Category Archives: history

Book Launch – “The Secret War: A True History of Queensland’s Native Police”

by Jonathan Richards

 “The Secret War” will be launched by Henry Reynolds at the Avid Reader bookshop, Boundary St. West End (Bris) on Wednesday 19th March 2008 at 6.00 pm.

 From the publisher, University of Queensland Press….……

  Henry Reynolds describes Jonathan Richards’ controversial book, The Secret War: A True History of Queensland’s Native Police, as ‘a major contribution to Queensland and Australian historiography, and to the history of relations between colonists and indigenous people on a global scale’.

The health, housing and employment crisis facing Indigenous people today are a direct result of our white settlement history.

How did Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, from all over Queensland, end up being violently forced to leave their homelands and live in these communities?

Why were Indigenous people so terrified of the police, they allowed themselves to be herded into ‘prisons without walls’?

The release of The Secret War is timely given the new Labor Government’s official apology to the Aboriginal people.

The Secret War tells the story of organised racial violence and lawful mass murder on the Queensland frontier.

For many Indigenous people, white colonisation arrived with the armed men of the Native Police: a brutal force that operated on the 19th-century frontier, killing large numbers of Indigenous men, women and children.

Historian Jonathan Richards has spent ten years researching this contentious subject, picking his way through secrecy, misinformation and supposed ‘lost files’ to uncover and publish the truth.

In this first full-length comprehensive study of the Native Police in Queensland, he argues that they were a key part of a ‘divide and rule’ colonising tactic and that the force’s actions were given the implicit approval of the government and public servants, and that their killings were covered up.

The Queensland government, which so far has avoided blame due to an absence of direct orders to kill Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, stands responsible for the force’s deployment, techniques and ultimately for its genocidal activities.

The Secret War is an authoritative and groundbreaking contribution to our country’s white settlement history.

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Reflections on indigenous issues by a non-indigenous person for the consideration of non-indigenous people.

This is a post I have written for the blog “Public Polity” which is Run by Sam Clifford who is an active member of the Queensland Greens.  http://publicpolity.wordpress.com/   I will be writing regularly for Public Polity. 

 Firstly a note on vocabulary.  When I use the word “white” I am speaking of culture and worldview, I am not talking about skin colour.  White is a psychological, sociological and legal structure which dark skinned people can also be agents of, in fact this is the premise of our immigration policy and citizenship test.

 “Aboriginal” is not a matter of skin colour but of bloodline – a matter of family and that particular family’s connection to particular country.  There were no Aboriginal or Indian or native people in Australia before Captain Cook. There was just families, communities and nations connected to this land.   On this continent today there does indeed exist a colonial and an “Aboriginal” society. The Late Oodgeroo Noonucal coined the term “non-Aboriginal” to turn the colonial perspective around and  define migrant experience by its difference to sovereign Aboriginal Australian reality rather than define Aboriginality by its difference to “normal” colonial society.

The psychological, sociological and legal structure inherent in Aboriginal families and the Australian landscape is not exclusive of non-Aboriginal people.  It is in fact white Australia’s refusal to relate to Aboriginal Australia within the frameworks of Aboriginal society that has caused all the problems.

The history of invasion, genocide and colonisation is not just an Aboriginal story.  Aboriginal people have been the victims of this history but it is predominantly a history of what white people and governments have done.  The smallpox, massacres and poisonings, the missions and reserves, the slave labour, the stolen wages and the stolen generation are all part of mainstream Australia’s history every bit as much as Gallipoli, the Eureka stockade or Donald bloody Bradman.

It is important to understand the history to explain why Aboriginal Australia today is like it is.  But the history of war and colonisation also explains why white Australia today is like it is, how the forces of history built the new nation and our contemporary culture and structures.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Rudd’s apology and acknowledgement that we got it wrong in the past is overshadowed by his government’s indigenous policy and programs, or at least those that we have had a glimpse of so far.  They are a continuance of 20th century Aboriginal policy paradigms and I am sad to say so are the Greens indigenous policy frameworks.

The radical departure from colonial bandaids that began with Whitlam and continued through the Fraser, Hawke and Keating years and is embodied in the U.N. declaration on indigenous rights appears to have been forgotten in the 21stcentury policy framework of the ALP and the Greens.

Notions such as land rights and self determination have been sidelined as secondary considerations to the urgent priority of “Closing the Gap”, an inherently assimilationist campaign/policy that identifies the cause of Aboriginal problems to be inherent in Aboriginal society itself – ill health, not in the white society including government policy. 

  “Close the Gap” applies a bandaid to the symptoms that white society sees (usually on TV) but fails in any way to address the structural factors that cause and perpetuate illness and disadvantage.

The causal factors of Aboriginal suffering today  are inherent in white colonial society and are invisible to white colonial society, it is the background normality.

The problem lies in such things as institutional modes of health care, paramilitary (police) and prison deterrence modes of maintaining law and order, exclusive legal title to our own back yard, mining and European modes of farming, welfare programs etc.  All these things that are the front line of the continued impoverishment, ill health and deaths in custody in Aboriginal society are taken for granted by the colonial society.  They are the morally righteous agencies of democracy and market economy.  These things that bring death, disease and dispossession to Aboriginal Australia bring health and prosperity to colonial society.  It is not easy to identify our own sociology as a causal factor in Aboriginal trauma and crisis.

The common Australian notion of reconciliation is a white myth.  Inherent in this myth is the assumption that white and black Australia must find some middle ground, shake hands and begin negotiations.  A simple formula but one that is no more likely to succeed than Palestinian Muslims finding a common ground with Israeli Jews while the state of Israel exists.  All Middle East so-called peace negotiations are not good willed, open-minded exchanges; they are power games where the dominant military and economic power – The U.S. – determines the framework and parameters of negotiations and raw power is played against raw power in the process. 

The whole “peace” process and the management of conflict in negotiations is tightly controlled by the vested interests of the U.S. who designed and maintains the state of Israel in accordance with U.S. interests.

So too with Australia’s reconciliation movement.  It has been designed and managed within the worldview of white Australia, the illegally imposed British state and its entrenched colonial society.   The meetings, petitions and bridge walks of the last 2 decades have been predominantly manifestations of white Australia.  Apart from the Aboriginal spokespeople and committee members, Aboriginal Australia has largely not joined this movement.  The reconciliation process has been a white commentary on black Australia, perhaps easing some of White Australia’s anxieties but it has not connected in any meaningful way to Aboriginal Australia.

The reconciliation movement has achieved no positive change in Aboriginal Australia, except of course for the Apology, which while spiritually significant, does nothing to address issues of Aboriginal poverty, disadvantage and ill health. 

This is a stark contrast with the land rights and self-determination movements of the 60s. 70s and in particular the 80s leading up to the 88 bicentennial protest. This movement was lead exclusively by Aboriginal people and the meetings, marches and other events were well attended by Aboriginal people including tens of thousands from Around Australia gathering in Sydney in 1988.

The early land rights movement of the 60s and 70s, while consistently promoting land rights as the primary agenda, built independent, self managed Aboriginal medical centres, legal services, housing services and childcare services to tackle the exact same issues that we are faced with today. 

As well as struggling for funding for these welfare crisis responses the movement forced on structural reform such as the native title act and ATSIC and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.  However, despite the existence of the reconciliation movement, all the gains of the 20th century s have been deconstructed. 

 The mode for engaging in indigenous affairs that the reconciliation movement and presently the Greens and ALP operate in defines both the problem and a prescription for a solution totally within white notions and frameworks.  The essential task of facilitating and empowering the agencies of Aboriginal perspective has been reduced to allowing Aboriginal input into the decisions, policies and programs owned by the white government.

 At present Aboriginal people are only allowed to be part of white programs and policies, there is no funding or support for anything else.  The dominant mode of engagement with Aboriginal people is  “consultation” where Aboriginal people are told what the white policy and program is and are given advice and assistance as to how to conform to it.  The new ALP government and the Green’s policies do not suggest any change to this mode.

The challenge for us non-Aboriginal people, whether we are policy writers or grass roots activists is not to try and develop solutions to Aboriginal problems.

We non-Aboriginal folk should try and solve the problems of white Australia that cause the problems in Aboriginal Australia.

The challenge for indigenous policy and action is to allow and resource Aboriginal people to deal with their own problems within their own cultural frameworks and authorities and in accordance with their own priorities.  – self-determination.

The challenge for the Greens and the ALP, who both enthusiastically endorse the signing of the U.N. declaration on indigenous rights, is to develop policy in accordance with the core principles of the U.N. declaration – land rights and self determination.

Real reconciliation is about the colonial invader society paying reparations for the damage it has done and continues to do, when somehow and somewhere some land, wealth and power is transferred back to the people it was  stolen from.

Bandaids such as “Close the Gap” just won’t stick.

 

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Kevin Rudd’s Sorry statement has to say why the government is sorry – press release from Michael Anderson

Press release:  Michael Anderson, Goodooga, NSW, 29 January 2008

In a statement from Goodooga in NW NSW, Michael Anderson said today:

“In our family’s experience, my grandmother taken from Angledool, NW NSW in 1914 and had to find her own way home. She always wanted recognition of the government’s cruel judgement to breed out the colour and culture of Aboriginal people.”

“For an apology to be meaningful, there is a lot of history that PM Kevin Rudd has to admit to. He has to say why the Prime Minister and government is sorry and the public has to accept that the sorry statement is necessary for Australia to move forward.”

“In 1937, State and Federal governments convened aconference in Canberra to decide on a policy of what to do with ‘the Aborigines’ – the resulting policy objective was for the complete annihilation of a race of Peoples. The principle method to achieve this was to remove Aboriginal children from their parents and from the influence of customs, traditions and Law/Lore. The primary objectives were to de-Aboriginalise these children and to expunge their colour, because Australia was working towards an Aryan race.”

“It is important to remember that, in 1901, the first Federal Prime Minister, Edmund Barton, argued for a continent that could be free of ‘contamination’ by foreign and unwanted racial impurities. When he led the debate in the House of Representatives on the Immigration Restriction Bill 7 August 1901, he quoted Professor Pearson a noted social commentator of the time by saying: ‘The fear of Chinese immigration which the Australian democracy cherishes … is in fact, the instinct of self-preservation, quickened by experience … We are guarding the last part of the world in which the higher races can live and increase freely for the higher civilisation .… The day will come …when the European observers will look around the globe girdled with a continuous zone of the yellow and black races. It is idle to say that if all this should come to pass our pride and place will not be humiliated. We are struggling among ourselves for supremacy in a world which we thought of as destined to belong to the Aryan race; and to the Christian faith; to the letters and arts and charms which we have inherited from the best of times.”

“Many in mainstream cannot plead ignorance as it was a common agreement between State and Federal governments with the policy finalised in 1937 in Canberra. There are many Australians still alive today, who voted and trusted the governments to do right thing, but never questioned what was going on. The policy was genocidal in intent and practice – to create a white Australia without colour.”

“In almost every other country in the world, where colonisation has taken place, reparations in various forms have enabled survivors of gross violations of human rights to locate their niche in society. Reparation funds have made it possible for those indigenous groups to maintain identity, restore dignity, develop strategies and an economic base.”

“Reparation programs have to ensure there is not a white bureaucracy having control over us. We have to get away from mission managers. We do not want to be treated as children. We have never been given opportunity to manage our own affairs without a white bureaucratic ceiling of control and an expectation of assimilation.”

“Aboriginal Peoples can do without the welfare handouts. Our nations have to restore their territorial integrity and Australians have no reason to fear this.”“We must set our own objectives. We have a right to do this. The recent UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms our rights and responsibilities. In Australia, Greeks, Italians, Macedonians have own clubs, churches, languages,schools while integrating into Australian society. Why is it different for us as Aboriginal Nations and Peoples in our own land?”

“If Rudd and his labour government are serious, the detail of a sorry statement must include the true horror of the genocide that was planned against Aboriginal Peoples and what was carried out.”

“To alleviate the Australian governments’ fears of separate development through reparation, they only have to look at US and Canadian models, where the sovereign identity of individual nations is maintained. In the Mabo case, the High Court alluded to the fact that sovereignty can continue to exist among Aboriginal Peoples and we assert that it does. We only ask that this be respected and that we can have co- existing sovereignties.”

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Political addiction and the 2007 election ( Revenge of the Pseph)

“Well may you say God Save the Queen, but nothing will save the governor General”

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I just had to say that on remembrance day. Every time I visit Canberra I have to stand at the front of the old parliament house and recite this mantra. Today is a holy day for political junkies.

I find election night television coverage to be a highlight of my viewing year. Every now and then I like to sit in the TAB and make a few bets, there is something mesmerizing about studying the numbers on the screen and trying to make sense of them followed by an exhilarating or disappointing climax as the race is called. I get the same petty buzz on election nights.

My name is John and I am a political junkie.

My craving for more and more is profoundly dissatisfied by this Federal election. I feel I am being subjected to involuntary cold turkey and being denied access to any solid political hits.

I am bored silly with the present election campaign. I agree with Mark Latham’s analysis that this election is a Seinfeld election – all about nothing. Senator Andrew Bartlett makes similar observations on his blog “Empty vessels and hollow men”.  

Kevin Rudd and the ALP have been running fast in all directions to avoid any argument with John Howard and the incumbent government and the substance of all media coverage has been meaningless visits to shopping centres, workplaces, schools and old peoples homes. The media hunts for bloopers and mishaps. When they get such a spontaneous distraction they feature that as the lead story.

When John Howard and Kevin Rudd met for a televised debate the headlines were not interested in any political issues but focused on the sensation of “The Worm”, the perception of the audience. The only exciting news presented about the election to date has been the almost daily release of opinion polls and the endless speculation about the size of the swing to the ALP.

Unfortunately much of the election commentary on the blogosphere has been similarly shallow, often just commenting on the media pulp but more and more  engaging in the esoteric art of psephology (the statistical study of elections).  

Independent psephylitics have been raised to a higher pedestal than political commentators.   The ABC’s Antony Green, the unchallenged Lord of the Psephs, has emerged as the most authoritative election analyst on the web and on the T.V. Journalists of the ilk of Laurie Oakes or Paul Bongiorno who have dominated past election coverage with their inside leaks, policy juxtapositions and eagerness to find or create political conflicts have been sidelined by Lord Antony’s speculative number crunching.

Politics has been reduced to the level of a cricket match. We, the people, sit in the grandstands cheering for one side or the other and watching the scoreboard.  However we will be quickly evicted if we wander on to the pitch. The thing that makes the 2007 election different to other cricket matches is that the ALP is content to bowl under-arm for the whole test. The government is swinging wildly trying to make contact with the ball but it rolls so slow and so low they cant do anything with it.

It is easy to be cynical about politicians detachment from the real world, about their minimal contact with their constituents who have no real power or voice in parliamentary business. Consent is given to these removed politicians once every three (or six) years by way of a cross in a box next to their name on a ballot paper which is the only political engagement required of a “responsible citizen”. It is similarly easy to be cynical about the expansive gulf between policy principles discussed in parliament and the real working (or not working) of government policies and public service delivery in the real lives of real people on the ground.

The only knowledge we have of the exercise of political power comes from a severely refracted, minimalised and biased mass media, not necessarily biased within the parliamentary spectrum but intensely biased in the construction of notions of society, citizenship and politics. The mass media, as our only common cultural experience as a nation defines our notions of “normal”, “reasonable” and “desirable”. The media is biased in favour of a growth/consumerist economy and sociology. Alternative perspectives of the world and the perspectives from on the ground in real peoples lives are simply not represented in the cultural parameters of mass media product.

So, through a combination of detached and alienating parliamentary political process and a one dimensional mass media, mainstream political discussion and activity is simply engagement in this clumsy illusion.

This mass adherence to illusion is a matter of consciousness. It is what we flawed humans do, we adopt or create illusions and then cling to them as if it was absolute reality.

The shallow, mechanical nature of the 2007 election is actively dumbing down the Australian population – and our consciousness, our understandings of what politics is and what is our role in it. We are more and more accepting our position as a passive market rather than an active body-politic.

Public opinion, as expressed through surveys, petitions, political campaigns and focus group research is not used as a basis for democratic policy development but as data that influences the advertising campaigns for undemocratic, unrepresentative policies devised by small elites detached from any public control or even input.

Politics and ideas have been reduced to conversation and “public opinion” (whatever that is). The concept of an idea metamorphosing into action and history is a notion that is not even considered by us ordinary people except within our privatised existence at work or within the fence lines of our home.

It does not matter if our politics is Green, revolutionary socialist, christian, feminist, libertarian or anything else if we engage in politics as simply conversation, ideas detached from existential reality and material history, then our politics is an illusion with no connection to the exercise of power. The adoption of alternative political illusions is not alternative to political illusion itself which, as I mentioned, is a matter of consciousness not ideology.

On matters of consciousness, Jiddu Krishnamerti had something to say on the matter…. “The core of the teachings”

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John Howard’s referendum on assimilation

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Yesterday John Howard announced that he will, if re-elected, hold a referendum to amend the preamble of the Australian constitution to include a “statement of reconciliation” and to “recognise indigenous Australians”

The first thing to note about the proposed change to the constitution is that it is legally meaningless. The preamble of the constitution contains no specifics and is not a basis for any legal framework. It is just a – preamble. It cannot be referred to to make or amend laws as the rest of the constitution can.

The key legal issues of land rights, customary law and sovereignty will not be included in Howard’s (or copy-cat Rudd’s) “acknowledgement”.

Howard’s media comments today included recognising Aboriginal people as the first “inhabitants” of Australia, which even James Cook and Joseph Banks “acknowledged” on the Endeavor voyage. But like Cook and Banks, Howard is incapable of acknowledging indigenous sovereignty or customary law, not even considering the possibility of “prior” sovereignty.

John Howard says constitutional change would include indigenous Australia’s “special, but not separate place within a reconciled and indivisible nation.”

Since the 1967 referendum allowing Aboriginal people to be recorded in the census and empowering the federal government to make laws about Aboriginal people, white Australia has been prepared to accept Aboriginal people as equal citizens; equal to white people, equal subjects of the crown. The racial discrimination laws of the 1970s gave full rights of white Australia to people of all cultures, and outlawed the removal of these “equal” rights, but they did not acknowledge any indigenous rights such as Aboriginal land rights or Aboriginal customary law which are not rights enjoyed by all Australians. The anti discrimination laws are also Terra Nullius assimilation laws.

When Eddie Mabo proved to the High Court that his family owned their block of land since before Captain Cook the court accommodated this in terms of English common law. It refused to acknowledge any legal rights or interests inherent in Torres Strait customary land law and how it connects to all other areas of life. White land law gave white notion of land rights (native title) and black law remained invisible and repressed.

The Howard government has thwarted any possibility of land rights by wrecking native title law, has essentially outlawed customary law and has very recently opposed the U.N. declaration on indigenous rights. What is left for Howard to “recognise”?

Having smashed all legal acknowledgement of indigenous rights this constitutional amendment will be a celebration of the victory of white supremacy, an arrogant assertion that indigenous people now have nowhere to go except into the white mainstream. This is certainly not reconciliation.

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Hearts and minds

As readers may know I am an occaisional writer for the greenish leaning “Dead Roo” blog. I have also begun writing for  “Leftrights”, a leftish leaning blog.

My first post on Leftwrites is entitled “The Eurocentrism of Australian Socialism”

Here is my most recent comment on that discussion……

The point of real connection with Aboriginal Australia is spirituality, not ideology. It is about the heart not the head.

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Terra Nullius and Ecology

I have been promising for a while to write something about colonial perspectives and the environment movement. However I got caught up in critiques of socialism and the APEC demonstrations and didn’t get around to it. Then I realised that I have never put the following article on Paradigm Oz. It is an old one that has been published elsewhere but it is relevent to many of my recent posts here.   So here it is…..

Terra Nullius and Ecology

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