their own right and sometimes outsiders had difficuilty in dealing with that arrangement.

The ALP lost their ability to talk through the councils to the mob, and  did not understand the culture. The CLP were very well organised; they were able to recruit Aboriginal women to their team who were promotors of the Intervention, supported the oppressive policies of the CLP  and could exploit divisions between blackfellas. It’s the oldest political game in the book, find the prejudice and press the button.

The ALP could be in for a long time in the wilderness.  They have to win back the trust and counter the black bigotry and racism of the so called “real blackfellas”. When a good hard working member like Karl Hampton is done over by a black politician using language from the Pauline Hanson song book, then it is time to stand up and be counted.

It is not all darkness; the ALP should remember that darkness is followed by the light of day, and  just before the dawn, heroes are born. The Irish peasantry have a great proverb and a saying to inspire hope under diverse circumstances. Remember, they say, “ the darkest hour of all, is the hour before day”.

Terry Mills, Bess Price and Alison Anderson are not heroes, nor are they messiahs that will not take their families to the Promised Land. They will lead them to the gulags and concentration camps of the prison farms of the Northern Territory.


Bess Price’s comments are foolish

Bess Price’s comments about White Blackfellas  will one day come back to haunt her.  What goes around comes around, in Aboriginal politics.

It is a racial comment and out of step with the Racial Discrimination Act. It is unlawful for a person to do any act involving a distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of any human right or fundamental freedom in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

The vilification is common and one we have come to expect from those Aborigines who consider their own people with a light skin colour are a lesser social class than themselves. It is used to cower others and to gain an advantage in their work place, community or on the governance committee they may sit on.

If the comments can be considered  ‘fair comment’, then they are not construed as racial vilification.  But these comments are unprincipled and lack understanding and substance. You be the judge.

Racial discrimination is when a person is treated less favorably than another person in a similar situation because of their race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin or immigrant status.

Trashing the good will that existed with Amnesty International is not a way forward.  Amnesty, like many organisations before them, will go into their shell and wait until the Aboriginal movement becomes more mature and rises above the sandpit of kindergarten politics.  I sincerely hope that is not the case and that Amnesty continue to work with the people who face the most discrimination. They are the many thousands of people opposed to the Intervention and living under the most draconian and racist period of the modern era.

To understand the Bess Price comments we have to take a look at history.  Central Australia, where she comes from, was settled long after Tasmania, where Rodney Dillon of Amnesty’s heritage lies.

Bess Price comes from a group of Aborigines who are rich in land and rich in culture, simply because they were settled by the white folk long after the devastation of the invasion of Tasmania by sealers and then as a penal colony.

To not know about that history shows ignorance of the Aboriginal struggle for rights in Tasmania and of why Rodney Dillon and the Tasmanian Aborigines are a different skin colour.

It’s easy for an Aboriginal person with their language, stories and culture to slag off at the Aborigines that have fair skin, who don’t speak language, are from stolen generations and have not experienced ceremony.

It is well known in the Territory that Bess Price has political aspirations, she has learnt from the Pauline Hanson and John Howard song book, and is dog whistling to those voters on the margins.

Bess Price is not the only Aboriginal person that uses this kind of language and discrimination. There are others running around this country doing a great disservice to the whole Aboriginal population of this country.  Some head local and state boards and national boards. Their bullying, discrimination and the playing of the race card against other Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders is breathtaking.

 Spare a thought for the many dedicated campaigners who marched the streets, got jailed and beaten up, all for the cause of Aboriginal people’s rights. The trade unions played a substantial role with funding rallies and international lobbying.

They forged the road to make it possible for Aboriginal people to have a health service, legal services, media services,  enter universities, get a decent education, enter parliament, have land councils, co-operatives, enterprises; they set the ground work to get the land back.  Frank Hardy would be turning in his grave.

 The comment was a distasteful & penicious remark from a person who aspires to sit in the Territory Government. It opens up a window to the colour debate to those in the mainstream media who now have an aboriginal person with extreme views based on colour. Mainstream media enjoy a story that highlights the kindergarten “sandpit politics” of Aboriginal Australia.


In a year celebrating the world’s Indigenous peoples, the Canadian Government, in its March budget, announced it would move to open Canada’s native reserves to private ownership.

Newspaper reports say legislation is in the pipeline to allow First Nations peoples to adopt voluntarily what for most Canadians is natural right; to own a house property.

In Australia, the Human Rights Commission’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda, marking International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples and the 2012 theme of Indigenous Media, Empowering Voices, played lip service to that aim when he said Australia’s Indigenous media outlets played a valuable role in challenging stereotypes.  Read the release here

The lie to that statement is in the Government’s action in closing down the National Indigenous Television service (NITV) in what can only be described as an assimilation of Indigenous media, disempowering Indigenous voices.  An entire Indigenous media outlet has been handed over to be run for us by mainstream media.

Government and SBS bureaucrats, working behind the scenes, orchestrated the move to SBS Television despite protests from the NITV board and independent operators.

Indigenous television now sits as part of the SBS/ABC multicultural policies. Banished and condemned forever to be marginalised and with the tag of ethnic in their own country, a country they once owned.

The SBS colonisation of Indigenous media flies in the face of the UN article 16 reference to Indigenous Broadcasting.

“Indigenous people have the right to establish their own media, in their own languages, and have access to all forms of non-Indigenous media without discrimination”

There were many problems in the way NITV was set up. One problem was underfunding; the Productivity Commission recommended that $92 Million over 5 years be invested.  The Government funded $42Million over the same period.  Mistakes were also made with how NITV negoiated with existing indigenous media, but these are normal teething problems for a complex new organisation. SBS went through them in treir early days, as did the ABC in a less complex media environment- all they had to do was set up some radio stations. That doesn’t mean that you undermine the principle of   what Indigenous Media means, which is thatwe are in charge of it and we are responsible for it.

The principal function of SBS is to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society. The charter also says they will contribute to meeting the communications needs of Australia’s multicultural society, including ethnic, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;

That does not give SBS, ABC or for that matter independent film makers the right to plunder Australia’s indigenous content and package it, then call it Indigenous Media.

I am not saying that Indigenous people should not be working at SBS/ABC or other mainstream media, or that their work is not good enough.  But the potential is there for Indigenous people working in mainstream media and indigenous media to become invisible and for everyone to lose track of the real meaning of Indigenous Media.

It is not for the SBS and ABC management and boards to position themselves to determine the future of Australian overall culture, and what is good for us all.  With SBS and ABC, the commitment to providing for all -Australians only seems to kick in for Aboriginal people if extra resources are provided, rather than being a fundamental commitment, like to provide Greek language programming for Greek Australians, or Doctor Who for Geek Australians.

The SBS submission to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Indigenous Broadcasting, presented to the Government in May 2004, made the following comment.:

Our difficulty insofar as Indigenous Australians are concerned is that in non metropolitan regions we don’t have the network to cover for their needs for the time being; we don’t have the facilities, both transmitters and frequencies, to broadcast to them.

Even though it is part of their charter they were not going to do it without more funding.

VAST spectrum is now used by SBS to carry NITV and ABC to deliver indigenous programs into remote areas, and it may look like they are meeting their charter. But putting but a set top box in a remote community, still doesn’t mean they have indigenous media.

The ABC told the Productivity Commission that it will continue discussions with Indigenous organisations about possible programming, training and development options in the digital environment. However the ABC indicated that it would not be able to carry an Indigenous television service. This is what they told the commission:

The ABC requires the entire spectrum allocated to it to provide a package of digital services that meets anticipated audiences need’s and enables the ABC to leverage content across its networks to achieve appropriate audiences reach, efficiency and effectiveness.

 The ABC has no capacity to provide a multiplex ‘Piggy back’ style arrangement to third parties. It plans to use the digital spectrum allocated and will absorb the entire available spectrum.

They would say that wouldn’t they. Just look at the channels and spectrum that the ABC/SBS has between them and ask who is the loser.

Warehousing is the term bandied around. Both SBS and ABC should be put under the hammer and real spectrum carved off for Indigenous purposes, and that should be managed and operated by Indigenous people.

The Imparja spectrum will carry a second Indigenous channel that will cover some of the remote towns. Second prize to the remote communities who continue to be sent to the back of the queue as they attempt to bring more appropriate Indigenous content to their own people.

Mick Gooda said he welcomes the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategic Dialogue Group (ATSISDG). Oh please, not another group of blackfella academics and experts.

They need to take off their rose colored glasses. Come down from the air-conditioned comfort of their offices, start walking the walk and get their hands dirty.

They should all have a gap year and go and work on an aboriginal community. Experience living under a blue tarp and have someone tell you the intervention is going to make your life better.

12 years ago Australia’s real Indigenous Media organisations agreed on a road map for the future. The Government partly funded a small element of that plan, and that was what became NITV.  The road map still shows us the way and they should come back to that and work with Indigenous Media in good faith and a real intention, so we can succeed.  Come on, get real.

I Took A Hat Trick Once

It was low tide on the Cairns esplanade. The mud flats glistened in the early morning sun, the first of the boats carrying tourists to the Great Barrier Reef, made their way out of the inlet.

Small crabs and mud skippers entertained themselves chasing each other as the trumpet shellfish, left their zigzag trail in a slow march across the mud, like backpackers in search of themselves.

As I observed these low tide activities, my attention was drawn to an “old mate” sitting under a huge mango tree, reading the paper and enjoying the freshness and early morning sun. “Gonna be a hot one today he said”.

I looked down and noticed that he was been reading the story about the unveiling of statue of Shane Warne at the MCG. Warnie, I said. Yeah! “he was the best said old mate”

You know, he said. “I took a hat trick once” I know the feeling of taking a hat trick and making a hundred. Did both he said.

I remember the day I made a 124 not out. It was here in Cairns. I was playing in the schoolboys competition, it was great to get out of school on Friday afternoon to play cricket or footy.

I will always remember the day I made my first hundred. As I was walking off the ground, the captain held his players back and all the kids clapped as I left the ground. I will always remember that, he obviously had a good knowledge of the sportsman ship of the game. 

When I got to school on the Monday morning, the principal had everyone on to the parade ground. Everyone listened as he went on a long address about sport and the participation of sport. He then went on about the Friday match and how there was a special presentation to me because I had broken all previous school records in making 124 not out. He then called me up and presented me with a new cricket bat. It was a real shame job standing there in front of the school and making a speech, I cant remember what I said.

It made me well known, in the school and I was made a house captain the next year. When I took the bat home, the old man got out the linseed oil and oiled it up every day for a week. That bat was my prized possession.

What happened after that? Did you play first grade cricket? No I said I was doing an apprenticeship and other things took over my life.

Tell me about the hat trick, I asked. Well he said, it was in Mount Isa. I was working out there on construction of the No 4 copper concentrator, there were some boys from Victoria who played cricket and asked if I was interested in playing.

I had not had a ball or bat in my hand for 15 years and I went down to training more to keep me off the grog and get some fitness. After a month of training, I began to get a bit fit and was bowling a mix of spin and some swing, just like Sir Garfield Sobers he could do that, and he was a hero of mine.

I started getting a few wickets and making a few runs. I was playing on turf for the first time and it took some getting used to, we used to also play on concrete matting wickets.

The day I took the hat trick was like yesterday. We were playing on turf that day, the opposition batted first. They started well and they began to get on top belting us about.

There was a couple of barrackers in the stand that day and they were a bit worse for wear, having a sip and thinking they were in bay 13 at the G. They began this chant. Give Bert a bowl. A few more over’s and the skipper was worn down by the spectators calling for me. He threw me the ball, and said bowl some off spin see how you go. I bowled a couple of over’s getting onto a good length and moving the ball.

At the start of my 3rd or 4th over, the skipper came running up from first slip, he reset the field and said. Pitch it up outside off stump its moving about a bit, let it drift in he may get a snick. I pitched it up and to my surprise the ball spun about half a meter and bowled him.

The wicket keeper came racing up and holding his hands apart said that ball moved this much indicating about half a meter. The boys in the crowd went off, they got their wicket. The next guy came in took his line, backed away and looked around all confident.

With a glint in his old eyes and gesturing with his hands he said. I bowled him a beautiful off spinner, plenty of air drifted it in and bowled him. Well everyone went off, same thing the ball spun of the turf and bamboozled him he looked around at his stumps and his bat like it had a hole in it and walked off shaking his head.

The thought of a hat trick never even occurred to me.  When the next guy came in he took his mark and came down and spoke to the other batsman and said to him, he is bowling off spin mate, nothing really its fruit. I thought well what can I bowl now. I had been practising my “wrong un ” and now was the time to try and bowl one.

 I ran in and bowled a wrong un which is easy to pick if you are a off spinner, but he did not know where to put his feet and I caught him right in front for LBW, that was it hat trick at Mt Isa  It felt so good, a hat trick to a cricketer whether school boys first grade or at the MCG is something you remember all your life.

We won that game easy I went on and got 7 for not bad. Getting clapped off again bought back memories of my school boy 100. It was a great season and I have never played competition again. I played social cricket for a while in Cairns. We used to go out to Fishery Falls and the rules were play 8 over’s on and then go off for a beer. Everyone used to like that.

What do you think about the Warnie stature. I asked? Well he said, I do hope that the pigeons stay away. Warnie deserves better than having pigeon crap over him, after all the mainstream press have crapped over him for years, and no doubt may have cost him the captaincy.

I watched it on TV. I thought Mark Taylor was great, and also entertaining. However that guy the president of the MCG, made a “smart ass” comment when he said that Liz Hurley, was now an honorary Australian because of her relationship with Warnie and that he was pleased that she did not come via Christmas island.

There is no need for a cheap shot at refugees, by the president of the MCG and shows there are still people in high places in our cricketing hierarchy that have an obvious leaning towards players with the right school tie.

 It sends the wrong message to refugees, don’t play cricket, we don’t want your kind here. You won’t get selected or get into the hall of fame or have a stature in MCG park. Not for a couple of hundred years anyway and only after we have assimilated you, into the “aussie” mainstream and of course you must listen, to cricket on the ABC.

Well that’s Australia at that level, he said.  I didn’t have to contend with that when I took my hat trick or made my hundred. That kid who led his team in clapping me in after I made my hundred, the principle from my school, and the skipper in Mt Isa, in a way, they helped shaped my outlook on how to p lay the game for the good reasons of sportsman ship, mateship and equality.

All would have been more gracious, than the president of the MCG, and that was in 1956!!. The MCG has been glacial in its move to the mainstream of Australia’s multi racial society.

Cricket Australia would surely been very disappointed in the shadenfredue remark, after all they have put a lot into grass roots cricket, in remote aboriginal communities and into competitions like the Imparja Cup in Central Australia. 

Comments said in jest to get a laugh at someone elses expense, have been commonplace in Australias history. Laws are now in place to counter discrimination, but it appears that that there is still that underbelly of raceism in the Australian makeup that lingers on to this day.

The president should have stuck to the script. Sometimes it’s better to not open your mouth and be thought a fool, than to open it and leave no doubt.

Writing’s On the Wall

Reports circulating in the mainstream media are targeting Aboriginal programs as inefficient and costly. So what is newsworthy about that? It’s not as if it’s a slow news cycle, given what else is happening in the world today.

 The reporting should raise alarm bells among Indigenous organisations that depend on Government funding to service the need of Indigenous people. A Finance Department report prepared early last year revealed the Commonwealth is outlaying $3.5 billion each year on Aboriginal programs, which according to the report yield dismally poor results.

There is a “Business Model” used by Government, when Indigenous funding is under scrutiny, or indigenous organisations are for the chop. The pattern is subtle and orchestrated. First step, release the report to the mainstream press. In this instance, the Government’s Finance Department Report on Indigenous funding outlays.

The genie is then out of the bottle, newspapers report it, news radio reports it, shock jocks pick it up and with the help of some opposition members and selected Aboriginal talent set about demolishing the program. The “business model” is so refined and successful that people working in the area of Indigenous programs are helpless to do anything and are at the mercy of the press.

Part of the process is for the press to trot out a well known Aboriginal person to justify its attacks on Indigenous programs, this is called balanced reporting. It beggars belief how someone in the high level Aboriginal mainstream can accurately make a comment about a remote Aboriginal community. Simply because an Aboriginal person has achieved in the mainstream and has been educated with mainstream values, does not necessarily make that person qualified  to comment on everything and anything to do with Aboriginal programs.

Before you know, discussion is rampant on the shock jock radio stations, the whole scene plays out, the Government gives the impression that it is acting in the best interest of Indigenous people, and takes action to cut programs. Mission accomplished. This business model is tried and true; for example look at how ATSIC was undermined, and there are others including the Aboriginal Legal Services.

A report by Amnesty International highlights the government’s intent to reduce funding to remote homeland. Funds that would normally go to the homelands being put into so called “Hub Towns”. This Hub Town business model sounds a lot like the South African model of the apartheid era; herd all the blackfellas into Hub Towns or “Townships” as the South Africans called them, and let them fight it out for services.

There are aspects of the model that, with dedicated people, could work, particularly in the areas of education and health. It is a lot easier to attract teachers and doctors to larger towns than to remote communities. But then there is the cultural aspect that must be considered. More than one-third of the NT’s Aboriginal population lives in 500 remote homeland communities.

Internationally acclaimed indigenous artist, Anmatyerr elder Kathleen Ngal, 78, said if Utopia residents are forced to move to “hub towns” they will become “third-class, non-existent human beings.” She said “My paintings are maps of our country … through my art I am educating the world about my country and my culture”. “I cannot paint when I’m not on my land.” She wants her grandchildren to have the opportunity to live on their country and to know their stories. “Country owns you or holds you, not you holding the country and becoming master of the land,” she said. The Federal and Territory governments are set to stop funding remote outstations when the Intervention ends next year, choosing instead to direct money to 21 of the biggest communities. The effect on aunties such as Kathleen Ngal will be devastating.

The recent productivity report into the future of health services for the ageing found that people like to stay in their homes and in surroundings that they are used to. A 82 year old lady told news 24 that she did not like the hostel that she was in. Not because of the staff simply because she wanted to be home on country. The commission has made recommendations that allow our old folks to live and die with dignity on their special piece of country. Their own homes.

Why can’t Kathleen Ngal and her countrymen stay on their country?

Why must they be herded like sheep into Townships of despair? Why?

Still the Silent Land

A recent internet usage survey, by a Melbourne University in 3 Central Australian Aboriginal communities highlighted the size of the problem that National Broadband Network (NBN) has in providing high speed broadband services in remote Australia. 

It comes as no surprise for the inhabitants in remote Australia, that communication services are one of many services that are lacking. Media services are well behind the other more important services of health, education, land, and housing.

This is regardless that media is considered an essential service and a right under United Nations Charters.  Blind Freddie can tell you that, “we don’t need a University survey to tell us what we already know”. The work done by the university is commendable but will it make any difference to the situation. History tells us that service delivery in remote towns and communities in remote Australia takes on all the characteristics of a glacier.

There are large gaps in radio services in most remote communities and homelands, not just in remote Australia but Western NSW, and Northern Victoria. Radio services are a basic need, for remote people purely for emergency services.


The spending of millions on broadband is a “diversion from the real need”. The basic building block of communications in the bush is radio services; this has been largely ignored by governments for over 40 years service providers have been starved for funds over a long period.

A report titled “Out of the silent land” A Federal Government task force report by Eric Wilmot published in 1984 recommended that basic satellite receiving and re-transmission equipment be installed into remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities throughout Australia.  The project came to be known as, Broadcasting Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme, or BRACS

The “scheme” only a bureaucrat could dream up a title like with such a name as “scheme”. and it is reflected on the service and the complete lack of funds that went into it, ATSIC came along and called it a program and it has remained a program ever since, with no real commitment from government to take account of the recommendations or concerns of Aboriginal people, that the service was meant to connect.

Australia’s Indigenous peoples were concerned that the   introduction of modern technology would spread western style monoculture, undermine traditional values, and have a detrimental effect in communities.


 In order to combat a slow destruction of cultural tradition and values, communities requested resources to preserve, protect, and promote Indigenous languages and cultures by, broadcasting radio language programs locally and  produce cultural video material of their own stories for replay and archiving.


Most communities that were rolled out have a low powered 10 watt FM service and if the wind is blowing the wrong way you won’t hear it, or if it is TV you won’t see it because of the distortion. All communities are reliant on satellite for most of their programming. They call it satellite dreaming out bush. Once you leave the community or small town, you enter the silent land again for some dependent where you are it could hundreds of Kilometres.

The answer for radio is to think seriously about Digital AM services which will give coverage to everyone. For TV the VAST satellite is a good option giving up to 17 free services to communities, after all you can’t watch TV in the car we have to wait a bit longer for that.

And now along comes NBN, they really don’t want to be there with the real deal of cable, they have come up with the alternate satellite and wireless combination. There is some merit in their plans, as it will give a useable service to isolated parents, station owners, and those aboriginal people who can afford the infrastructure and the cable bill every month and depending on the package it could be from $90 to $160. 


Everyone and their dog in remote Australia are telling the Government that broadband satellite is not the answer.  Satellite raises too many issues that remain unresolved. I was talking to an old mate who is a doctor, he worked out of the Territory for years, and he was so frustrated by the problems with video conferencing over satellite that he stopped using it, reverting back to phone and fax.

If someone comes along and solves Einstein’s theories and can deliver a signal faster than the speed of light then we will always have the problem of latency. Latency is when you are waiting for the pictures and the voice to catch up. We have all seen it as it is being used more and more by media broadcasters using a range of satellite services like skype, you quickly flick to another channel, when you are faced with it.

This debate has a long way to go. If it was anything like the Wilmot Report that brought some services to remote communities, then the change will take another 50 years or longer.

If communities want fast broadband services and not have to deal with satellite or wireless they will have to take it on themselves. In many parts of the country fibre optic cable has been laid by Telstra. The recent deal to use that infrastructure has opened up prospects for remote communities to roll out their own networks as an enterprise and create some employment.

If the cable runs past the community like it does in quite a lot of communities then the opportunity arises for the community to install infrastructure communities themselves and create a good business enterprise.

Now that is a good project for a university, go to it guys and help us find the community and do a business model,








“A boy his horse and his dog”

I ran into and old mate when I was in Victoria recently. He had just come back from his home town of Towong up on the Murray River a little town nestled in the cradle of the Snowy Mountains, where you can still find Murray Trout and Murray Cray’s.  

As long as I have known him he was always known as” old Tommy”.

He has done most things he grew up in the high country he was in the war, he trained race horses he won races all over the country and even won at Flemington. He was as hard and tough as a red gum strainer post. He  took no crap from any man he could hold his own with the best of them, and in a fight he would throw them long and straight his reputation had followed him all his life.

He told me, how he was adopted from the home in Melbourne as a young boy and taken up to the high country, his adopted family were church going people from the land and they wanted to give a kid a chance, they picked me because I was a big strong lad he told me.  

Years later when, the Aboriginal link up services began one day he got a letter in the mail from a brother who had tracked him down through the home.  It was only in the 1980’ that he found that he had extended Aboriginal family of 2 brothers and a sister.

He said to me years before, I always knew he said; there is something in you, that connects you with country. I never got lost when I was a boy in the high country; I was never frightened when the dogs would howl at night on those cold nights. I always had a sense that something or someone was always watching over me.

When we were in the home they told us all that we were orphans, there were other kids like me there white kids and black kids we all bonded as boys, that’s all we had. When they came and took me up to the high country, life for me changed forever, I learned to ride and muster and sheer sheep, and shoe horses.

They were good to me on the farm; I joined the army and loved it. They taught me about life there. I loved the marching loved the friendship. It was sad when I left the army but something else was calling me. I went sheering for years saved my money and bought a little place and raised our boys, and got into horse training.

The fact that I am Aboriginal and my boys are Aboriginal and they all have kids, has made no difference to how we are today, I guess that is assimilation, he said I have listened to you talk about that and now I understand what you are saying, but there is no way back for me and my family mate, except to take the cards dealt, take life as it has been handed to us and build for our grand kids.

I recalled how he took a couple of horses up for the carnival at Towong, it’s the dream of any trainer to win the cup from your home town and Tommy had the horse to do it.

We sat up at night and old Tommy yarned away about his early life as an adopted lad and worked for good people who took good care of him during times when kids were used as farm help. We looked across towards Kosciuszko and he pointed out a saddle in the mountains and said.

 I used to have to go up there and muster the cattle down over that saddle down to the yards here when I was a boy. There was a bit of the man from Snowy River in him as he spoke like Clancy of his deeds as a young man on the overflow. There was no talk of wild rides just old Tommy reminiscing, about his life as a boy in the saddle with his horse his swag and his dog. I used to bring them down in small mobs of 20 or so and then go back again. It was easy he said, just point them towards home and they would find their own way.

The big day came, and Tommy’s horse in the cup was favourite it had won in town so the form was good and the horse dually greeted the judge first by about 6 lengths, his good mare also won the bracelet race that day. It had been the day of dreams for Tommy and he was so happy that he could go back home and win his home town cup.

When I saw him this time a tear came to my eye because this man who stood 6’ 4’’ was a shadow of his former self he stooped and limped toward me his back done in by years of sheering and an accident breaking in a young horse. With outstretched hand he looked up from under his hat and said to me, hello old mate “someone told me you were dead”.

I said you look well yourself old mate, you have been in a good paddock yeah he said I am 92 this year. I just got back from the old place had to go home one more time and see “god’s country he said again and again.

That country is sacred to me, many a day and night I was guided by the Crow, the Eagle, and the old Bat. Never got lost, he said never got lost.

Let’s have a beer for old times’ sake old mate, I think I can still knock a couple of pots back. Old mate may also tip me a winner.