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Category Archives: Social Justice

Law Council calls for more clarity about proposed family violence regimes

Law Council of Australia Media Release

While the Law Council of Australia strongly supports the intent of the Family Law Amendment (Federal Family Violence Orders) Bill 2021, there are several issues within the legislation that need clarification.

Speaking after the public hearing before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee, President of the Law Council Dr Jacoba Brasch QC said, “while the Bill is designed to make things easier for vulnerable people, we are looking for some clarity on how the proposed scheme will actually work and how it would interact with existing state and territory Family Violence Order regimes.

“The Law Council is also concerned about the potential impact of this scheme on the workload of federal family law courts.

“It appears that the proposed Bill only allows for a person experiencing family violence, who has proceedings before the family law courts, to seek a final Federal Family Violence Order (FFVO) and not an interim order.

“This means that a person experiencing family violence and who needs urgent or immediate protection, will still seek remedies from the state and territory courts.

“It is also not clear how a person would apply for and obtain a FFVO, and when that might happen.

“It is critical that the government engage closely with the courts and legal assistance bodies to ensure that any measures proposed are accompanied by adequate resourcing for the courts, their support services, and the legal assistance sector, to cope with the additional workload we envisage will arise should the FFVO regime come into effect.

The Law Council is also concerned that the Bill may inadvertently create opportunities for perpetrators of family violence to delay determination of family violence and family law issues, by increasing the number, length and cost of family law and family violence proceedings through an additional FFVO pathway.

Given the serious nature of the Law Council’s concerns, more information about how the scheme will operate and how quickly a final FFVO can be granted is needed.”

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Denmark Offshores the Right to Asylum

This has been a fantasy of Danish governments for some time. There have been gazes of admiration towards countries like Australia, where processing refugees and asylum-seekers is a task offloaded, with cash incentives, to third countries (Papua New Guinea and Nauru come to mind). Danish politicians, notably a good number among the Social Democrats, have dreamed about doing the same to countries in Africa, returning to that customary pattern of making poorer states undertake onerous burdens best undertaken by more affluent states.

The government of Mette Frederiksen has now secured amendments to the Danish Aliens Act that authorises the transfer of asylum seekers to other countries as their applications are being processed. The measure was secured on June 3 by a vote of 70 to 24, though critics must surely look at the absence of 85 MPs as telling. The measure is not automatic: the Danish government will have to secure (or bribe) the trust of third party states to assume their share.

Government spokesman Rasmus Stoklund left few doubts as to what the new law entailed. “If you apply for asylum in Denmark, you know that you will be sent back to a country outside Europe, and therefore we hope that people stop seeking asylum in Denmark.”

Stoklund’s language of warning evokes parallels with Australia’s own campaign of discouragement, marked by a highly-budgeted effort featuring such savage products as No Way. You Will Not Make Australia Home. In the video, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, then chief of Australia’s effort to repel naval arrivals known as Operation Sovereign Borders, is stern in threatening that “if you travel by boat without a visa you will never make Australia home.” Other delights involve a graphic novel, translated into 18 different languages, promising trauma and suffering to those who end up in a detention centre in the Pacific, and the feature film Journey, where an Iranian mother and her child seek sanctuary in Australia. The Danish propaganda arm will have some catching up to do.

Who then, are the third country candidates? Denmark already has a memorandum of understanding with the Rwandan government that covers migration, asylum, return and repatriation. Its purpose is to target an asylum system which supposedly gives incentives to “children, women and women to embark on dangerous journeys along migratory routes, while human traffickers earn fortunes.” When it was made, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks could see the writing on the wall, calling it “unconscionable” and even “potentially unlawful.” But for Rwanda, just as it is with Pacific island states such as Nauru, money is to be made. Such countries effectively replace demonised people smugglers as approved traffickers and middlemen.

The response to the legislation from those in the business of advocating for refugees and the right to asylum has been uniform in curtness and distress. Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, voiced strong opposition to “efforts that seek to externalise or outsource asylum and international protection obligations to other countries.”

UNHCR spokesman Babar Balloch could only make the relevant point that the legislation ran “counter to the letter and spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention.” Moves to externalise “asylum processing and protecting of refugees to a third country… seriously risk setting in motion a process of gradual erosion of the international protection system, which has withstood the test of time over the last 70 years.”

Balloch is evidently not as attentive as he thinks: those wishing to externalise such obligations have well and truly set this train in motion. The 2018 EU summit went so far as to debate the building of offshore processing centres in Morocco, Algeria and Libya to plug arrival routes via the Mediterranean. The UK government is also toying with the idea of an offshore asylum system.

Bill Frelick of Human Rights Watch’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Division distils the relevant principle being sacrificed. “By sending people to a third country, what you are essentially doing is taking what is a legal right and making it a discretionary political choice.” It is an increasingly attractive, if grotesque policy, for wealthier countries with little appetite to share the burdens of sharing the processing claims under the UNHCR’s Global Compact on Refugees.

Unfortunately for Frelkick and their like, the Danish government is proving derivatively consistent. It has been opting out of the European asylum system since the 2000s, doing its bit to fragment an already incoherent approach in the bloc. The centre right government of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, just by way of example, was proud to reduce the number of asylum seekers and those wishing to settle in Denmark. In 2004, 1,607 people were granted asylum compared to 6,263 three years prior.

The approach of the current government is to negate the very right to seeking asylum in Denmark, aided by third countries. And there is not much left to do, given that the country received a mere 1,515 asylum applications in 2020, its lowest in two decades. Of those, 601 were granted permits to stay.

Lurking, as it always does in these situations, is the Australian example. The right to asylum is vanishing before the efforts of bureaucrats and border closing populists. The UN Refugee Convention, like other documents speaking to freedoms and rights, is becoming a doomed relic.

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Can legislation named after a Russian help persecuted Muslims in China?

By Bahtiyar Bora

The Uyghur people of north-west China are now the most persecuted group on the planet with one million people locked up in “re-education” camps and numerous atrocities occurring daily.

The U.S. government, the parliaments of the U.K., Canada and The Netherlands now all say it is clearly genocide.

The brutal regime of Xi Jinping is trying to eradicate Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims.

And while there’s been an avalanche of bad publicity in recent years for the Chinese government it continues to deny its actions and presses on with inhumane policies.

In recent weeks New Zealand stood up against the regime with a unanimous parliamentary vote condemning what it called “severe human rights abuses.”

The resolution was put forward by ACT Party MP Brooke van Velden:

“Our conscience requires that we support this motion,” she said.

“Genocide does not require a war, it does not need to be sudden, it can be slow and deliberate and that is what is happening here.”

But worldwide criticism alone will not save my brothers and sisters in East Turkistan (Xinjiang).

One measure that could put serious pressure on Beijing is the so called “Magnitsky Act”. This legislation is designed to punish individual members of a government who are inflicting human rights abuses.

The law, which is being implemented in several countries, is named after a Russian citizen, Sergei Magnitsky, who was a tax advisor who exposed Kremlin corruption back in the early 2000’s.

For his whistleblowing he was jailed for 358 days. While in prison he developed pancreatitis and a blocked gall bladder, and was denied medical care. An investigation found that he had been physically assaulted shortly before his death.

Now his former colleague Bill Browder has travelled the globe promoting the Magnitsky Act which can be used to freeze the assets of human rights abusers and deny visas for international travel.

A form of the Magnitsky act is now before the Australian Parliament and has the backing of a multi-party committee.

But so far the Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not supported the legislation.

So now four Australian based Uyghur organisation have written to the PM urging him to support the bill and get it passed by the parliament.

In part our letter to Scott Morrison says:

Uyghurs in East Turkistan, Xinjiang China are suffering horrific human rights abuses, which a number of countries have determined to be genocide.

It is not just Uyghurs who are being abused. Tibetans, Hong Kongers, and others are being subjected to outrageous crimes against humanity and democracy by the CCP.

The legislation you are considering provides hope for thousands who have escaped persecution to call Australia home.

If Australia is serious about stopping the blatant abuse of Uyghur Muslims it must take stronger action against the Chinese government.

Passing Magnitsky legislation is one important way it could do that.

Almost very Australian Uyghur has family and friends still in Xinjiang, and it has been extremely distressing not to have communication, or finding out they have been sentenced to imprisonment or taken to work in labour camps.

Some would say making the Magnitsky Act part of Australian law is the least we can do.

We often boast of how important our democratic ideals are. Now is the time to truly live up to those ideals.

Bahtiyar Bora, Australian Uyghur Association

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Australia’s genocidal identity

Horrified barely scratches the surface of how I felt the day I learnt what is defined as genocide. After being directed to the United Nations 1948 Genocide Convention website. My heart sank reading Article II.

(Excerpt from the Article II of UN Website) In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Australia has a genocidal history

Looking through the eyes of my own Aboriginal ancestors, genocides were abundant in my personal history. My family line descends from the Stolen Generations, more than 60-years of what is considered the last definition of genocide. Like most First Nation People, my clans were victims of poisoned water holes massacring dozens at a time. Plus, retaliatory mass murders after colonial violence such as women raped resulted in a payback spearing or killing. Watching ABC’s The Pacific in the Wake of Capitan Cook, I heard a Maori woman describe herself as both coloniser and colonised. The line stuck me deeply. Having grown up knowing my ancestors oppressed my ancestors, was a hard place for a child let alone an adult. This statement was another take on my own words.

The founding of Australia was dark and unpleasant to say the least. Those who continue to deny the history, please read some of my other articles on The AIMN. Relevant topics can be found here, or here, or here. Colonialism has been determined to portray a nomadic people whom were dying out naturally. Considered from the Indigenous perspective this was a means of justifying the conquering of the people and illegal seizure of lands. Phrases such as ‘punitive expeditions’ and ‘disperse the natives’ frequent Australia’s history books. A means of disguising the actions of mass murder used against the Indigenous Peoples. Currently, the world is up in arms at China over the fourth item on the description. But Australia is ignoring the implications of what constitutes genocide enacted within our own shores. We always have!

On the 8th July 1949 Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The last ‘officially sanctioned’ act of genocide against the Indigenous People occurred in the 1930s. Sadly there are records of unsanctioned acts occurring much later than the official records reflect; covered up for fear of punishment. Historians are researching historical records in an attempt to bring more of these to light and improve the records of Australian history.

Whilst the majority of Australians believe genocide is not something Australia would participate in today, there are those like me who feel we cross the line when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations are concerned. Yes, even today in 2021! Historically the treatment of Indigenous Peoples was one of traumatic extremes. Australia’s history books belie this truth. But the words ‘war’ and ‘extermination’ have been used together to describe the treatment on more than one occasion.

“While Bathurst with its surrounding vicinity is engaged in an exterminating war, peace reigns around the ever verdant valley of Wellington.” And, When martial law had run its course extermination is the word that most aptly describes the result. As the old Roman said, “They made a solitude and called it peace’. The last effort of a doomed race thus ended.” (Excerpt from Aboriginal Sovereignty, Kevin Gilbert).

This is where the story of the Myall Creek Massacre provides the evidence not only of the massacre of the twenty eight Aborigines killed at Myall Creek but also of countless other massacres. Following his inquiry which he conducted in the Big (Gwydir) River district around Myall Creek, Police Magistrate Edward Denny Day reported to Governor George Gipps, “There is a war of extermination against the blacks in that part of the colony.” Additionally on 18th December 1838 on the morning seven of the perpetrators of the Myall Creek Massacre were to hang, the Head Gaoler, Henry Keck reported to Governor Gipps that all the men had confessed but they had said they “didn’t know it was against the law to kill blacks because it had happened so often throughout the colony.” Quite clearly those two quotes provide irrefutable evidence of just how common and widespread massacres of Aboriginal people were at that time so much so that any sceptics who choose to deny it are simply “burying their heads in the sand.” (Excerpt from the Myall Creek Massacre Website).

Today’s genocidal identity

Looking through the eyes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people today, I argue the genocides against us never ended. The White Australia Policy and some of the others that outrightly disadvantaged First Nations Peoples were abolished. Sadly, many of the values remain in the hearts of some Australian’s today. We have had the same beliefs displayed by government and media identities today; fuelling the divide drawn in the line 233 years ago.

Racially driven profiling stems from the historic values founding the “Lucky Country”. Systematic racism exists because of the beliefs at the core of the country. Foundations that have never been addressed since they were established. Whilst they are no longer legally viable in the open, many disappeared beneath the surface layer. Our populations have always been unfairly targeted by the colonial system since invasion. In many ways we still are.

Genocide is not merely described as mass murder. Personally, I focus on the second item on the definition list. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to the group. But because the definition states “genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Australia has been able to get away with actions that should be classed as genocides upon the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Laws preventing murder and upholding human rights have enabled the ‘Lucky County’ to refuse the truth about Australia’s current day acts of genocide.

Deaths in Custody

1991 saw the release of the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report. Sadly, First Nations People are still the highest incarcerated demographic in the world. Statistically, 23% of the population in March 2021 were imprisoned. Accountability of deaths in custody is lacking while investigations are conducted by internal forces. Occasions when failures in duty of care are directly responsible for deaths, little is changed to prevent similar occurrences.

Australia has the tools to reduce the incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Instead of enacting the steps needed, political willpower is used on other means such as creating further punitive measures.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders die in custody 11 times more frequently than other nationalities. Whilst some consider this comparative under certain conditions, facts are the demographic make-up 3% of the overall population: Meaning these statistics are much higher than the rest of Australian society. If one person a month died behind bars it would take 39.5 years to reach the 474 deaths recorded on the 30th anniversary. Over the months either side of the anniversary a further seven First Nations People died in custody. Proving the system is failing yet still the remaining recommendations have not been implemented over state and federal levels.

These facts fall within the description of both the first and second definition of genocide: Killing members of the group and causing serious bodily and mental harm. The circumstances of history have imposed upon First Nations People the conditions that calculated their deaths. There are many who would suggest not enough has changed with the system to justify not meeting the terms of the third description of genocide too.

Health Disparities

My argument is that Australia has enacted decades of genocide resulting from the lack of health care as per the standards of Australian citizens. We have breached the conditions of the first three definitions. Indigenous People in remote communities have been unable to access medical treatments, and preventative measures have been outright denied. These health issues have long-term effects resulting in serious bodily and mental harm to a large population of the Indigenous Populations. And part three; deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical death, due to the lack of preventative measures and treatments not made available to remote Indigenous communities.

Decades of reports have shown the First nations People die on average 10 years earlier than other Australians. Directly caused by the third, fourth and fifth world conditions of our communities covered below. Health disparities have been noted for generations, as have recommended solutions. Many have been left without action. Creating with numerous acts of wilful blindness by Australian governments. Preventive measures have not been enacted and the treatments are inaccessible to the communities in need.

  • Diseases at epidemic levels (Trachoma, Acute Rheumatic Disease, Rheumatic Heart Disease, Diabetes, Kidney and Heart Diseases, Iron Deficiencies etc). Preventative measures regarding overpopulation and the need for more housing has been ignored for decades. If Australia established adequate housing conditions, many health issues directly resulting from overpopulation (Acute Rheumatic Disease, Trachoma etc) would not be experienced at epidemic levels.
  • Lack of health services in communities means First Nations children are born with comorbidities. As per Closing the Gap these will not see any visible improvements for another 50 years. Treatments are not made readily available resulting in health disparities to be present. If training for health care workers was more easily accessible these communities would have a better chance of supporting themselves.
  • Aboriginal Australians are arguably one of the most traumatised people in the world” yet mental health and trauma have been overlooked within the First Nation Communities. Suicide rates within our demographics are higher due to the circumstances of communities and traumas that have never been adequately addressed within our populations.

Third, Fourth and Fifth World Conditions

This section is highly focused at the third definition: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in par.” Wilful blindness plays a part in the conditions intended to cause the death of the First Nations People.

  • Housing circumstances: as previously stated; the housing conditions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are dire! They have been in need of immediate attention for generations. But blind eyes have been turned away from the issue of overpopulation and poor inadequate quality. In 2020 the NT government were condemned by the current Indigenous Affairs Minister before some progress was made. Many feel it is too little too late. Hundreds have already had their health impacted by the poor circumstances. Minimal work being undertake will not improve the disadvantage caused by the inadequate housing conditions.
  • High levels of Uranium found in the drinking water at Laramba has been left for the community to resolve. If this was in Sydney the local, state, and federal governments would be in an uproar flying into action. Sadly, the Aboriginal community has been left to find solutions to the uranium on their own. Australians don’t need scientists or doctors to tell us that uranium kills, yet Australia has enacted more wilful blindness in this situation.
  • Lack of fresh & healthy food at reasonable prices. Again, if the prices experienced in rural areas were seen in Canberra an uproar would ensue and changes would result. Over the past decade three inquiries into the prices and conditions of foods available to remote Aboriginal populations has resulted in no changes. I have spoken to many who have to decide if $10 a lettuce is something they can afford to budget for only to get to the shops and find the ‘fresh food’ is half rotted, forcing individuals to make less than healthy choices in their weekly shopping. The lack of access to fresh, healthy foods has caused a wide array of health disparities. These contribute to the overall poor health, short life expectancies, and many of the higher-than-normal suicide rates. Creating both serious bodily and mental harm. Plus, part three of the genocide act, conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction.
  • Birritjimi – situated near Nhulunbuy – contains houses that were abandoned when a Rio Tinto mine site was closed. These houses were built in the 1970s and have received minimal upkeep since then. Residents of the area describe being able to ‘feel’ electricity running through the walls.

Systematic Racism

Racial discrimination is classified as a hate crime by many societies. Conducted upon a national scale within Australia, it is a breach of both domestic and international human rights standards. Systematic racism exists within most of the colonial systems of Australia, resulting in a high level of disadvantage experienced at the expense of the First Nations. Police, Corrections and Child Protective services have arguably always heavily persecuted the Indigenous Peoples at a much higher rate than any others within Australia. Generations of advocacy has highlighted many of these issues, but they have often been refuted or deflected and dismissed. Inadequately addressing problem areas does not make them go away; they prevail in the background.

While Australia persists in disregarding the existence of systematic racism within the constraints of the society, we will continue seeing the deep racial divide we have experienced since the invasion.

Racism creates a feeling of terror, when committed on a national level for generations it creates intergenerational traumas. Meeting the definition for the second definition of genocide; causing a high level of mental harm. Suicide and domestic/family violence levels as a result of homelessness/overpopulation could be applied to category three; deliberately inflicting conditions calculated to bring about physical destruction. Due to the repeated wilful blindness perpetrated against these problem areas from Australian Governments and citizens.

Opinions regularly expressed by News Commenters on shows such as SkyNews are extremely racist. In 2018 Channel 7 released a segment on the Sunrise show suggesting it was appropriate to begin another Stolen Generation. Something they offered an apology for in early January 2021 as a voice over reading the words on the screen. Even with such an unacceptable apology, the damage has already been done. The all-white panel has influenced the beliefs of the wider population; many who have never even met an Indigenous Person in their life. Those views have been passed onto friends, family and children. This flow on of a misrepresented opinion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders will only continue the racism and oppression we face as nations daily.

Homelessness

Homelessness has always been a crisis within the Indigenous communities of Australia. Ignored by the wider community and governments for generations. These rates of homelessness impact a wide range of areas within the nations. From health and education through to domestic and family violence and the substance abuse often used to undermine our peoples.

Noted on Twitter by an acquaintance I have a great amount of respect for @TiddaPage, she wrote to me “Great thread Jen also First Nations People experience homelessness at 14 % higher than non-Indigenous counterparts a large number are children between 10 and 16 yrs.”

 

 

Over the years many Indigenous Communities have been closed. Many were shut due to the costs associated with providing water and other essential services, but these closures resulted in further dispossession of cultural connections causing mental harm. This could arguably be a case for part three of the genocide definition. As these measures disconnect the cultural aspects of the belief system, resulting in high levels of depression and other mental illnesses.

The lack of houses for the population has created a huge discrepancy in homelessness. Community do not have enough houses to provide for the people and squeeze two, three sometimes four bodies into single beds so everyone has a roof to sleep under. This level of homelessness causes even higher rates of overpopulation results in higher-than-normal health complications.

Australia’s wilful blindness regarding the levels of homelessness within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples could be considered under definition two and three of the genocide act.

Serious Mental Harm

  • Destruction of Sacred Sites and cultural heritage, combined with a lack of action towards language and culture retention. Colonisation has wiped out so much our history and knowledge. These days our Elders are crying out for assistance in retaining what we have left. Minimal work has been done to ensure our cultures and way of life survive into the future. Forcibly assimilating people into a culture is a violation of human rights. It also erases the people in a way, meaning the way of life is being killed.
  • Intergenerational trauma has not been addressed and is often denied by Australians.
  • Fights for stolen wages are demeaning while cause for a great deal of anxiety & depression.
  • Impacts of the higher suicide rates.
  • Denial of Aboriginal history, for example: sovereignty, dispossession, genocides, slavery. The constant favouritism towards the colonial history tells the oldest living cultures in the world they are not valuable.
  • The anthem was written in 1878 when we were literally in chains, slaughtered by the dozens, or left to starve when our food had been eradicated and water sources poisoned. This for some are open wounds still causing agony. Promoting small steps as a positive creates as much harm as the past has. Many welcomed New Year’s Eve 2020 with tears of pain, our voices once again overlooked. Scott Morrison altered a single word in an action considered further assimilation. Enforcing colonialism over Indigenous Cultures is traumatic, it causes trauma.
  • Australia Day is highly polarising. Invasion Day is merely one of the titles we apply to 26th January. We have voiced how much pain celebrating on this day causes us. For what we would count as a lifetime; this pain has been ignored or ridiculed by the wider Australian population.
  • Representing Australia’s Flag with the Union Jack causes many in this country to feel sick to their stomach. The symbol pushed into our soil and proclaimed British property. Our own flags are refused by governments which tells us we too have been refused as included in the term Australia.

Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Child Protective Services released data in 2019 showing 15.6% of First Nations children are living in out of home care. This statistic increased by 39% in 2020. Times extended family members have come forward to ask for the children of their family they have been denied with barely even an assessment to determine their suitability. These children are instead handed to other people who do not have the same cultural beliefs, language, or values.

Statistically, First Nations People are the highest demographic involved with Child Protective Services in Australia. Many suggest these relationships have not improved (nor have the interactions reduced) since the Stolen Generations occurred, meaning they feel this act of genocide never ceased.

Australia’s history with genocide may not be as far behind us as many would choose to believe, the facts speak for themselves. If government departments honestly wanted to see these truths change, initiatives such as Closing the Gap would not consider fifty years a suitable time frame to stop infants being born with comorbidities. Actively work at resolving the level of health disparities seen within the First Nations communities.

Without systematic changes across the board, my opinion will always be that acts of genocide still occur in Australia on a daily basis. Unless Australia actively works at preventing the genocidal identity within our own shores, it is hypocritical to accuse others of the same crime.

Until such a time, we rightfully deserved to have more than 30 countries point their fingers at Australia in February 2021 and accuse us of human rights violations. We are much worse than a violator of human rights. We have spent 233 years covering up acts of genocide against the oldest living cultures in the world! Shame on the Lucky Country. It truly is only lucky for some.

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The cycle must be broken

On the 10th August 1987 Australia announced the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The final report and recommendations were signed on 15th April 1991. It has now been 30 years since those pages were signed and submitted for review by the government at the time. 30 years on we have lost almost 500 more people, without any new changes being brought into effect to minimise the high number of incarcerations nor the loss of lives. Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt has often said; “The cycle must be broken,” but still we see no changes that would prevent these deaths nor reduce the number of individuals criminalised by the justice system.

Listening to an episode of The Quicky Podcast I was shocked to learn that Australians often suggest they are not racist, yet we are one of the few countries who do not adequately track racial profiling. These services do not release information regarding the racial breakdown of their interactions with communities. 2020 saw two instances where this data was released to the public. A judge in NSW requested police provide the information to the court. The data they produced showed that individuals of African or Middle Eastern background were 2.5 times more likely to be stopped than other nationalities. WA Police released data to The Guardian under the FOI Act showing police officers were 3.2 times more likely to stop and charge a someone of Aboriginal background than automated systems such as traffic cameras.

These two cases show a clear bias towards certain races, who have obviously been targeted by police officers. Tracking this data and releasing the information to the public would go a long way to providing accountability and correcting the racially discriminatory actions perpetrated by those who’s motto is to “Serve and Protect.” Similarly, courts releasing statistics on the sentences handed down to the different nationalities would show where one race is more heavily prosecuted than other races for similar crimes.

At the time of the Royal Commission the statistics showed 14% of the population inside the correctional system were Aboriginal People. Today that figure has more than doubled. We have lobbied for a National Indigenous Target for years, and governments have committed to do this but none have provided any information regarding how these targets will be reached. Many of the Aboriginal People I know and have spoken to believe the Royal Commission made no impact on their lives or their communities. They tell me there was no point in the commission because 30 years on and there are still no clear indicators regarding what recommendations were implemented or to what level they applied (in full, part or noted). In my own opinion the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody is just another colonial document, as Marcia Langton has said about the Constitution.

Since the Royal Commission it has been revealed that all too many Aboriginal deaths in custody have resulted from a lack of duty of care. Such as the case of Ms Day in Victoria who died after being left fatally injured on the floor for three hours. Nobody has been held accountable for this neglect of duty of care. Now if this was the public sector each and every individual who had neglected their duty of care would not simply have been sacked; they would have faced criminal charges for the breach. Nonetheless, when the neglect to duty of care involves an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Person who dies as a result of the justice system, nobody is held accountable. Not even the individuals who have been found guilty of these breaches. This to me is extremely telling, and it shows how much racial profiling occurs and is completely and utterly overlooked by the “powers that be” in this country!

Media have a great deal of responsibility for these issues. Take for instance the 11-year-old boy discussed on ABC’s The Drum on 12/4/2021. A newspaper headline showed on the episode that read; “Boys sad end to a life of trouble.” Instead of portraying him as an 11-year-old boy, media painted him as an intentional criminal: Listing a range of accounts of assault and other crimes such as burglaries that didn’t happen. At the time of his death he had a police curfew and needed to be home by 7 pm. The same night he died he had been at the Police and Community Youth Club. He took his own life that night in his bedroom. Twenty-four-years-ago he had faced racism and discrimination by the police, however an inquiry suggested it was not severe enough to have forced him to take his own life. He would be 35 if he had not been racially profiled by those who ‘serve and protect’.

Indigenous People are not innately criminal; we have something called the Lore of Obligation that obligates our people to protect regardless what it is we are protecting. This includes upholding legal requirements. However, we have faced unfair persecution at the hands of the Colonial System for 233 years. Changing the theme of these interactions should not be on mob; we are the victims in this instance. Responsibility lies with the justice system, as they are the ones who have created this narrative of criminalising the Indigenous Peoples. Perpetrators are responsible for making recompense, not the victims.

The fact that the NT Government have numerous occasions where SOLELY Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth have been in their detention centres should tell the country a lot. Instead, we are faced with racist remarks such as; “They should stop breaking the law and they won’t get arrested.” Or we have politicians like Amanda Stoker who laughed at Senator Dodson while he discussed the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in the Senate. But when an Indigenous Person is arrested for something a non-Indigenous Person is not arrested for, then there is a clear issue in the system. More so in the racist opinions shared by Australians regarding the incarceration rates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations. Yes, this shame falls upon the heads of all Aussies, whether they care to accept it or not!

 

 

Time and again governments create new programs that will further criminalise the Indigenous Nations of these lands. The history of the police with mobs has always included a large degree of racially discriminatory people and processes. Just this year QLD instigated a new program that will see youth walk around with electronic monitoring systems, instead of providing services that will prevent those youths from committing the crimes they have been found guilty of. This Government has chosen to further criminalise individuals over providing services to support these families and prevent the criminal behaviour from being a ‘thing’ for them.

Amy Thunig discussed on The Drum that Indigenous students are excluded from formal education in the form of suspension. In QLD 25% of fixed term and permanent exclusions are Indigenous children when they represent merely 10% of the school population. In NSW 25% of short or long-term suspensions are Indigenous children, who comprise simply 8% of the NSW student population. These statistics start in kindergarten and show how quick Australia is to hyper-surveil and over-punish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

 

Image from solidarity.net.au

 

Ms Thunig went on to explain that NSW Government set up the Suspect Target Management Program, where they identified a list of individuals they thought may commit an offence. Nobody on the list had committed an offence but they suspected they would, which led the system to stop and interrogate these individuals for not committing any criminal activities. The youngest person on that list was a nine-year-old, which we all know is under the age of criminal responsibility in this country, yet the NSW Police Service still attended this nine-year-old’s home and integrated them. Indigenous People make up a total of 5.6% of the youth population in NSW, 51% of the children identified on that list were Indigenous. This is racial profiling – aka racism – on the part of the police system!

Before I go, let this fact sink in: since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody 474 people have died. That, statistically, is one person a month since the recommendations were released 30-years-ago. ONE A MONTH FOR THIRTY-YEARS! So before you claim we simply need to stop breaking laws, please think long and hard about the system you are defending in place of the lives lost!

How can Australians say human rights are high on the list of priorities in this country, when we clearly only value those rights for the colonial side of this country? Quite simply we cannot value human rights, not while we tell the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders they deserve to die for crimes nobody else would pay with their lives for. Sadly, until Colonial Australia acknowledges this fact, they will continue to fail at equality.

I say it over and again, we are only the “Lucky Country” for Colonial Australia! We are only a first world country for the same portion of the population. Until we behave like a first world country we do not deserve the title!

 

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Morrison’s undermining of sexual violence

We know the men of Australia are sick of hearing about sexual violence, but quite frankly that’s too bad for them. Women are sick of experiencing these crimes and it is high time Aussie males faced these ugly truths.

Within my circles I have not yet met a woman who can say she has not been assaulted, harassed, or targeted in one manner or another. Yes, that’s right guys, not a single one who has not experienced some form of sexual violence at the hands of Aussie men. Lately the cries of #EnoughIsEnough have been a resounding roar, and I couldn’t be happier with that news.

Sadly, little action has truly be seen on this front. Yes, Scott Morrison has decided to finally act on the Respect@Work report. But then he made what has become his typical move when dealing with sensitive topics. At almost the same time as he tabled the details of the changes, he held a press conference. Leaving no time for anyone to read the reference material prior to presenting. Just like he did when he announced the report from the Inquiry into Aged Care. This time he and Michaelia Cash said we will do this, and we will do that, and all will be fixed with regards to sexual violence in our society. I don’t call him Half-Job-Morrison without reason. Every policy released by his Government seems to, in my opinion, leak like a sift.

Discussing the recommendations accepted by the government Laura Tingle is not backwards in coming forward. She writes in her article titled The government’s credentials for dealing with COVID are turning to dust amid vaccine confusion “It took some time to get clarification that the act would be tweaked to make clear that politicians and judges aren’t exempt from the act, but that in itself would not create a sackable offence, even though it might open them up to civil proceedings by victims.”

Personally, I do not think it is right for someone guilty of – or allegedly guilty of – perpetrating sexual violence to work within Parliament nor the justice system. Considering 51% of the population are women, I dare say the Government would receive a resounding “yes” if they asked Australian’s whether they wanted a Minister to be sacked for sexual violence towards staff within Parliament House. The fact we have to wait four years before we can vote someone out for committing crimes like these is absurd. I would prefer to have the authority to sack anyone found guilty of sexual harassment the moment they are found guilty. Especially when they do so within what should be the pillars of Australian society. Instead, the Parliament of Australia has become something straight out of a tabloid news column. Except Aussie women have made it more than obvious they have the proof in numbers that sexual violence is a heavy part of our society.

Time the men of this country come to terms with the hard truths and finally judge themselves with the same standards they place upon the women the stand alongside. Time they all practised what they preached. Men who witness sexual harassment in the workplace and say nothing, their silence is a mechanism that enables this behaviour to continue. This silence makes them complicit in the crime. Women are harassed for their outfits and looks, diminished by their co-workers based upon their gender. We have for decades suffered the injustices of being raped within the workplace at a rate of 1 in 3. Is this worthy of the society we wish to be? Are these facts synonymous with what should be “the Lucky Country” as we call ourselves? I say all the time, Australia is only lucky for some.

How can the men of this country say they are ready to face these crimes, when our own Prime Minister uses political gaslighting tactics towards victims of sexual violence? And does so on the international stage provided to that position. When we have had a man win the position of Prime Minister after using the words “Ditch the Witch” and “Julia is Bob Brown’s Bitch”. How can men suggest they are ready to accept these crimes against the women of our society as wrong?

One in five women in Australia “have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.” Given that we women make up 51% of the population, consequently if we are speaking mathematically, 5% of 49 means that 2.45% of the Australian males are perpetrators of sexual violence. These statistics do not take into account the various other forms of violence, but this data is not as easily accessible in our current system. But when people like me cannot find a single woman who has not been sexually violated, odds are the statistics showing the percentage of males who commit these crimes are much higher than 2.45%.

Consent has been discussed over and over again of late, it’s clear that many men do not understand the concept of what consent entails. But this confuses me. As a mother I teach my eight- and nine-year-olds the basis of gaining consent. They must ask each other if they want to play a game, or if they want what the other is holding. The fact that grown adults cannot understand what my young children can understand is completely and utterly mind boggling. Did Oz grow up without a moral compass? It seems so.

Well guys, the basis is that you must know with absolute certainty the other person is happy with your behaviour and actions. Body language is a key indicator. Is she pulling her upper body away from you (i.e. leaning in the opposite direction) then she’s not keen on how close you are to her? Is she looking away from you more than she is at you? Then she is more than likely looking for an escape. Has she used short one worded answers to your uninvited questions? She more than likely doesn’t want to continue the conversation.

Until the Australian male stops toxic masculinity in its tracks, Australia will fail the test of upholding equal human rights. The Lucky Country will remain lucky merely to some, and we will be condemned by our international neighbours. Australia’s shortcomings are many, before we can truly claim to be a “first world country” we must behave like one.

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The unsung heroines of #March4Justice

Despite protestations to the contrary by mainstream media and the Liberal government, Twitter is a force for good.

When word of a now infamous tweet spread, asking whether women could circle Parliament in protest at the misogyny and rape allegations emanating from the Liberal Government, hundreds of female volunteers from around Australia rallied to the call.

Within days women from all walks of life and from all corners of the country came together as one – to organise, build and promote Australia’s biggest female-led protest Australia has seen in decades.

These unsung heroines swung into action from March 1st and didn’t stop until March 15th came around.

In a mere fortnight, the volunteer women pulled off a history making event. A project like this would normally take at least 6 months of work. Many of the volunteers were activists, many were not, some had never been to a protest before in their lives, several were themselves survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence, many were triggered by the memories the Brittany Higgins and the alleged Christian Porter rape horror story brought up, but they were all prepared to go to great lengths to ensure March4Justice was the success it was.

Their efforts paid off because by March 15th the phrase and hashtag #March4Justice had imprinted itself firmly on the nation’s psyche. Approximately 100,000 Australians marched for justice across 2 days – Sunday 14th (in Perth and Cairns) and Monday 15th March elsewhere around Australia – with the message being spread throughout the land that “enough is enough.” History was made on the Ides of March (15th March) in Canberra, and around 50 other locations around the nation.

At the centre of the national volunteer team were the women behind the social media. A group of amazing professional women worked around the clock to spread the message of March4Justice. Without them who would have known that this massive event was being organised?

Within 2 weeks they had built a following across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Snapchat of well over 65k across the various platforms, with a reach of 460k on FB alone.

I headed up the social media team. I consider myself a passionate human rights activist, and when I was invited to lead the social media team, I was only too happy to use my marketing skills and experience to do so. I put my small business (www.templesandmarkets.com.au) on hold and my other activist work (Reclaim the News) on hold and worked an average of 18-hour days for 2 weeks. My objective was to get as many people as possible from around the country to the protests, and if they couldn’t attend, to encourage them to support the movement. The social media team created and encouraged engagement across all social media platforms and answered an endless stream of follower and media messages that were coming through the Facebook page in particular.

My gratitude and admiration runs deep for the women I worked alongside with on the social team. We all gave up time with our families and our paid work and other responsibilities for the March4Justice cause. What a ride we all went on. The team, none of whom knew each other before M4J, will remain lifelong friends. We all faced daily trolling including unwarranted and cruel accusations of racism and transphobia, as well as being faced with tragic victim and survivor stories that were coming through to us on social media message platforms. None of us are counsellors so inevitably this took a heavy toll on our own wellbeing.

Judith’s Whyimarch video:

 

 

Claudia Zappia may be a familiar name for many. Sydney based actor, singer, dancer Claudia was one of the very first volunteers to put her hand up for content creation and social media management too. Claudia lives with chronic illness – EDS, a connective tissue disorder autoimmune disease and she is also a mentor for other EDS sufferers from around the world.

Claudia rallied a team of incredible creatives like herself to build up an Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat following for the movement. She live-streamed the march to followers from Canberra.

Her health has deteriorated since giving up time for the movement, but she is so proud of what she and the other volunteers achieved.

Claudia’s Whyimarch video:

 

 

Marcella Brassett was the campaign lead for March4Justice. Marcella has 15 years of professional experience in activist campaigns. She works for Australia’s largest independent not for profit who support and empower people seeking asylum and refugees. Marcella was at the forefront of the nationwide campaign. She wrote the campaign strategy and communications plan and the hashtags #march4justice and #whyimarch were ideas that came from her. The hashtag #march4justice is likely to be used for many years to come by Australians standing up for good and is destined to have its own chapter in future history books.

Bridie McLennan, herself a survivor, knew she wouldn’t be able to attend a march due to heath reasons, but was determined to contribute in other ways. And that she did, in spades.

Like me, Bridie also put her business (www.emergencybk.com.au) on hold and threw herself into the cause. She realised that if events were to be organised in multiple locations, they would likely be done through Facebook Groups and Events. Off her own back Bridie created the Twitter account @WomensMarchAus (now @WomensEventAus), sent out her first tweet and it took off from there.

Bridie created and frequently updated a Google spreadsheet that could be accessed and shared anywhere, with details of all 50 events, including links to more info. She sourced the information through hunting through FB Event pages, FB Groups, websites, contacting organisations, tips from followers, contacting MP’s State and Federal and more. She also answered thousands of questions from Followers, helped 30+ regional organisers with checklists and info on event accessibility, where to find additional info, linked up regional teams with each other so they could share resources and knowledge, tweeted info about what people not able to march could do and much more. The spreadsheet was used/posted by multiple non-official march Facebook groups to help their followers find events near them and multiple media outlets, journalists and politicians as a source for information – including a retweet by the ABC’s Laura Tingle

Bridie says; “I’m so proud of the work accomplished in record breaking time, by amazing women and allies, organising 50+ events across the country. The people behind the scenes, like myself and others running social media (Twitter, FB, Instagram, TikTok etc) who put our lives on hold and were central to ensuring attendees, media and politicians, had access to accurate and up to date info, critical to the success of the marches and how many ended up attending.”

Bridie had direct contact with many regional event organisers across the country. For example:

Talbot, Victoria – Organiser Fiona Somerville. Bridie tracked Fiona down through joining Talbot Community Group, and messaging admins of that group that she had heard someone might be organising an event.

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We knew it back then, so when did we cave in?

By Jennifer Michel

Whilst researching a book I stumbled across information about an event called preventing the punitive expedition into Arnhem Land in 1933. The accounting by Paddy Gibson described how the Australian Unemployed Workers Union was the backbone and fundamental movement that saved the people of Arnhem Land from the last officially sanctioned act of genocide. Paddy tells of how every day Australians were pushed to the outskirts of towns, forced to live in squalor alongside the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Making friends with each other these individuals realised there were very little differences between them, besides the cultural beliefs. Being members of the Unemployed Workers Union they worked together and fought to prevent the massacre that was planned by both the NT Administration and a department within Canberra responsible to the Federal Government. They fought because they realised many Australians were being forced to endure the same conditions that lead their forefathers to become convicts upon a ship bound for the ‘new land’. Their message was simple we are not different and deserve equal rights.

Almost 100 years later not much has changed for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations, and equality is an aspect many Australians still do not see. Within the colonial world these lands have become families struggle to support themselves, medications have been shown to be widely inaccessible for many, further education is entirely out of reach for a large percentage. For individuals like myself, learning the cultural values of my Aboriginal forefathers is impossible. Unless I am willing to sleep with 20 others in a three-bedroom house and give up the ability to access fresh running water, electricity and fresh foods for my young family.

How many of us grew up on stories about England as it was 200 years ago? Take a look around at the truth of our society we find that Australia is not all that far from those conditions, we simply got trickier at hiding them. We call ourselves the ‘Lucky Country’. I would argue it is only lucky for some.

Meet the Australian Dream as I understand it: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Share in the Lucky Country as it means to me: Don’t find yourself in circumstances you
didn’t expect, you get punished for them.

Australia has proudly boasted of not having a social class system within the shores of this country, but let’s be honest with ourselves for once, since colonisation there has always been a system of social class seen. Historically it was settlers, then convicts, followed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island clans who were considered the lowest of the low. Today, those of us who have Indigenous roots have repetitively seen the Aussies who are allocated to the lowest ranks of the Australian Social Class; people we call family. Some of us, also like myself, have grown up in single income/parenting families, and/or life on a pension.

Being forced to live on the Carers Pension when my child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder is difficult, to say the least. After working for years to better my circumstances creating opportunities for a career within the Human Resources Industry; I am in a worse situation than my parents ever were on one income. The most recent inquiry into the disability industry has shown many Australians have gone without to see their children can have something as simple as fresh fruit and vegetables, let alone a piece of chocolate once in a while. We have families unable to afford the medications they require or the therapies needed to improve both mental and physical disability.

COVID-19 has revealed deep cracks within our society and its ability to provide for all in an equal manner. Many Australians today who have found work are still struggling to make ends meet. We often hear of the underemployment rate but it is not explained in full detail every time. The word literally means people have jobs that do not provide the hours for them to earn enough to support their lives. Government programs have offered pathways to retain employment, such as JobKeeper. We have seen many divides formed within our society over the handling of this program, and personally I feel these would have been spotted by other governments of the past, but we never really will know what could have been.

Newer programs initiated by the Morrison Government are designed to move individuals not living in regions to locations where the jobs are. Many opinions I have read on social media suggest this program does not consider a wide array of aspects when it comes to uprooting even a single individual for employment. As a child, my father’s career was as a mechanic, we moved many times which resulted in a life of lost opportunities as much as it provided for others. Depending on the location we lived in we were considered to be wealthy – places like Katherine and Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory.

Australia’s Social Class is something I have witnessed and experienced my whole life, often I have looked at those on TV, politicians such as Scott Morrison whom proudly boasts of his 5x grandfather being a convict subjected to horrific hardships. My eyes turn towards my clans living in Ngkurr and Borrollola in the Northern Territory and do not see the same Lucky Country our Prime Minister spoke about on Christmas Day in 2020. Neither do I see the ‘one’ the anthem change suggested on New Years 20/21. I see the Prime Minister’s images from his plush home, projecting the wealth his family has gained over 5 generations, showing off his family and wishing us good tidings from a religious belief I do not share. Whilst I likewise see 20 people living in a three bedroom home where children have contracted Acute Rheumatic Fever due to over population. These two images clash in my mind, is this what a first world country is? One unable to provide the treatments nor enact simple preventative measures to save children from life threatening illnesses. Conditions the World Health Organisation have eradicated in third world countries such as Trachoma. How can we claim to be the Lucky Country when one section of it lives with the financial ability to do anything they can dream of and the other cannot even feed themselves? Again, I suggest we cannot claim either title, because we are not as lucky as we let on, and neither do we behave in a manner
that would see us come first.

In February 2021 the United Nations came together for a five-year review of the Human Rights of all member nations. During the convention more than thirty countries turned to this first world country who claim to be lucky and accused us of breaching the international laws we agreed to uphold on this subject, Australia breaches human rights, frequently. We are one of the few first world countries not to have created and enacted a Federal Human Rights Act after agreeing to do so when we signed the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Australia too signed the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, only to turn around and refuse to enact the legal framework to abide by the minimum standards towards the rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nations of Australia.

Australia’s Social Class is heavily centred around the values this country was founded upon, including the White Australia Policy. Legislation that prevented the immigration of any individual outside of the regions of Europe with a predominantly white population. We see aspects of this policy in place today; we only need to look at the way our politicians vote towards the treatment of refugees to know this is true. There are ways segregation is still in place within Australia, too. I remember being a young woman in a nightclub and looking around to see all the multicultural aspects of the country mingling between their own groups and never straying to others. This is also true of the number of Aussies who integrate with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, how many have lived with us instead of just buying something from a white owned retailer. We suggest there is no Social Class, but we should be admitting we failed at that as much as we have failed at human rights in general; anyone else hear the call for women’s rights to be improved just then? Oh gosh, I must be hearing things again. Oooh, I’m sure heard it again…

My mind always boggles at the privilege our nation displays to the world. Because, until our first world country behaves like the Lucky Country, there is no basis for the titles we apply ourselves. These titles mean privilege, look around Australia do we fit the bill?

#FederalHumanRightsAct
#UNDeclarationOnTheRightsOfIndigenousPeoples
#EqualHumanRights

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Please can we take major issues out of the political wars!

I am not sure whether enough people will register, soon enough, that this government is not supporting a democracy!

At present, we are having fights in the political arena over an increasing number of issues which ought, rightly, to be divorced from politics.

Sexism is a national issue.

It pervades society at all levels, irrespective of the political views of those who are either keeping it alive and kicking, or those trying to drag the others into the 21st century.

I was an adult when I migrated here from the UK, and, because I was well educated and had an honours maths degree, I had never been aware of sexism in my years in the UK.

Coming straight to Darwin, in the NT, at the start of 1971, and remaining in the education arena, I did not experience any discrimination here, either – but I was horrified to hear stories from females who had, for example, studied engineering down south and who had been – in my opinion – incredibly badly treated.

Previously, because I was teaching mathematics up to university entrance level, all the schools I had taught at in the UK had been all-girls schools, and all – or almost all – of the teaching staff were female. And, I hasten to add – all, bar physical education teachers, were properly qualified, with appropriate tertiary qualification plus a Graduate Diploma in Education.

My teaching positions here in Oz have been in comprehensive schools, yet – over all my time of teaching maths at secondary level – the best maths student was always a girl and I never experienced any discrimination!

But looking back over Australia’s history, it seems to me that sexism has been generally entrenched here – along with a great deal of corruption – and getting rid of it is very much a work in progress.

I have now clocked up 50 years in Australia, and I am extremely grateful that it has all been in Darwin, as we probably have the most peacefully cosmopolitan population in Australia.

We still, however, have more than enough people who express their views with scant regard for politeness – many of my letters, which are all published in the local (Murdoch) paper (almost all of which would relate to the need for action on global warming) – seem to elicit a regular whinge, but I guess, for many people, they see that learning ends when they leave school.

I had an appointment today with a neurologist as a follow up from my (mild) stroke in mid-January. I was advised that I might have another stroke, and I should arrange, as I live alone, to have a daily phone call to check that I had made it through the night!

Not really reassuring!

Since 5/02/20, I have only missed one Wednesday, when I spend 2 hours in the afternoon, sitting in front of Parliament House, protesting government failure – whether the government be the NT or the National one – to take urgently needed action on global warming.

That one day was the day after I was discharged from hospital following my stroke!

The following week I celebrated a year of activism.

Today I could not stay for the full 2 hours because of the hospital appointment.

I am not a hero and I may not be having a very noticeable effect, but I believe in persevering!

(Just as an aside – my brother won a State Scholarship to Cambridge and went on to design aero-engines for Rolls Royce, while my sister studied medicine and became a surgeon, yet neither of my parents had tertiary education, and the UK government grants covered all our education expenses!)

Current news in Australia actually makes me wonder whether Australia deserves to survive!

We have a national Attorney General who is not fit for the position.

If he really did not commit rape, he should have welcomed an inquiry, to show a real understanding of the limitations of the law and of people’s understanding of how it works.

We have a Prime Minister who blindly follows a plan to gain and retain power, while not having any real understanding of how bad his policies – such as they are! – really are!

We have an Opposition Leader who cannot control those in his party who want to be in power, but have no real idea of how to use it.

We treat refugees abominably, ignoring our obligations under the treaties which former leaders have accepted should apply.

The total lack of empathy – in fact the actual opposition to empathy – demonstrated by senior government ministers is breathtakingly awful!

As noted earlier – sexism is rampant – particularly among people who ought to be setting an example.

Yes – there are both obvious and more subtle differences between males and females – but that does not mean that either sex is better than the other.

I was an adult before many architects worked out that the bench height in the kitchen needed to be a little lower, because women are generally shorter than men!

We still have much medical research conducted exclusively on the male of the species, despite the fact that the males represent slightly less that 50% of the population.

We have far less rigorous investigation of many strictly female afflictions like endometriosis, which I understand can be excruciatingly painful.

Strokes can exhibit quite differently in females than in males, yet this is not well known

A random search on Google tells us that:

Stroke tended to be more severe in women, with a 1-month case fatality of 24.7% compared with 19.7% for men. Conclusions—Worldwide, stroke is more common among men, but women are more severely ill. The mismatch between the sexes is larger than previously described.

Which makes me feel – simultaneously – both better and worse!

There are so many areas of knowledge which need exploring, yet we are stuck in a merry-go-round of assertions and misinformation, while our politicians make hay while they can, and to hell with the rest of us!

Earlier on, as I was writing this, there was a quite violent thunderstorm carrying on – showing a fact about the force of nature which we ignore at our peril.

Please can we work together more effectively.

Forget about being ‘better’ than others.

Concentrate on being better than we have been!

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2021 Human Rights Action, or Rather, Inaction

Written with Annasis Liz Kelly

Human rights core fundamental worth is that all people are treated as equals, covering a wide range of areas it is said to be high on the list of values within Australia. But we are regularly left asking how can it be equal when it is dependent on your colour, beliefs, sexual orientation, social stature and gender.

Australia has proven over and again that, if you are a white, straight, Christian male with financial means, you can get away with a fair bit of crap. We merely need to look at the times a politician has been sacked instead of charged to know this is true. But can a trans woman of colour who is poor get the same deal? How about an Indigenous child whose family have been heavily involved with the police for that child’s entire life? No, in fact these demographics are treated like they are the worse people in the world; when in most instances they have done nothing to deserve such treatment.

My own life experience includes a Mother who judged her husband as innocent of raping a child, valued his time and respect as worthy. While towards her own blood, it’s like she says “Liz your sexual orientation is one I do not like and makes you unworthy of the same respect I give my husband.” Christian beliefs instilled into the Australian society valuing those human rights so highly. As children, we are taught that if you want respect then you first show it, but when these are our teachers, the people meant to guide societies values where do human rights come into your purview?

When the British came to Australia, they never showed any regard to the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders yet when the English demanded respect none was given so they were smacked and degraded into submission. Today, British and Aussie citizens still wonder why First Nations Australians refuse to respect the European descendants, when we don’t show any themselves.

Equal human rights include aspects such as abiding by international laws with regards to how Aussie rights are managed. But, Thursday, 13 September 2007 the United Nations adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Australia was not among one of the countries to adopt the Act, even though First Australians aided in the creation of the document.

Human rights include the right to live free of torture. Recently while scrolling through Twitter I have seen posts discussing accounts of torture from someone I follow; many Australian’s follow this man, just as many know of him and his plight. He is someone we have locked up, a man we are subjecting to acts of torture! His name is Nauroze Anees, and Border Force Australia are holding him at Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney, NSW.

Wednesday 17 February Nauroze posted on Twitter, as he does most days, in this tweet he shared a video and wrote: “Not content with keeping me in Solitary Confinement & withholding my vital medications. Now @AusBorderForce is playing loud music via the intercom speaker at 0450am, to keep me sleep deprived. They don’t just want to kill me, they want to do it painfully.”

 

 

Saturday 6th March he posted: “To Date the Australian LNP Govt has subjected me to State Sanctioned: 1509 Days of #ArbitraryDetention, Physical Torture, Psychological Torture, Sleep Deprivation Torture, Withheld my Medication, Solitary Confinement, Dehumanisation.”

 

 

We know why he’s been locked up, well we think we do at least. Australia’s government have been extremely tight-lipped over the immigration policy currently being worked on. Jacqui Lambie recently wrote an article for the Canberra Times where she explained why she was back flipping on her promise to reveal the policies, stating:

“The problem I’m facing is that the agreement I made gets torn up if I reveal it. Not out of spite, mind you. The reason it gets torn up is because it can’t be delivered if it’s out in the open. It literally can’t be. To work, the people affected can’t know.”

My issue with trust, is the fact that numerous human rights have been impeded for decades. For example, women, elderly, and Indigenous rights have been violated as have the many individuals in this country live below the poverty line on welfare payments. Rights regarding accessing health care services are all but denied to the remote First Nations communities facing epidemics in preventable and treatable diseases such as Acute Rheumatic Fever or Trachoma. Basic rights for example water or fresh foods all but denied to the remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities. With these facts in mind, it is very difficult to extend the trust the Government are requesting when it comes to the immigration policies being worked on by our politicians.

Australia has a long way to go before we are ready to tackle human rights with an adequate plan. If it wasn’t for black men in America who voicing outrage regarding the mistreatment and lack of equality, women in general wouldn’t have been able to have their own rights established. Even then there are more than a few issues.

Included within the UN standards of Human rights is having full control over one’s finances regardless if they are working or receive welfare from governments. But, in Australia this right was refused to those relying upon Centrelink Payments to live. Initially this program was introduced in the NT in 2007 and solely focused at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations; after the NT Intervention was enacted. This first program was named the Basics Card and distributed 50% of social security payments onto the card while the rest was deposited into a nominated bank account. December 2020 other regions in Australia have been forced onto the Indue CDC, or Indue’s Cashless Debit Card. One of the main differences between the Basics and Indue cards is that the latter has 80% of social security payments restricted to the card, where the individual is unable to access their money as cash. Any extra income, such as family tax returns, or even advance payments from Centrelink are 100% on both cards. You have to ask permission to use any extra money.

These cards have shown to be extremely concerning for those forced to use them. Disabling the parents to provide for their families. For example, due to the inability to access cash, families are unable to purchase a cheap air-conditioning unit, or fridge. If they (Centrelink) deem it too much money to spend, yet you are left to swelter in the heat or feed a family without a fridge.

Both cards now subjected to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, with the hopes of becoming a national program for all individuals accessing welfare payments in Australia. Resulting in a violation of the basic human rights for every citizen forced to rely upon them!

With money being paid by the government to Indue to manage it at approximately $10k per person. All to “stop drugs and alcohol” being consumed. But with punitive measures like this, no wonder why numerous people turn to these substances as a means of evading the reality of their lives. Approximately 80% of women are on this card. Some have escaped from DV to be controlled by someone else.

Is this the legacy we want left for our future children? Remember, Australia, if we wish to retain the title of a first world country, we had best behave as though we are one!

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If Archbishop Mark Coleridge of the Brisbane Archdiocese drove me to the point of suicide in 2020 – did he and others conspire to commit a crime?

As a Survivor of childhood sexual abuse in a Catholic orphanage, I am the only person who can give myself agency. I am the only person who can stand up for myself and say that I have had enough of the treatment I have received from the Catholic Church. I make no allegation here, I make a direct accusation against Archbishop Mark Coleridge of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, and against the hierarchy of the Corporation of the Sisters of Mercy in Queensland.

In August 2020 I sought to end my own life.

In 1957 I was five years old. As my feet traversed the entrance to St. Vincent’s Catholic Orphanage near Brisbane I did not know that multiple rapes and years of mental cruelty lay in my future.

In 2017 I was sixty-four years old. As I lodged my Claim for redress against the Catholic Church I did not know that four years of re-traumatisation, re-abuse, and the very denial of my existence was ultimately going to send me to the acute mental health ward of Nambour General Hospital where I was placed on suicide watch.

The childhood rapes and cruelty I experienced are rightfully deemed to be a heinous series of crimes. Yet, the denial of agency and re-abuse I experienced from the Catholic Church when I lodged my Claim, events that combined together to lead me into the choice of wanting to end my own life, are not deemed to be crimes of equal magnitude. Well, I see no difference. Trauma is trauma. Abuse is abuse. Without the very good help of the professionals in the acute mental health ward I would not be here today writing this.

Imagine how appalling a feeling it was to find that in August 2020 I lost control of my own mind and came to awareness in the A & E ward of Nambour Hospital with a nurse checking my clothes and body for any implements I could use to kill myself.

I have a pretty obvious question to put to both the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, and to the Corporation of the Sisters of Mercy here in Queensland.

“When does omission of care by the Catholic Church cross the line between a casual indifference to the responsibility of duty of care, and morph into a deliberate criminal intent to deny care and cause harm?”

Committing myself has a bloody awful back-story. It is not a unique back-story. Too many of my Survivor Brothers and Sisters know the story all too well.

In early 2017, after almost a full lifetime of not having the courage to do it, I initiated legal proceedings against the Corporation of the Sisters of Mercy, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. Well little did I know. I expected justice, acknowledgement, apology, recognition of lifelong harm done, and heartfelt involvement in truth telling. I did not expect to be purposefully psychologically demolished, I did not expect to be treated as though I were lower than scum, I did not expect absolute silence once I had spoken, I did not expect the extent to which the Catholic Church was prepared to go to to diminish, unacknowledge, and water down my claim against them to almost nothing, I did not expect to be totally cut out of any important mediation session between the Church and my legal representatives, I did not expect to be treated as though I do not exist.

You may laugh at my naivety here, but I truly did believe the PR material contained on the Catholic websites where they state how much they care for the welfare of Survivors who lodge genuine claims for acknowledgement and redress. Naive no more. Their only concern was to protect their reputation, demolish me psychologically to the point where I fell apart and could not competently pursue my claim. In their aims they were totally successful – I openly admit I was a broken re-traumatised and re-abused man who was prepared to, and subsequently did so, sign any sort of release document just to get away from them and their abusive behaviour.

The Catholic Church did not care for my welfare as a litigant Survivor. Their only concern was damage limitation, a strict adherence to their internal risk management processes, and a go to any length approach to protect their public reputation.

So, to reiterate, how appalling a measure and indictment of the destructive power on the human spirit of childhood sexual abuse is it when one finds, in the latter stages of your life, finding yourself on suicide watch in a secure facility with your capability to control your mind in any sort of positive way totally lost to yourself. How appalling is it that when you approach the Catholic Church for justice and fairness their response is to re-abuse, re-traumatise, and drive you to the wish for suicide.

The last four years, induced and reinforced by the terrible way I was treated by the Sisters of Mercy and Archbishop Mark Coleridge of the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, has been an awful experience to go through.

So I make no allegation, I make a direct accusation. The Archbishop had nothing to do with my childhood rape experiences, but since he the head of the Archdiocese and can be seen as ultimately responsible for everything done in its name – I directly accuse him of gross failure in his duty of care towards me. I directly accuse him of responsibility for the four years of re-abuse and re-traumatisation that I have just experienced. I directly accuse him of placing me in an unsafe situation where I saw suicide as the only way out of the trauma. I directly hold the hierarchy of the Corporation of the Sisters of Mercy in Queensland of holding equal culpability in this matter.

In my opinion they have committed a crime.

I am writing to the Queensland Police Service to see if they will accept and investigate my Formal Complaint against Archbishop Coleridge.

Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636

 

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Industry partnership delivers real world training in homelessness

Media Release from Medianet

RMIT students are gaining a unique perspective through the first homelessness and housing course developed in collaboration with industry.

The popular summer intensive is part of an industry partnership between RMIT and Unison Housing.

Course coordinator and Deputy Director of the Unison Housing Research Lab at RMIT Dr Juliet Watson said the course – currently running for the fourth time – covered homelessness from policy, practice and research perspectives.

“We break down myths about homelessness,” she said.

“We look at how homelessness is defined, the variety of ways people become homeless or are at risk of becoming homeless and the experiences of different groups.

“Homelessness and housing affect every other area of your life – your employment, your relationships, your family life, your economic status.

“Anyone working in the fields of social work, youth work and psychology needs to have an understanding of this.”

The Lab is a unique partnership that combines academic research and industry knowledge to support a research agenda focused on improving the lives of Australians facing housing issues.

Unison Director of Housing and Homelessness Sue Grigg said the partnership provided critical, evidence-based research.

“Sharing this knowledge is essential to inform practices and service delivery across the sector, as well as government policy,” she said.

“With this course, we are providing the next generation of social workers with a unique opportunity to have direct access to real life, data-based research and sector experts.”

The course is being run online as an elective, with the bulk of students coming from the social work and human services cluster.

Watson said the practical aspects of the course were always popular with students.

“We really draw on the expertise of Unison as our industry partner and other non-government organisations and advocacy groups to shape the course,” she said.

“A key aspect is visiting services and having a speaker from the Council to Homeless Persons’ Peer Education Support Program where people who have experienced homelessness have the opportunity to improve the service system by sharing their experiences.

“I was worried about having the same access to external speakers due to having to move the course online because of COVID-19, but all our industry stakeholders continue to be incredibly generous with their time and expertise. I believe this is because they really value what the course is teaching.”

Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) student Holly Byrden said she had enjoyed her first summer subject.

“The highlight has been different speakers pretty much every session,” she said.

“We just had someone talk about her own experiences of homelessness, which I really enjoyed, and also visited an agency just before lockdown.

“We talked to the assistant manager and learnt how the workplace is run and what it’s like to work there.

“I’m not 100% sure what kind of work I want to do, but homelessness is something I’m interested in.

“Studying social work, I feel like I’ve found my niche and I’m around like-minded people. I want to work in a job where I can help people.”

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Invitation To Country

[Extract: By the 22nd Century, perhaps earlier, it is my belief that the Uluru Statement From the Heart will be recognised as a watershed moment rising up and out from the endless Dreamings of Indigenous time. It will become the primary Foundation Document that enabled the future creation of a strongly independent and more culturally harmonious post-invasion Australia. Keith Davis 2021)]

I would like to attend an Indigenous ceremony that welcomes me to Country. Why would I like to do that? Well, over the course of my lifetime I have gathered my reasons.

The thought of Welcome to Country digs deep into the question of what it means to be an Australian in the modern era, and it asks what commonality of Identity do we all share as Australians given the wealth of different cultural backgrounds we all come from.

The Australian Identity problem, to me, appears to be that the dominant mainstream culture in Australia controls the narrative around what an Australian Identity really is. New Citizens to the country are welcomed in a largely anglo/celtic ceremonial way. Cannons boom, flags wave, Politicians drone their speeches, swearing on rather than at Bibles gets a look in, and the New Citizens get a spiffy Certificate devoid of any sort of heartfelt apology for all the hurtful hoops they had to jump through to be finally accepted here in the first place.

I don’t have a problem with the fact that I come from an anglo/celtic background, I’m proud of it, and I even have a tattoo of the Celtic Tree of Life on my left arm. So I don’t have a problem in that area – but where I do feel an unease is over the fact that New Citizens to this country are welcomed here by the usurpers of a never ceded Indigenous Sovereignty. Those usurpers, as the dominant culture, claim the right to conduct the Welcome to Country at the national level. Doesn’t seem right does it?

As the truth-telling of the bloody and brutally violent history of the recent takeover/theft of this land by Europeans takes traction in the consciousness of mainstream Australia, it appears to me that the time is right not only to reset not only how we see ourselves, but also to re-craft an Australian Identity that is inclusive of us all.

Nobody has to agree with my line of thought on these matters, it is my line of thought, and I am well aware that there are many different lines of thought on this subject matter out there. But in for a penny as well as a pound as the old saying goes …

As a blue-blood anglo/celtic Australian, blue-blood in the sense that my ancestors on both sides were convicts who were banished to the other side of the world for pilfering a bolt of cloth or something, I could easily sit back and feel smug about where I sit on the Australian Identity Continuum. I don’t however, sit back in such smugness.

On one level, undeniably, I’m Australian. I’m a citizen of this Commonwealth. I even drive a Holden which thankfully is not a Ute and it does not have ‘patriotic’ flags waving nationalistically out of every window.

On another level I feel distinctly unsettled about the type of Australian Identity that has been crafted for me over the last two Centuries or so by the dominant culture that currently holds sway in this land.

There are some undeniable facts that cannot be massaged or fiddled away because of the faux outraged pettiness of dominant cultures.

The oldest contiguous culture on this planet escaped total decimation/genocide after 1788 by the skin of its teeth. As Indigenous Culture resurges with ‘We have always been here, still are, and you will see us and hear us’ it gives all of us a chance to consider an identity reset.

It all makes me want to ask a question that I at least have never heard asked before.

Because I was born on this land in 1952, because I am of this land, because gum scent is in my nostrils and because red dirt layers the soles of my feet, am I part of the oldest contiguous culture on this planet, or am I just an add-on?

I have certain feelings on this matter but only an Indigenous person could probably give me a clear answer to that one – an Indigenous person whose ancestors and self never ceded their sovereignty to my ancestors, or to my self, or to anybody else.

As young Indigenous Activists, and older ones as well, prod us to acknowledge the truth of our own history, and encourage us to learn and grow and walk equally side by side with them, it raises so many questions about the underlying Spirit of contemporary Australia.

I take as a given my right to have a Representative Voice in our Parliament. That Parliament and the system of governance it represents derives from the background culture of the anglo/celts (not discounting the earlier input to that system of the Britons, Danes, Vikings, Normans etc etc) and the invading English dumped their system of values and laws on this shore, and those values and laws eventually morphed into our system of Parliamentary Governance, and that system rode roughshod over the Indigenous Sovereign Laws and Lore that had existed here for untold thousands of years.

So … here we have a Parliament. I have a Voice in that Parliament. But the original and still owners of this land are continually denied their Voice in Parliament and a seat around the grand parliamentary table by our politicians and by our mainstream culture. Demolishes the myth of Australian egalitarianism don’t you think?

The Uluru Statement From the Heart was a combined First Nation’ effort to reach out to us and offer up a shared way forward. Our Parliament, the Parliament that speaks in our name, viciously riposted to the Statement by dumping it and the attendant hopes in the rubbish bin. There was no effort to meet halfway, there was no meeting of Spirit. The utter rejection of the Statement blights us all.

I don’t believe that the Uluru Statement From the Heart will continue to lie quietly in the background, nor will it allow itself to be ignored. By the 22nd Century, perhaps earlier, it is my belief that the Uluru Statement From the Heart will be recognised as a watershed moment rising up and out from the endless Indigenous Dreamings of time. It will become the primary Foundation Document that enabled the future creation of a strongly independent and more culturally harmonious post-invasion Australia.

Big words those might be. Fact is we have to look back and acknowledge truth, then seek a way to move forward together. The Uluru Statement offers us that way forward.

Sometimes in life little moments happen in our interactions with other people and those moments stick around in the back of our skull boxes for some reason .. here’s an example of that.

Almost two years ago I did an epic road trip out into the Australian Deserts, not a bad effort for an avowed stay at home hermit. On the road between Lake Eyre and Uluru I stopped to assist some Aboriginal men whose car had broken down – long story short it created the need for another epic trip of sorts to the nearest but far away Aboriginal Settlement in order to pick up a hose to syphon petrol from my car to theirs. It made time for an interesting conversation …

The other blokes stayed with their car and their leader came with me and directed me on the quest to find that elusive hose. I’m paraphrasing from memory here a bit, and we had quite a few laughs along the way at our mutual ineptitude at trying to find something as simple as a bit of garden hose out in the Desert of all places, but here’s the gist of the conversation …

“For a White Fella you seem to at least have half a brain so I want to be truthed up. I know you sensed that things could have gone bad today. Well nothing went bad because we all said to each other he’s the only White Fella who stopped.”

As one does I thought of a couple of things … since they were six fine examples of Aboriginal manhood I reckon I’d have lasted a magnificent three seconds into the first Round , and then I asked him why would I be hated or be a target?

“You are not hated Brother. We don’t hate White Fellas. You are not hated because you were not scared like the others who flashed past and you stopped out here with us. What we hate is what your Mob did to us. We hate that.” Serious stuff, and laughs, it was quite a conversation. How could it not make me think about the need for real change in Australia?

Another short moment to relate … at the underground bar in Coober Pedy I had a conversation without words with an old Aboriginal man … we both sat there in an alcove amongst all that resplendent touristic finery with a bottle of Italian beer in our hands and our eyes met … without words we smiled at each other and clinked our bottles … again, it was quite a conversation … an old white hermit and an old black member of the oldest contiguous culture on this planet … both sitting there feeling out of time and place yet recognising each other and wishing each other the best of good cheer. You see, it really is possible, with the Spirit of meet, hands really can extend towards each other.

My wish to be Welcomed to Country by a representative of First Nations’ People might just seem like a hollow goody-two-shoes symbolic act by some, and others may tag me a leftist bleeding-heart wishing for the seemingly impossible. I don’t care because I am neither of those things. All of us as human beings have to work out for ourselves the values that we carry around in our own hearts. I do not buy into the Australian myth of who I am supposed to be, and nor will I allow any Identity to be imposed upon me.

Only an Indigenous person can tell me whether or not my wish to be truly Welcomed to Country is culturally appropriate from their point of view. If they say no I’ll say fair enough. However, if they say yes and “quit yapping on about it you old bozo and get your skinny skin over here so we can get the thing done”, well, I’ll scoot over there with bells on.

All of us think, and I’m sure that most of you realise that, given the bloody nature of the earlier history of Australia, for any one of us to be truly Welcomed to Country by an Indigenous person is not a light flick-away feel-good thing. It is not like the Welcome to Country that we get when we attend the first day of a Cricket Test.

To be truly Welcomed to Country requires both parties to stand together, and look back together, and for one party to acknowledge the pain and suffering caused and the generational disadvantage imposed and the benefits accrued to that party by being a modern day beneficiary of all the terrible things that went on before, and for the other party to speak and be heard and to not hold back on the depth of the wounding and pain and that deepest deepest sense of loss. So there is nothing ephemeral about such a real Welcome to Country. That is my view.

Such a meeting of true Spirit could have the power to resonate strongly and cut through the apathy and judgemental indifference and the spurning that our, our, mainstream culture directs towards the First Nations’ People of this land. Like anything else in Australia real change on serious issues comes from the ground up, it comes from individual people who see the need for change coming together to create that change.

Before I die I want to be Welcomed to Country, my country, by the only People who can do such a thing. I don’t want pomp and ceremony, booming cannons, political double-speak, hands on supposedly holy books, or any other of that made up guff. I want to be drawn into, and invited to feel a welcomed part of, the timeless Spirit of this Land.

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Wake up, Australia!

It is true that 2020 is behind us and that various vaccines for COVID-19, claimed to be effective, are in the process of being distributed – BUT – we still have a Coalition government, which is ruled by the same power group which has, initially under Nick Minchin’s influence, and for at least two decades, denied us government support for realistic action on climate change.

I suspect that being in power is an incredible aphrodisiac – at the flick of a pen you can refuse to accept valid advice and expect that your popularity in the right quarters will then ensure a comfortable retirement from politics – and to hell with all those powerless fools whose lives will be forever damaged in consequence!

Inequality, in addition to lack of action on global warming, is a vicious menace.

We have a government which takes a jackboot attitude towards the poor and the disabled.

Don’t for a moment believe that the proof of illegality of Robodebt will stop this government from enforcing draconian laws on those who lack the skills and the finance to protect themselves from government mistreatment.

The current push – which, once more, is possibly illegal – is for a cashless welfare card to be imposed on many communities, and individuals, on the arrogant assumption that the people affected are incapable of managing a budget and need protection from themselves because they will fritter money away on drugs and alcohol.

And this is not being applied only to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people, yet no one notices that it goes way beyond arrogant paternalism, as it smacks of an assumption that these people are incapable of learning how to manage their own money!

Too many decision makers – be they government Ministers or bureaucrats – lack lived experience. If you have never lost a limb, been born with a disability, suffered extreme poverty, etc, you are not really in a good position to understand the effect of these situations on others.

Particularly when it comes to dealing with people with any sort of mental illness, when to lose patience with them because they are not behaving – in your personal opinion – in a rational manner, is the height of stupidity on your part.

No person with any sort of mental impairment should ever be interviewed by officials in the absence of an advocate known to the interviewee. Have you ever heard of the Anunga rules in the NT in regard to Indigenous people in police custody?

This is an approach which needs to be adopted in all cases where any issues raised might affect the ability of either party in an interview to understand the other – whether it be language or mental capacity which is the applicable issue.

Our ATSI people are, in many parts of Australia, among the most disadvantaged people in the world. They struggle to maintain – or, in many cases, recover – a culture which is extremely important to them. As with many migrants, English is not even not necessarily their first language at home, it is often their third or fourth language.

Have you ever seen this map of Australia before?

Many ATSI people can speak in multiple languages. If they do not understand English, it is not because they are any more stupid than you are if you cannot understand a Chinese speaker – because you have never learned to speak fluent Chinese!

If the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted one thing, it is that the government’s main interest is in the economy. This is, in some instances, understandable, but governments MUST multi-task!

People are in second place – or, for particular groups, even lower down the priority list – so that the only thing admired by too many of our politicians is the ability to acquire, and enhance the nature of, wealth! If you are in entertainment or politics, being wealthy makes you the darling of the media but if you are disadvantaged in any way, neither media nor politicians really give a damn about you!

I subscribe to Crikey and, over this past year or two, they have been following research into NDIS.

This has not been well received by official circles, yet when these findings have been obtained, is the research not warranted?

We live in an era where the advice on which government Ministers seem to rely does not come from experienced Public Servants, but from political advisers, whose duties are centred – not on “What is best for the country?”, but “What is most likely to help win the next election?”

When people’s lives are being damaged in consequence of a totally flawed policy approach, something has to change.

And we who are electors have got to be much more vocal in making it clear that what we are being offered doesn’t begin to meet the pub test!

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Qantas workers cannot be denied sick leave, says ACTU

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), in keeping with their reputation to doing anything to ensure that the nation’s workers receive their proper contractual award obligations, is going to the High Court to win sick leave entitlements for the workers of Qantas.

According to Scott Connolly, the ACTU’s assistant national secretary, the airline giant colloquially known as an Australian icon, and the giant red kangaroo logo usually being the first thing tourists entering Australia see when they go through the nation’s airports, has not been extending the sick leave entitlement to its employees for a number of years.

In some cases, it has been decades of Qantas workers allowing their sick leave entitlements to accrue, mainly due to the failure of Qantas’s front offices and human resources divisions to invoke its duty of care to extend those entitlements to employees who need it most.

One such hard-hit case is that of Peter Seymour, a 31-year Qantas veteran push-back/aircraft driver based at Sydney Airport who has been battling cancer since receiving his diagnosis a year ago, saying that the company has failed to pay out a single cent of his sick leave entitlement.

“I love my job but that was a huge smack in the face,” Seymour said on Wednesday, as the ACTU was announcing its High Court action with multi-union backing on behalf of the workers of Qantas.

“I was treated just like a number [by the company].

“I could not stay on JobKeeper because I’ve got bills to pay, so I was forced to take redundancy from the company. I’ve just turned 64 and I still have to work, I now have to find a job” despite his cancer diagnosis, Seymour added.

Instead, Seymour had to suffer the further indignity of being contacted by the company via an e-mail that he was being made redundant and forced onto the JobKeeper stimulus – which possesses a much lower rate to award to him than a payout from Qantas – in place of any accrued sick leave entitlement.

“Qantas’ behaviour toward the most unwell people in its workforce has been callous and illegal,” said Connolly, who also cited the case of one other unnamed Qantas employee who after receiving a diagnosis of heart disease, was also given the same fate by the airline company.

“That’s why we fully support this bid to have this matter heard in the High Court,” added Connolly.

The case – being brought under the auspices of the law firm of Maurice Blackburn on behalf of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), all unions with vested interests among Qantas’s workforce – has found its way to the High Court after being rejected in the Federal Court last month.

Maurice Blackburn employment law principal Giri Sivaraman and the ACTU were united in agreement that this case being presided over by the High Court is bound to leave a precedent on workers’ rights cases over any sort of leave entitlements for years to come.

“We say that you can’t stand someone down who is on sick leave, and if you can’t stand them down then you can’t withhold sick leave payments from them,” Sivaraman said outside the High Court in Canberra.

“This appeal is not just important for Qantas employees who’ve been unfairly denied access to their own sick, compassionate, personal or carer’s leave, it’s critical to all workers in Australia who may be stood down in the future,” added Connolly.

As expected, Seymour’s union, the TWU, is not only backing him but potentially countless others whose entitlements may become denied to them by any employer, and not one with the wealth of Qantas.

“Qantas has received over $800 million in [JobKeeper] taxpayers’ support to help it during the pandemic but instead of acting like a responsible employer in return it is trashing lives and trashing jobs,” said TWU national secretary Michael Kaine.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, whose company has received $800 million in government funding, JobKeeper and otherwise, during the pandemic. (Photo from abc.net.au)

And Kaine believes that any sort of government stipends, stimulus endeavours or other fundings should come with a strict set of terms and conditions, especially when workers’ lives and well-being remains at stake.

“Denying sick workers the leave they have built up and pushing them in some case out of their jobs in order to access redundancy payments to pay bills is utterly despicable.

“The Federal Government could tie conditions to the public money it is pumping into Qantas to force it to act responsibly but it is choosing not to,” added Kaine.

The other unions involved in the ACTU’s case remain resolute and defiant in fighting the case on behalf of all of its workers past, present and future.

“We make no apology for continuing our pursuit to right these wrongs. This is another very important step in the fight to ensure every worker in this country can access their sick leave when they need it most,” said Allen Hicks, the national secretary of the ETU.

“It adds insult to injury for sick Qantas workers who now have to defend their right to sick leave entitlements in the High Court,” said Steve Murphy, the national secretary of the AMWU, who added that the fight in the High Court amid Qantas’s decision could not come at a worse time in 2020.

“Essential workers stepped up during the year from hell, now Qantas is out-of-control, leaving it’s sick workers behind during their time of need – at Christmas,” said Murphy.

 

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