Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Long's march and Palm Island's police terror

After walking as far as the Murray River, Michael Long has secured the meeting with PM John Howard that he was hoping for. He wants to highlight the situation facing Aboriginal people today, and ask the government to wake up to it. Long is an Aboriginal man whose family is from Tiwi Island and a former star football player with Essendon. His concern for the serious issues facing Indigenous Australians is certainly heart-felt, and he points out - rightly - that the government is not paying enough attention. Earlier this week, he told Mark Colvin of ABC local radio's PM programme:
“We want to be a part of the future and what's happening now with the indigenous future, if we let it go in the way it's going there will be no future. There will be no indigenous Australia.

And it's sad to say that, because I mean, we've got so many people dying, we've got third world conditions in our own backyard – health problems, educational problems, there's so many interconnecting problems that we need to address.”
He started walking from Melbourne about a week ago, aiming to get to Canberra to meet with John Howard to discuss Aboriginal issues. He gathered a lot of support and interest along the way. I don't know how much being a former star footballer had to do with this success, but I'm more impressed with how far he has been able to get Aboriginal issues back on the front page of some newspapers and radio coverage. But it didn't seem to make much of a dint in the Sydney Morning Herald, to judge from their website.

Long has decided to drive the rest of the way from Albury to Canberra, because he got his target of securing an appointment with John Howard. Patrick Dodson, the 'father of reconciliation', is meant to be joining him for that meeting. I hope that this means we're going to see and hear a lot more from Michael Long on Aboriginal issues.

Why? I think the recent Palm Island riots and continuing black deaths in custody illustrate how seriously the dispossession of Indigenous Australia is affecting people, and how urgently we must tackle the issues. It also illustrates that the bloody, heavy-handed, white-fella approach to policing and dealing with indigenous issues is still getting it WRONG!

The Queensland government's '5 point plan' to 'restore order' on Palm Island is just more police repression of the Island’s Aboriginal community, creating more shock and turmoil in the aftermath of the riots.

According to
Ian Townsend's ABC radio report, 80 ‘heavily armed and armoured” police landed on the Island to ‘restore order’ they raided Aboriginal peoples’ homes over the weekend. One woman reported what happened to her niece:
“The swat teams, pursuit officers, entered the premises forcibly, had my young niece lay on the floor and held a gun to her head, and she's only 15.

Now, where do these officers, where does the police commissioner get off traumatising 15-year-old and younger children?”
Read the transcript of Townsend's report to get a picture we're not getting from commercial news sources.


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