A Missouri grand jury has decided Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, will not be charged.
The rest you know.
The police have yet again either killed a black man or allowed a non black man who did the killing to go free. What is statistically strange about today’s decision is this – According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. attorneys prosecuted 162,000 federal cases in 2010, the most recent year for which we have data. Grand juries declined to return an indictment in 11 of them. Grand Juries are a rubber stamp, Former New York state Chief Judge Sol Wachtler famously remarked that a prosecutor could persuade a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” That is of course unless the Grand Jury is deciding to indict a police officer, rarely does it even get to that stage, then the police officer almost always flips the statistics on their head and faces no charges.
Now there is absolutely no point in me adding anything else, millions of column inches, radio reports and TV news stories will cover all the gory details. From the killing of Michael Brown, to the following riots, the travesty of justice and who knows what will happen next. Black child Ivins Rosier a 17 year old boy received 23 years in jail having been tried as an adult for killing a retired police dog. While the killers of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown have walked free after shooting dead unarmed black boys.
In Australia… cue the outrage!
This would be perfectly acceptable, mandatory, inspiring even that from all this distance away thousands of Australian’s have taken to social media to express solidarity with Ferguson and disgust with the US justice system. But while Australian’s line up for this noble cause they are deafly silent as to the Black Deaths in Custody that occur right under their noses, right here, under another Red, White and Blue flag, in the United States of Australia.
Tell me Australia, about the time you took to social media in your thousands and exploded with anger at the death of Mr Briscoe (Pictured above) at the hands of Police in Alice Springs. You can see if you wish reporting on this website, that highlighted the case, that showed Mr Briscoe slowly dying in a cell, that showed his head being smashed into a wall and which showed his blood being casually cleaned up with an officers foot.
Or you can read about Ms Dhu, dead at the hands of police in WA while in custody for a few unpaid fines. Who begged and pleaded to see a doctor, yet died an agonising and needless death. Also from WA you can read about Mr Ward an Aboriginal elder from the Ngaanyatjarra lands in Western Australia, who having been driven a total of 922km in a boiling hot prison van literally cooked to death. He was a artist, a lands right activist who visited China as part of a delegation, a skilled hunter, an interrupter and assisted scientists in conservation. He’s dead at the hands of the justice system for a crime he was alleged to have committed that would have resulted in no more than a fine.
In NSW young TJ Hickey was chased by police to his death and died impaled on a fence. Witnesses believe his bike was clipped by a police car, police say otherwise. No action was taken. In Queensland on Palm Island, Mulrunji would become the 147th Aboriginal person to die in police custody in just 14 years. They were the 14 years that had followed the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody. Mulrunji had been arrested for causing a public nuisance, allegedly, but died a short time later when his liver and spleen were ruptured in two at the hands of police. Back in WA Aboriginal man Marlon Noble served 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit, in fact he never even faced trial, he was simply held, imprisoned and warehoused like perished goods.
There are countless other cases, by countless I mean hundreds in the last 30 years, each and every time the Aboriginal community fight for justice. Each and every time communities are left without justice at the hands of the justice system.
These incidents didn’t happen in Compton or Atlanta, in NYC or the Southside of Chicago. They didn’t happen in rural Texas, inner city Memphis or in the backwaters of Georgia and they certainly didn’t happen in Ferguson.
They happened in your country, in your state, in your city and under your version of a flag wearing Red, White and Blue. The officers here, like the officer from Ferguson have never faced Justice. The Black community here, like the Black community there have begged, pleaded, lobbied and advocated for Justice. Both communities have been failed.
So why haven’t the cases that happened under your nose received anywhere near the attention? Why isn’t Ms Dhu “Trending” like Ferguson is right here in Australia. Why aren’t there thousands of angry and appalled Australians taking to social media calling for Justice for OUR BLACK DEAD…
…. Well that’s on you!
On the morning of August 25th 2005 the category 5 Hurricane named Katrina made landfall in Florida, it would go on to cause carnage and destruction across Southern States, cause $100billion worth of damage, leave tens of thousands homeless and claim the lives of nearly 2000 people. As this tragedy unfolded and America’s eyes were forced once again to view its deep-seated racism on prime time TV, this time by the disproportionate number of Black people killed, injured and struggling post Katrina, some truth began to emerge. Despite the horrendous loss of life, the struggles to survive of those left behind and the apocalyptic damage caused to many towns and cities, the American media largely focussed on a handful of people (some black) who were shop lifting and stealing. At the obligatory benefit concert a week later, with lives still being lost and others battling to find food and shelter, Kanye West made the following statements.
“George Bush doesn’t care about Black people”. Driven by frustration at the lack of Government response and action, driven by the demonising of an entire community struggling against a once in a generation storm, Kanye West (Not known for his eloquent political prose) said some real shit, George Bush and by inference the US Government and power structures neither care for nor like very much Black folk. Of course as time went by, Kanye West apologised, Bush wrote in his memoirs that West’s comments were a “low point” and told a National TV audience that “it was one of the most disgusting moments of my Presidency”. To which the interviewer, NBC’s high respected Matt Lauer, simply nodded along. Yes, that’s right, to the President behind the Iraq and Afghan Wars, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Systematic torture, the US Attorneys crisis, The GFC and yes the disgraceful response to Hurricane Katrina… the problem was not any of these tings, they were not low points nor disgusting. That said the 43rd President of the United States of America were the comments made by a rapper.
And so out of the tragic death of 22 year old Indigenous woman, Julieka Dhu, let me say, Australia doesn’t care about Black people. Let me correct that, around the same time as Ms Dhu was slowly and agonisingly dying in a West Australian jail cell, Michael Brown a young Black man was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Rightly, a large number of Australian’s were outraged by what had happened to this young man, it was intensely followed on social media, broadcast on national TV and discussed at length in the weekend papers. But you could count on one hand the number of journalists who even know Ms Dhu’s name, nor politicians who have made statements about her death, nor protests and complaints from the Non-Indigenous community.
Ms Dhu was in jail in the Pilbara (Western Australia) for $1000 in unpaid fines, she had been attempting to see a doctor for a leg infection when arrested but “despite days of vomiting, worsening pain and complaints of fever and paralysis — first in her lower body and then her face — authorities deemed her medically fit to be kept in custody after two visits to the nearby hospital, although she reportedly wasn’t seen by a doctor.” Her partner Dion Ruffin was held in the cell nearest cell to Ms Dhu’s “We had to beg for hours to get them to send her to the hospital, she was in so much pain and was vomiting, it got worse and worse until she couldn’t move her legs and was slurring.”
“She was begging for help until her last breath.’’
Australia doesn’t care about it’s own Black People.
And then there is this…. “there is also medical evidence of a head injury, possibly sustained while being held in the South Hedland Police Station watch-house”. Mr Ruffin described what he could hear “I couldn’t see into her cell, she said she was on the floor and when the cops finally agreed to take her to hospital the last time they were laughing and saying she was acting. They opened the cell, and I heard one of them say get up, but she couldn’t and she was begging for help to get up and I heard a big thud, and then silence. I saw her being dragged out of the cell by her arms, her chin was on her chest and I cried out to her, but she was staring down, blank.’’
Is that thud the blow that ended Ms Dhu’s life after days of agony and suffering? We may never know, the case of course has been handed to an internal affairs unit, that will then report to the state’s coroner and….. forgive me if we have been down this road before.
It was in the Pilbara 30 years ago where 16 year old John Pat died from severe head injuries while being held in police custody that help spark the Royal Commission into Black (Aboriginal) Deaths in Custody. Of course nothing changed, Black men and women continue to die in gruesome fashion in custody around the nation. Again in WA, an Elder died in 2008 when he was literally cooked to death in the back of a transport van. Mr Ward was driven for 4 hours in the back of the van, in 50 degree heat without air-conditioning and died of heatstroke and burns just as the journey ended.
Of course often “negligence” is the alleged problem, a lack of staff or the appropriate training, investigations are had and promises of never again. Largely there is silence from the broader community, maybe Black deaths in Australia aren’t as “sexy” as those in the US like the tragically departed Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown. Maybe talking about Black Deaths here wont get you as many likes, retweets or favourites, maybe it’s the media’s fault for not telling you it had happened, maybe there is so much wrong in this world that what happens next to you is drowned out by what happens a world away. Or maybe you live in a country, Australia, that doesn’t care about it’s own Black people.
My comments are not disturbing, nor are they a low point and for them I will not apologise. The needless death of Black people, young and old, male and female in the custody of the state in this nation is what is disgusting, it is a low point and from the cells all that can be heard is your silence. But as there was in the death of Mr Pat or the death of Mulrunji whose liver was split in half on Palm Island, or 22 year old Ms Dhu there was a sound, her partner heard it and it was a “thud”. And if you watch this video of another of the 100’s of Black deaths in custody since the Royal Commission was held that was meant to put an end to all this, you too can hear the thud too. In the space of being in police custody for 2hrs, Mr Briscoe, another Black man in Australia was dead. You will hear the thud, you will see where it comes from and then once your eyes have closed, and if you remain silent, there will be another and another and another….
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.
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.
There are worthy legal and academic discussions to be had about the proposed repeal of section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. You will not find such discussions here, Bolt’s law as it has become known is not about the law, policy or protecting freedom of speech. It is the public vehicle with which the acts of racial arsonists like Bolt are not only being defended but encouraged.
When now Senator for the State of Minnesota and three time Emmy winning Comedian Al Franken was asked in 2004 by commercial backers why it was important to start a politically left wing radio station he paused for a moment… Those backers had come with their cheque books open and ready to support the radio venture and expected Franken, a Harvard Graduate and Saturday Night Live performer and writer, to convince them with one of his famous light hearted comedic lines. Instead the pause ended and Franken angrily exclaimed…. “It’s about answering these fuckheads that have been on the air, and lying, and delivering this simplistic black-and-white babble about how the world works. As if they know something. Sean Hannity does not know a thing. Rush Limbaugh does not know a thing.”
Andrew Bolt does not know a thing, Piers Akerman does not know a thing, Alan Jones does not know a thing. And together along with their many friends in the Government and Media they have been delivering simplistic Black and White babble about how the world works and it’s about time someone answered these fuckheads!
We are told by Attorney General Brandis that this is about protecting free speech and that Andrew Bolt was unfairly silenced by the courts. Was this the silencing that took place in 2002 when Bolt was successfully sued by Magistrate Jelena Popovic for defamation? When a jury found Bolt’s article was ” not true, that it was not a faithful and accurate record of judicial proceedings”, after which Bolt threw a tantrum on the court steps which contained comments that were “misleading” and “disingenuous” according to Justice Bongiorno and the Court of Appeal found to be “at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless”. Is this the sort of behaviour Bolt’s law will protect? No, of course not! Magistrates will still be able to sue Andrew Bolt for defamation and good luck to them, but this immediately points out the hypocrisy of Brandis and Co., who seem comfortable with this check on free speech but not so if it prevents racial bigotry.
Because that it seems is the court case that matters, when in Bolt v Eatock Andrew Bolt was found to have contravened section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. And once again a court was not at all flattering in its criticism of his journalism. “Distorting the truth, not acting in objective good faith, inflammatory, selective misrepresentation, cynical, derisive” and so on. Andrew Bolt has form, how many other journalists hold the distinction of twice having courts find their work to be not only defamatory or racist, but just plain old untruthful. And it is not just in the courts, Bolt who does not believe in the Stolen Generation (See his book “Still Not Sorry) famously challenged Professor Robert Manne to “name just 10” Aboriginal children who had been stolen. Manne named 50…, this of course was not good enough for Bolt.
An important point to remember here is that Manne is a Professor, educated at Melbourne and Oxford Universities. Bolt is not. Bolt is also not a climate scientist and does not believe in either climate change or it being a result of human activity while 97% of climate scientists “agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities”. My source for this quote? NASA! Is it any wonder a court has on more than one occasion found Bolt to be untruthful, misleading, disingenuous, dishonest and very importantly in this debate “inflammatory”. Because that is what he does, he sets fires, he is a racial arsonist who uses falsehoods to stir fear and hatred in the community. He divides people with his “Black and White Babble” on race, climate change and multiculturalism and just like his American counter part named by Franken, Sean Hannity, he works for Rupert Murdoch. All of whom profit from the many fires of community upheaval these men start.
And when the flames get a little out of control and Mr Bolt gets singed he once again throws one of his famous tantrums. Either on the steps of a court house, by refusing to go to work as he did just weeks ago or claiming that he is being silenced. This is a man with a TV Show, a Radio Show, a Blog and the most read Newspaper column in the country. Silenced? Based on court findings alone this man is lucky to have a job that doesn’t include scrubbing toilets and yet with all that he has we need a change to the law to protect him according to the current Government.
Bolt, a denier of the genocide committed against the Indigenous people of this land, holds something in common with another man who is a genocide denier. Gerald Toben has also been found to have contravened section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act. Toben, another racial arsonist, makes his money denying the catastrophic genocide that is the Holocaust. And just like Bolt he too throws a tantrum every time he is found to be on the wrong side of the law. Twice he has served time in prison for his offences, he has been found in contempt of court and along with a group of other holocaust deniers including a former Ku Klux Klan leader attended an event in Iran that sought to wash the Holocaust from history books.
And despite the findings of a court , the Adelaide Institute founded by Toben, has stated “‘What Andrew Bolt said was basically true and factual” and supports the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act and other laws on racial vilification that stifle ”legitimate” historical debate.
That’s what this repeal is about, protecting bigots like Bolt and Toben. Senator Brandis admitted as much when he stated people have “a right to be bigots”. That is to say that the likes of Bolt and Toben have a right to be racial arsonists, setting off fires wherever they like with no view to the very real world consequences that result. The Foundation for Young Australians conducted extensive research which found “the experience of racism has serious impacts on health and wellbeing”, the current and historical impacts of anti-Semitism are undeniable and the racist policies perpetrated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples is the cancer that still eats at this nation. Indian students are beaten in the streets, Islamphobia is an everyday experience for the Muslim Community and “70% of secondary school students experience at least one form of racism” and yet for the sake of untruthful, inflammatory, convicted racists we will repeal a section of law that seeks to tackle racism in our society…
You must be fucking joking!
What happened to victims rights? Not one of the victims of Bolt or Toben support the repeal of 18c, not a single community group made up of those effected by 18c support its repeal. From Aboriginal leaders like Marcia Langton, to a cross section of Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups to just about every Human Rights organisation there has been condemnation. About the only person who does not oppose the repeal is new Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson, who before being personally appointed to the six figure salary by George Brandis himself worked at the IPA championing the rights of Bolt above all others.
We can get easily caught up in overly academic and legal discussions on this issue or we can accept in a world far more complex than the black and white babble sold to us by Bolt, that ethnically diverse communities like ours need some basic rules in place that uphold the dignity of all. Andrew Bolt doesn’t know a thing, but if the repeal of 18c goes ahead he will be free to use his untruths and dishonesty to set off racial fires around the land. If he is silenced now on his blog, radio show, TV show and newspaper column imagine the carnage he will sow when he is freed from the shackles of decency. And the fallout will be on the heads of the Government and anyone else who thought 21st century Australia should return to the laws of the jungle.
Rosie Ann Fulton: one of dozens of intellectually disabled Aboriginal people stuck in prison without conviction
By John Stewart
An investigation has revealed dozens of intellectually disabled Aboriginal people are being kept in prison indefinitely because of a lack of proper healthcare facilities.
The ABC’s Lateline program exposed the case of 23-year-old Rosie Anne Fulton, who has spent the past 18 months in a Kalgoorlie jail without a trial or conviction after she was charged with driving offences.
The magistrate in her case declared her unfit to plead because she is intellectually impaired – a victim of foetal alcohol syndrome.
Her legal guardian, former police officer Ian McKinlay, says Rosie Anne ended up on a prison-based supervision order because there were no alternatives in the area at the time.
“At the moment this outcome is almost entirely reserved for Aboriginal, Indigenous Australians,” he said.
The Aboriginal Disability Justice Campaign says there are at least 30 Indigenous people in her situation around the country.
Mr McKinlay has been trying to get her moved to Alice Springs to be closer to her family.
“She rings several times a week, sometimes twice a day, wanting to know when she is coming back to live in Alice Springs,” he said.
Last year, the Northern Territory health department agreed to move Rosie Anne to a secure care facility built next to the Alice Springs prison.
The centre was specifically designed to house people with intellectual disabilities and challenging behaviours.
Mr McKinlay says he received repeated assurances from the department that Rosie Anne would be moved there last year.
“They identified her as a prime candidate for secure care and they rejected any other form of service that guardians were advocating for pending the completion of this facility,” he said.
But last month he received a new letter from the health department, this time rejecting Rosie Anne.
The letter states that she is not compatible with the male residents staying at the centre.
“From a clinical risk management perspective, the risks posed to Ms Fulton’s safety were she transferred to the facility are untenable,” the letter stated.
A statement issued from the NT health department said secure care facilities were not gender specific.
“The Department of Health always holds the health and wellbeing of clients as paramount,” the statement said.
“Due to its responsibility to client privacy, the department is unable to provide comment on specific client circumstances, treatment or care.”
Mark O’Reilly, principal legal officer at the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service, says some of his clients have waited in jail for an outcome for five years.
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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.”