Category Archives: For your information
Sometimes a Nation needs a moment…
This is it!
Stop the Commercial Netting of Bournda Lagoon – Petition
Please Sign – https://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/katrina-hodgkinson-mp-stop-the-commercial-netting-of-bournda-lagoon#supporters
The NSW Department of Primary Industries and Minister Katrina Hodgkinson have released a proposal that would see commercial netting take place in Bournda Lagoon and Sandy Beach Creek, located inside the Bournda National Park
THIS MUST BE STOPPED!
Currently there is a ban on all types of commercial fishing in both the creek and the lagoon, the proposal would allow for the mesh netting of the system targeting all species of fish using 300m wide nets. Bournda Lagoon and Sandy Beach Creek are located in a National Park, they are vital habitats to many species of Flora and Fauna including more than a dozen threatened species, the park is an important element of the local tourism industry and is the home to a number of sacred Aboriginal sites. For these reasons and the more detailed below this proposal should be rejected in full.
1. Both Bournda Lagoon and Sandy Beach Creek are located inside the Bournda National Park, a place the NSW Government itself describes as a “Natural Playground”. This is no place for a Commercial fishing operations, it is a sanctuary to a large range of Flora and Fauna, protected for all citizens of Australia to enjoy and be managed in a sustainable fashion. More than Ten threatened species call the park home including Koalas, Long-Nosed Potoroos, two threatened species of Frogs and more than 200 varieties of Birds. Currently the Lagoon is only accessible by walking track, any vehicle access that would be created for a commercial operation would be a blight on the landscape and require the destruction of the Lagoon’s surrounding environment and habitat of many of the parks fauna.
2. Bournda National Park is home to one of the largest Campgrounds on the Far South Coast of NSW, enjoyed by thousands of locals, visitors and school groups throughout the year. Tourism is a vital aspect of the economy of the Far South Coast and the Commercial fishing of Bournda Lagoon would gut the waterway of the fish many recreational fishers come to seek. It would also greatly impact on other Marine and Bird life that are viewed and enjoyed by all visitors. In the Christmas/Summer period the park is at capacity with tourists who come to relax, bushwalk, swim, fish and canoe. This influx of visitors provides a great boost to the local economy in a sustainable fashion that provides many jobs while protecting our shared natural heritage.
3. The two primary species of fish located in Bournda Lagoon, Southern Black Bream/Yellowfin Bream and the Estuary Perch are both long living native species of fish which are only sustainable when fished by recreational anglers who catch and release sexual mature fish. Both species are capable of living to over 30 years old and do not reach sexual maturity until the age of 5 or more in the Lagoon. A single season of commercial fishing could therefore wipe out the entire population. The proposal by the DPI and the Minister allows for the use of 300m wide nets, in NO part of the Lagoon or the Creek is there an area more than 300m wide, meaning that such a net would indiscriminately capture and kill all marine life. Bournda Lagoon is currently closed to the Ocean and has only briefly opened one time in the past 15 years. It is therefore impossible for the Lagoon to ever naturally restock if current residential breeding sized fish are netted.
4. Aboriginal people of the Dhurga language group of the Yuin tribe lived in the Bournda area. There is a continuous and unbroken connection to the land that has previous been recognised by the NSW State Government. Bournda National Park is home to 26 sacred sites a number of which are located directly adjacent to the Lagoon. These sites are so vital to protect that the NSW Government previously warned that “The coastal and estuarine sites are particularly vulnerable to disturbance by recreational use.” Yet now contend that a Commercial operation would have no impact. Further highlighting the absurdity of this proposal.
We the petitioners call on the Minister and the DPI to immediately scrap the proposal to allow for any type of Commercial fishing in Bournda Lagoon and Sandy Beach Creek, any other outcome is simply unacceptable to the community.
The case of Frustration, freeing Peter Greste
Watching the case of Peter Greste, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed is becoming increasingly frustrating as the delays and inaction pile up. What should be most concerning to all is that for a case that receives such high profile attention where are the experts who can detail how these events unfold?
When a plane goes missing news services run commentary from the best aviation experts they can find, when there is a storm approaching Australia’s best meteorologists are called in to give their best predictions and forecasts. But when an Australian is imprisoned, kidnapped or missing overseas we get no such expert advice. Discussion shows like ABC’s The Drum and QandA ask for the opinion of the unqualified; journalists offer up their best guesses and politicians tell us they are doing their best. But how can we know the best is being done, how can we know if those guesses are right or the opinions wrong if we don’t have any expert advice as a benchmark from which to work?
This is not an appeal of my own to seek media attention nor feather my own nest, I want nor enjoy neither. But I am one of two senior advocates at Australia’s largest and longest running prisoner support service for people detained abroad. I have managed high profile cases, I have worked on many of such cases in Egypt and have been responsible for the release of unjustly held prisoners from the very prison complex in which Peter and his colleagues are currently held.
This is but my job, yet to those in the media to whom I have offered my opinion I have been dismissed by journalists that judging our conversations knew next to nothing of the judicial process in Egypt nor how the formalities are conducted when an Australian is imprison abroad and shrug cluelessly when I ask about “Conops”. And yet it is these very journalists who will report on this case, who will offer up opinions and tell the public what they believe they should know. More worrying yet is how drastically out of their depth many of our politicians are. Asked about the action they are taking, politicians from all sides give the sort of answers that could be provided by any observer of the nightly news. For a country with a record of our citizens imprisoned abroad this is simply inexcusable.
I also feel desperately sorry for the Greste family and the families of Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohammed, almost daily we see them conduct themselves with stoic composure, grace and humility in the face of great torment and distress. But the reality is I have seen at least 100 other families go through the same thing, most out of the public spotlight but all sharing one thing in common. A Government and a Press that is hopelessly out of their depth to assist those most in need. Families are often more than wary of offering any public criticism of Government whom despite their inabilities are one of the only sources of information and potential assistance.
So it then falls on we the public and the press as the fourth estate to ensure Government is held to account and pressured into doing all they can for a citizen in need. And even more so for a citizen who has committed no crime and in fact was doing his job in the service of all of us to deliver the very free press we so desire. While it is commendable that so many in the global media have shown solidarity with Mr Greste and freeing the AJ Staff, Posting pics on social media is simply not enough. Twitter is not the voice that will force the release of Mr Greste, but a much more powerful one is held by the global press. Their TV stations, their newspapers, their radio programs. These are the tools that must be used by journalists most committed to see the AJ Staff released. Forget the selfie with the hastag, pick up your microphone, your camera or your pen. Because it is these tools that not only capture the widest audience but place the most pressure on the people in power whom will decide Mr Greste’s future.
From pressuring the Australian Government to do more, to speaking to experts so they know what that more looks like, to exposing the horrendous treatment of the press in Egypt. The media must task themselves with this fight for one very important reason… it was precisely this sort of quality journalism and exposure of the truth that landed the AJ Staff and Mr Greste in prison in the first place. To fight this battle the very best weapon to use is the one the Egyptian Government has so clearly targeted in this case.
Queue Jumpers, Dead Hookers and Savages
Queue Jumpers, Dead Hookers and Savages; The real faceless men and women of Australian Politics.
“We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man. (Yes)”
The healing power in the truth of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr’s words was not just in their wisdom, not just in their moral authority but because they were delivered by a man who was “the other” of his time. The Civil rights movement in the United States was largely centred around abolishing public and private acts of discrimination against Black People. The Jim Crow laws of the South were designed to ensure despite the confederacy loss in the Civil War, African Americans while not kept as slaves were to be second class citizens. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr was one of these such citizens. So where then must we ask in modern battles for civil rights are the voices of Asylum Seekers, First Nations peoples and yes, Sex Workers? If we truly believe in the democratic ideal of Nothing About Us Without Us, the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members the group(s) affected by that policy. Then where are the loud voices in public, in the media and policy circles of the three “other” groups that I mentioned?
The answer is these groups of “others” are deliberately shut out and the air that would be a space for their voices taken by others. As Liz Thompson brilliantly pointed out in regards to speakers at protests against the treatment of Asylum Seekers “Where is the invitation to the delegates, the resisters and those who brought down Woomera and Baxter from within last time, some of whom are pretty easy to find with a phone call to @RISErefugee.” The answer, as I believe Liz also suggested, is too many non-“others” are speaking and filling the space that is most desperately needed to be filled by the “others”. Would there have been as much impact from Dr King’s famous “I Have a Dream” Speech if it had been delivered by anyone but an African American? Of course not.
Even those of us who advocate on behalf of “others” are not always from that group. In fact in the current Asylum Seeker debate virtually nobody is and thus the power of their words is not only not felt, it is never even heard. Our role as advocates should never be to gain attention for ourselves, never raise a dollar for our own need and to always to lift our clients up above us so that they may be seen and they may be heard. The Indigenous warriors of Chiapas Mexico, the Zapatistas of EZLN have a motto – Para todos todo, para nosotros nada! “For everyone, everything. For us, nothing” They are the “others” but as advocates they know that it is everyone they represent that should be the beneficiaries of their struggles. And the name of their struggle? The Other Campaign.
The very purpose of creating this blog was to promote positive messages about Indigenous Australia, to give air to the issues that matter and to refuse the mainstream media and many politicians very real attempts to paint all things First Nations Peoples as bad, lazy and lacking. Yet despite the efforts of many even the ABC continues to ignore the importance of Nothing About Us Without Us. I have repeatedly contacted The Drum and Q and A over their lack of Indigenous representation, especially when discussing issues directly related to Indigenous people… And heaven forbid be allowed to discuss other issues as well. These inquires conducted formally and often by social media are met with a sort of glazed stupidity, as if this was obvious to nobody and who are these Indigenous experts they could be having on their programs anyway?! If journalists and producers of our National Broadcaster do not know the very existence of Indigenous people of excellence then they have no place in those positions. This is the shutting out of “other” voices, whether deliberate or from sheer ignorance the impact is the same. And now it appears the most IndigenousX of all media, Tracker Magazine, will be shut down. Why? Well we the public have been told a number of reasons, but my opinion is that it is because they have dared tell the truth as “others” about “other” issues.
And if there has been a long tradition of abuse against tribal people and those fleeing war and famine the same has been true for those working in the “oldest profession in the world”. When was the last time you heard a Sex Worker speak in the mainstream media about the issues effecting them? The answer is almost never and if they do then this group “othered” by our society must hide their identity or change their name. I offer no opinion here on sex work or the sex industry, but when people stand up and speak about what is best for sex workers by calling them “prostitutes” I must question their motive. When they are told they are priviledged to even have a voice if they manage to get one I say this is wrong. And when a sex worker is brutally murdered in our cities streets and the crime goes unreported by the media I say that this group of “others” has been relegated to second class citizens, demonised and criminalised and is it any wonder that the Scarlet Alliance, the national peak sex worker organisation in Australia, has adopted the motto Nothing About Us Without Us.
Just as I have offered no opinion on the Sex Industry I will not offer an opinion in this article on the struggles of Asylum Seekers and First Nations Peoples other than to say the present conscience of our society that is surely unacceptable while these struggles continue will remain our future until voices are given to the Dr King’s of these issues. The Dr Kings who are currently behind wire on Manus, who live in the many First Nations of this land and those whose work is Sex. “Others” are not issues, nor are their advocates them. Taking away nothing from their work but Al Gore is not a climate scientist and Sarah Hanson Young is not an Asylum Seeker. They are political advocates who can be either respected or lampooned, but only the true human face of these struggles can show us their humanity when they are given the space and the voice to do so. Whether it is the MSM and Politicians who deliberately shut out these voices or the advocates who unwittingly take away the air that belongs to others, we will be a community not with a scar, but a gaping wound in the very fabric of who we are until these voices are heard.
It is easy to be painted as a Queue Jumper, a Savage or just another Dead Hooker when you are not given a voice, when your face is never seen and your humanity never acknowledged. When will this end….
“How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Open the Prison Gates on Indigenous Incarceration #FODI
Scanning across the streams of ideas and thoughts that came out of the festival of dangerous ideas I was given much to think about, values of my own to reassess and talented speakers with books I will seek to find time to read. But Dangerous? Not really, a lot of it seemed like common sense coming from Intelligent people who just so happen to be ahead of the social curve. Similarly on the issue of the serious over representation of Indigenous people in the prison system much is written by exceptional people, who clearly identify the magnitude of the problem and offer some good long term solutions that are sadly ignored by a large section of the public and government. But what of today, right now, not just in the years to come?
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples make up 2.5% of the population, yet account for 26% of the prison population. For Juveniles the figures are worse, 40% of those under the age of 18 in the criminal justice system are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth or children. Those children were, according the Governments own figures, 11 times more likely to be found guilt than their non-Indigenous counter parts and 18 times more likely to be in detention. Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody things have only gotten worse and another generation is being lost to the walls and bars (http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129542188). Based on these simple figures alone it is quite clear that Indigenous people are targeted more frequently by law enforcement, are more often found guilty and much more likely to serve a custodial sentence, both children and adults, for the same crimes also committed by non-Indigenous Australians. Yet the public debate still centres on placing the large portion of the responsibility on Indigenous people while mutual responsibility, let alone state culpability, are scoffed at.
On a real world level take Wilcannia NSW, population 604 of which 77% are Aboriginal people, sees arrests per year exceed the total population. That means some in the community are being arrested more than twice a year, in 1993 that figure was 25 times a year per person in town, some 20,000 arrests in one year for the small country town. While that figure has reduced it remains frighteningly high and most of those arrests are for public drunkenness. Imagine if you can every person in Kings Cross on a Saturday night being arrested for being on the street after consuming too much alcohol. It would be a grave over reaction (although an easy way to fill the cells) if ever there was one, but no different to any night of the week around the country in areas where a considerable number of the population is Indigenous. Feeling targeted is not an illusion of the mind but an everyday reality for those who so often treat undiagnosed health conditions, mental and physical, with the cheapest medicine in town.
The social harm the constant imprisonment of individuals for the most minor of crimes is difficult to measure with any accuracy but take this one figure to give you an idea of just how bad things are. An Aboriginal man in Wilcannia has a life expectancy of just 37 years of age (http://tinyurl.com/mxd4dtj). Let me say that again, a life expectancy of 37 years of age. By 25 you are middle aged, by 30 your health is deteriorating and by 37 you are dead. If Wilcannia was a country it would have the lowest life expectancy in the world. Worse than any African country you can name, worse that any nation stricken by civil war or health epidemic. Yet this occurs in Australia, whom the WHO says Australians can expect a life expectancy of 81 years of age, the 4th highest in the world. The divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians could not be higher, it is an inequality unmatched around the world.
So while I fully endorse long term solutions, I endorse rational and reasonable policy making based on community consultation that work with community assets and not only their negatives and I fully endorse the much needed building of health, education and employment infrastructure to benefit Indigenous people, I also cannot accept that such a problem can be left only to long term solutions. Just as when a major natural disaster or health epidemic hits another nation we do not simply accept long term solutions but rapid action to ease the burden on those suffering right this very minute.
And we can ease that burden right now, we can reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in prison at this very moment and we can ensure that another generation is not lost to the cells. It will also save billions of dollars that could be better redirected to health, education, legal & community organisations and employment.
My dangerous idea is this: – All Indigenous prisoners (Male, female, adult & juvenile) currently serving a custodial sentence for a victim-less non-violent crime should be released immediately. Their records wiped clean and allowed to return home.
I’m often told that Aboriginal people benefit from imprisonment as they can better access health services or recover from addiction. So ask yourself this, you’ve had a night out for drinks with friends, you have tonsillitis and you are being told the best way to be cured is not attend your local GP where you will recoup a part of the cost with Government backed Medicare, but to go to your local prison, spend a few months there and hey presto your sore throat is cured and so is your coffee habit. Would you accept that scenario? Let alone if both the addiction and the health issue were far more serious! The vast bulk of those inside prisons suffer mental health issues and have at some point in their life suffered abuse, more of which is likely to follow inside.
So why, for victim-less, non-violent crime would you keep these people imprisoned unless it was simply to warehouse a national disgrace you and the nation do not wish to face. How many young Prof. Larissa Behrendts, Cyril Riolis, Jessica Mauboys or Dr Kelvin Kongs are there sitting in prison cells? And are we willing to do what it takes to ensure another generation is not needlessly lost to our obsession with incarcerating a problem our nation created.
Like those presented at the FODI I do not believe this is dangerous, but common sense, perhaps ahead of what is comfortable for most. But it needs to happen now!
Jeffrey Lee – Finalist NT Australian of the Year Awards 2014
Jeffrey Lee MA is a park ranger in Kakadu for over 20 years and the traditional owner of Koongarra; 1,200 hectares of wilderness, also containing rich reserves of uranium. Most of his adult life has spent fighting to have his land protected from uranium mining. After taking his battle to the world heritage committee in Paris and turning down a large fortune for a clean river and healthy land Jeffrey has recently won his battle and his land will now be incorporated into the national park where it will be protected indefinitely.
This morning he has been recognised for his outstanding contribution by being named as one of four Northern Territory finalists in the Australian of the Year Awards 2014.
Bring Him Out – Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota Native American, is a federal prisoner serving two consecutive life sentences for the murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents in 1975.
His arrest, his trial and his imprisonment have been tainted with political pressure, falsified evidence and witness intimidation. After more than three decades in prison for a crime it has never been proven he committed and with his health now failing it is time he was released and this sorry chapter in American history closed. Nothing will undo the damage to Mr Peltier’s life nor fix the centuries of destruction brought upon his people, but only his release can bring about a forward step in the right direction. No prison should ever hold a political prisoner!
50 Years On, Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther King’s speech more than resonates 50 years later, it remains a statement of fact, a call to justice that has yet to be fulfilled.
Help save Andrew & Myuran
Andrew and Myuran, two young Australians, face execution in Indonesia. They have admitted trying to traffic drugs to Australia. They have exhausted their appeals. All that can save them is clemency from Indonesia’s President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. We ask you to help in respectfully seeking clemency.
Help save Andrew & Myuran
Sign our petition, spread the word and see other ways you can help.
Sign here – mercycampaign.org