Friday, September 28, 2007

Women for Wik Raise Banner of Struggle Against NT Intervention

I attended a very emotional Women for Wik seminar today on the racist Northern Territory intervention.

Olga Havnen, Coordinator of the Combined Aboriginal Organisations of the Northern Territory, tore the mask off the "compassionate" face adopted by the Howardites and explained with a power point presentation just how hypocritical and devastating is the intervention.

She pointed out that 40 per cent of the Territory's Aborigines were under the age of 15, and that many were less well-educated in both white and traditional ways than their parents.
"Forty-eight per cent of Aboriginal secondary students are 'ungrade'. That means they have not even achieved a Grade 7 primary education," she said.

"If the Federal Government thinks it's got a crisis now, well, the rest is coming!"

Olga noted that the 5 Bills rushed through Federal Parliament comprised 700 pages of complex legislation that "could not have been put together in the 6 weeks since the intervention was announced."

She's quite right. The legislation was actually framed as a response to issues raised in the Discussion paper on the NT Land Rights Act which was released by Brough's department last year, well in advance of the release of the Little Children Are Sacred Report.

This earlier post of mine looks at the issues in the Discussion paper.

Basically, the Government seized upon the Little Children Are Sacred report, wept bucket loads of crocodile tears about the sexual abuse of children in remote Aboriginal communities, totally ignored the recommendations of the report, at the same time as it used it as a fig leaf for the dismantling of land rights that it had all along intended to carry out.

For those white Australians who have put their heads in the sand over the intervention, Olga had an ominous warning, namely, that other non-Aboriginal communities, for example, white suburbs with low socio-economic status and problems of unemployment and drugs, could be added to the list of communities subject to a federal intervention.

Quietly spoken Rachel Willika described herself as a good mother to her six children living at the Eva Valley community. "Why can’t we be treated equally?" she pleaded as tears and emotion overtook her .

Eileen Cummings, of the Bulman and Ngkurr communities, and a former policy advisor to the Chief Minister of the NT, tearfully recounted how she had been removed from her mother as a five year old. "I only knew my mother for the last fifteen years of her life," she said.

She detailed how the intervention was reducing Aborigines to "wards of the state" all over again, and taking away control from families and communities instead of empowering them.

Her daughter Raelene Rosas, from the Bulman community gave a defiant speech, refusing to wipe away her tears as she spoke. She recounted how she had returned to learn traditional ways from her grandmother and described the situation of being caught between two cultures.
All were calling for support from the broader community for help in opposing the Howard Government's land grab and its attacks on Aboriginal communities and families.

As local nunga woman Auntie Alice Rigney said, at the end, "We’re going to live the past again - an apartheid system."

Actions were announced for 19 October.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Black Armband 3: Aftermath of the Maria massacre

(Moogie Sumner, right, a proud descendent of the Coorong people, in traditional body ochre designs as leader of the Coorong mob dancers.)

Most South Australians, if they bothered to think about it at all today, would probably say that, compared to the other Australian colonies, SA was settled relatively peacefully.

Actually, it was unsettled very violently.

So much so that, four years after the birth of the colony in 1836, senior administrators were referring to international law in an effort to prove that Aborigines along the frontier were nations at war with Britain and deserving of extermination.

The particular frontier that prompted this search for a justification for genocide was the coastal stretch known today as the Coorong where the Salt Creek, or Milmenrura, people had killed two whalers in 1839, following possible involvement in the killing of explorer Captain Collett Barker at the Murray Mouth in 1831.

Murder of the Maria survivors

In June 1840, the brig Maria was wrecked at the bottom end of the Coorong en route from Hobart to Adelaide. Twenty-six crew and passengers survived, but confused as to their whereabouts, apparently negotiated with the Milmenrura to be taken to the nearest township of Victor Harbor on the other side of the Mouth.

Perhaps because some of the crew made sexual advances to Milmenrura women, or perhaps because the Milmenrura wanted the clothing and other possessions of the survivors, or perhaps because the survivors tried to force the Milmenrura to enter land which was not theirs to enter, or perhaps because the Milmenrura simply saw a chance to kill a part of the invasion population, the rescued party never made it further than present-day Meningie. They were all killed. (For more information, see here.)

Punishment by hanging

A punitive force under Major O’Halloran (below), the Commissioner of Police, was despatched under orders from the colonial Governor, George Gawler to “make prisoners the whole

number congregated with the murderers…(if) you are really compelled to abandon temperate measures, and to resort to those of extreme force, you will not be held blamable…your warfare is not with any but the tribe by which the murder was committed…Should your mind become satisfied of the guilt as to actual participation in the murder of any number not exceeding three, you will, if possible, move the whole tribe in your power to the spot at which the murder was committed. You will there explain to the blacks the nature of your conduct, and the orders you have received from the Governor, and you will deliberately and formally cause sentence of death to be executed by shooting or hanging…”

The following account of the expedition comes from the reminiscences of Inspector Tolmer of the Mounted Police:

“The result of that day’s proceedings was the capture by the land and boat party of thirteen men, two lads, and about fifty women and children. Without exception, they all wore articles of European clothing, belonging to the murdered people, more or less stained with blood…

“(The following morning) we descried a couple of natives who wore European clothing…As they had already gained some distance into the lake, and it was evident they would escape, Major O’Halloran then ordered the police…to fire…Bonney had the first shot at them, which evidently told, by the sound of the thud that followed…

“…sword in hand, I followed the tracks of the fugitives which were marked with blood, and discovered them behind a thicket. One was lying down, supported by the other, and as I approached they commenced a series of lamentations….Upon examining them, I found that one had received a shot in the cheek, another in the shoulder, and a third in the neck, and that the other was also wounded in the shoulder. They were bleeding profusely, and, naturally, thinking they must soon die from the effects, I left them…

“During the day, the captives pointed out one of their number as the actual murderer of a whaler named Roach…and further made known to Major O’Halloran that one of the murderers of the crew of the Maria was on the mainland opposite our camp, and could be secured…Both these men, voluntarily given up by their tribe, were powerfully made, and stood nearly six feet high, with countenances the most ferocious and demon-like I ever beheld.

“…early on the 25th August…the two condemned men were handcuffed together, marched in front under special charge of two police troopers and myself; and the other prisoners followed, escorted by Major O’Halloran and the rest of the police.

“On arrival at the place of execution, which was about fifteen miles from our camp, we halted; but as the whole strip of land between the Coorong and the sea is destitute of trees of any size, Captain Pullen was despatched to the mainland to cut down the tallest Shea oaks he could find, with which to erect the gallows…

“Whilst the foregoing preparations were going on, the whole of the prisoners (men, women and children) formed a semi-circle in front of the gallows…

“When everything was reported ready, the culprits were made to stand on a box, expressly brought for that purpose. The nooses were then passed over their heads, and the slip-knots having been properly adjusted, the box was suddenly withdrawn at a given signal, but unfortunately the fall was not sufficient to cause the dislocation of the neck, besides which the ropes stretched to such an extent, with the immense weight of the condemned men’s bodies, that they remained simply suspended, their toes touching the sand, and their eyes glaring upwards at the cross-beam.

“Horrified at the failure of the execution, the Major sat on his horse almost paralysed, and knew not what to do, when one of Captain Pullen’s crew, named Barber, quickly stepped forward, and saluting the Major, said –

‘I beg pardon, Major, but I’ll soon hang them if you’ll let me.’

‘Do, Barber, anything; but be quick!’

“In a few moments, a couple of lines were procured from the whale-boat; the ends were then thrown over the cross-beam and securely fastened behind the men’s pinioned arms, and then pulled up some height from the ground. Barber then said ‘Now, Major, when you drop your handkerchief we’ll let go,’ which was no sooner said than done, and thus the unfortunate wretches were launched into eternity, dying instantaneously. Some of the sand, however, had to be removed from under their feet, so as to allow the bodies to swing freely without touching.” (Alexander Tolmer, Reminiscences of an Adventurous and Chequered Career.)

The Aftermath

This extra-judicial execution of the two Milmenrura men (Mongarawata and Pilgarie) was not without controversy, both within the colony, and in Britain.

Gawler (right) asserted that “The natives as being practical atheists, unacquainted with the obligation of an oath, or solemn declaration, are not in British law valid witnesses.” He also believed that it was “imperative that retribution should be inflicted.”

But how to inflict the retribution “beyond the limits of ordinary British justice”? He decided to consider the Coorong as “a disturbed state” and to proceed “on the basis of martial law.” However, this would be seen as “injurious” to the good name of the colony, so with the connivance of the governing Council of the colony, he refrained from issuing a decree for martial law.

“I know of no other mode than that of martial law by which the Aborigines can be dealt with in similar cases of ferocious aggression…” he said.

Aware of criticisms of what had happened, he added: “I consider it my duty to have no share in that unhealthy sentiment, by some persons miscalled philanthropy, which…would allow impunity to wanton crimes.”

Gawler would have made a good shock-jock in today’s world, assailing the “bleeding hearts” for supporting criminals and being soft on Laura Norder!

Enter Vattel, stage right.

Following Gawler’s retrospective justification for undeclared martial law against the Aborigines, Robert Burnard, the colony’s new Advocate-General weighed in and quoted 18th Century Emerich de Vattel, a Swiss philosopher, diplomat and legal expert whose theories are still credited with having laid the foundation of modern international law and political philosophy.

Burnard sought to prove that the Aborigines of the colony, particularly those beyond the confines of European “settlement”, were not required to be accorded the rights of British citizens, and that their extermination was quite justified.

“…it may be necessary,” he said, “to view such tribes…as a separate state or nation, not acknowledging, but acting independently of, and in opposition to British interests and authority.”

He went on: “The rights of the Aboriginal proprietors of the soil are thus described by Vattel:- ‘Those nations (such as the ancient Germans or some modern Tartars) who inhabit fertile countries, but disdain to cultivate their lands, and choose rather to live by plunder, are wanting to themselves, are injurious to their neighbours, and deserve to be extirpated as savage and pernicious beasts. There are others who, to avoid labour, choose to live only by hunting and their flocks. This might, doubtless, be applied in the first ages of the world, when the earth, without cultivation, produced more than was sufficient to feed its small number of inhabitants. But at present, when the human race is so greatly multiplied, it could not subsist if all nations were disposed to live in that matter. Those who still pursue this idle mode of life, usurp more extensive territories than with a reasonable share of labour they would have occasion for; and have, therefore, no reason to complain, if other nations, more industrious, and too closely confined, come to take possession of a part of their lands…’

“This passage,” the Adocate-General concludes, “establishes that savage erratic tribes are to be considered as nations…(that) deserve to be extirpated as savage and pernicious beasts.”

Burnard reviewed his arguments and then, referring to the Maria massacre, concludes: “The crime therefore was to be regarded, not as that of individual British subjects, but of a whole hostile tribe, that is, of a nation at enmity with her Majesty’s subjects.”

So spoke the respectable gentlemen who comprised the ruling elite of the young colony.

There was no doubt in their minds that a frontier war existed between the settler regime and the Aboriginal nations, the latter deserving to be “extirpated”.

We would call this genocide today.

Let those among the Howardites who would bury the past and disparage the so-called “black armband” view of history tremble.

The facts will out!

And they will play their part in smashing the racist apartheid laws that Howard, with Labor support, has introduced in the Northern Territory.

(Pellampellamwallah, an Aboriginal woman of the Coorong. She has all her food gathering equipment with her: a net bag, a sedge basket and digging stick. She is wearing a sedge cloak and is carrying live coals between to pieces of bark. Artist : GF Angas, 1844 (AA8).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Melbourne protest against IR laws

More than 25,000 workers and their supporters took to the streets of Melbourne yesterday to protest against the Howard Government's fascist IR laws.

Prominent among the marchers were hundreds of children, brought to the rally by parents concerned for their future in a world where job security and protection from unfair dismissal have disappeared.

Also prominent were members of the CFMEU, the union hardest hit by the Federal Government through its Australian Building and Construction Commission watchdog.

CFMEU officials visited a number of workplaces yesterday advising members not to strike in order to take part in the rally, otherwise they would be liable to individual fines of $28,600 levied by the ABCC.

What a pathetic joke Howard has reduced bourgeois democracy to in this country.

Follow this link and watch a short video of yesterday's impressive rally:,23599,22484915-1243,00.html

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No Uranium Mining in Arkaroola!

The Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is under threat.

Located in the northern Flinders Ranges (also known as the Gammon Ranges), Arkaroola has been one of the jewels in the crown of South Australian tourism, and is part of the traditional lands of the Adnyamathanha people.

Stolen from them by miners and pastoralists from the 1860s onwards, Arkaroola has never reverted to ownership by the Adnyamthanha people, but has been run since 1968 as a private wilderness park by the Sprigg family.

Just to the south of Arkaroola is an area that was established in 1970 as the Gammon Ranges National Park, and was the subject of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement between the government and the Adnyamathanha last year..

The Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges/Arkaroola Sanctuary area is a mineral-rich treasure house. Copper was mined there from 1860, and uranium was discovered by Douglas Mawson in 1910.

On the northern boundary of the adjacent Wooltana sheep station there is a naturally-occurring hot spring, Paralana. Its radio-active waters were thought by some to be beneficial to sufferers of certain ailments, and as a lad, staying at Wooltana from time to time, I remember how we had to be careful, as we drove to Paralana, to give people who had dug themselves into holes in the sand around the springs time to clothe themselves as we approached.

Arkaroola is classified as a Class A Environmental Zone which means that mining can only occur when the deposits are of such significance to the State of SA that all other considerations may be overridden.

What this means in practice is that uranium mining is almost certain to get the go-ahead from the pro-uranium State Labor Government which keeps prattling on about how South Australia is on the brink of a major minerals-led expansion of its economy.

Labor changed its “no new mines” policy last year after lobbying from, amongst others, former Federal Labor Senator Chris Schacht, himself a shareholder in a uranium exploration company.

In 2000, members of the Adnyamathanha community united with anti-uranium protesters and demonstrated at the Beverley Uranium mine, located between Wooltana Station and Lake Frome. The cops used state-sanctioned violence to suppress the protest (see here).

The lastest push for uranium mining on indigenous land comes from a company called Marathon Resources. The directors of the company, including a representative of China’s huge CITIC investment group, deserve to be named and shamed, so find who they are here.

No uranium mining at Arkaroola!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Victory To The People's Mass Movement In Nepal!

Prachanda: In one way or the other, each revolution is violent. No matter how peaceful a movement you call it, it always has violence and counter-violence. Secondly, we have felt if we can move forward on the political base formed after our 10 years of people’s war, people can achieve freedom in a peaceful manner as well, and we can constitute a new society. And we are currently engaged in the same experiment. But whether it will always remain peaceful or turn violent again does not depend on us; it depends on our opponents. It depends on the imperialist and feudalist elements which are not yet completely defeated. There is a possibility that they could use violence against the people once again. In that case, the people will have to retaliate against them. At that point, the revolution could again turn violent.

(This statement by Comrade Prachanda is from an interview conducted on June 22, 2007. The full version can be read here.)

The following statement on important new developments in Nepal is by the Editor of the online journal Revolutionary Democracy:

Victory To The People's Mass Movement In Nepal!

The democratic aspirations of the Nepalese people have been betrayed by the current regime. It is no longer possible for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)-CPN (M) - to remain in government.
This government was formed under the premiership of Nepal Congress leader Koirala. It was set up following the struggle against Nepal's autocratic monarchy in April 2006. This government, which included Nepal's eight main parties, was meant to hold elections to aConstituent Assembly. However, the continued existence of the monarchy is putting these elections under serious threat. The monarchy is spreading violence and disorder, in order to undermine democracy. The continuing failure of the government to declare a republic has left the Maoists with no choice but to declare a nation-wide people's movement to fight for a republic and the otherjust and democratic demands of the people, from the streets.

The CPN (M) began the People's War in Nepal in 1996 with the aim of sweeping feudalism and imperialism from Nepal. It opposed those parties who claimed this aim could be achieved through parliamentary means. Events proved the CPN (M) correct. For example, from 2002-2005 the autocratic monarch, Gyanendra,dismissed three prime ministers. Then in 2005 Gyanendra dissolved Parliament, which did not meet again until after the April 2006 movement.
The Maoists had a strategy to win power but they were concerned about how they could keep power. They were conscious of the experience of Russia and China where the proletariat had won power only to lose it again. In 2003 the Politburo accepted a proposal concerning the exercise of state power by a Maoist Party ('Present Situation And Our Historical Tasks'). In this document the CPN (M) proposed that when power was achieved , under the leadership of the party of theproletariat, a new model would be needed. In this model all anti-feudal and anti-imperialist parties would be allowed to take part in political competition. In December 2006 this was clarified in a statement by the CPN (M) where they stated that 'One should be clear that this competition should be allowed only among the political forces that do not go against the dictatorship of theproletariat' (see 'The Worker' 11, page 37).
Clearly, this new approach made co-operation with other parties easier. On 22nd November 2005 the Maoist party signed a 12 point agreement with the 7 other main parties in Nepal. The aim was to overthrow the autocratic monarchy.
However, this new approach was also going to lead to tensions between the Maoists who wanted a People's Democratic state and the other parties that want a bourgeois democracy that would sustain the status quo. These other parties were known as the 7 Party Alliance. The 7 Party Alliance included the two factions of Nepal Congress and the (non-revolutionary) Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist). The other parties wanted to preserve the existing classrelations in Nepal and saw bourgeois democracy as the way to do it.

The April 2006 general strike and People's Movement led to the recall of Parliament and a new government of the 7 parties, under Koirala. The Maoists were to join the government later. They were only able to win this victory because of the power of the people's struggle and the influence gained by their leadership of the People's War.

However, the elections planned for June 07, did not happen. Koirala'sgovernment blamed this on its own failure to pass necessary election laws in time.

Another reason was the outbreak of violence in the Terai (the southern, flat region of Nepal, which is populated, in part, by the Madhesi people). The new Madhesi movement was led by the Janatanrik Terai Mukta Morcha (JTTM) and the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF).

These groups criticised the government for adopting an Interim Constitution which did not contain provisions for a fully federal set-up and for not adopting an election system that would be fully proportional in terms of ensuring representation for Nepal's different ethnic groups. They also blamed the Maoists for joining the Interim government without gaining agreement for such proposals. The disruption of the democratic process by these groups has led toa significant threat to the Maoists' influence in the Eastern Terai region.

Who is behind this turn of events? The CPN (M) has concluded that the US imperialists and Indian expansionists, in league with the King, are responsible. Violent groups claiming to represent the Madhesi operate openly in India, crossing the border into Nepal to create havoc. Even the weak, Koirala led government was forced to arrest 3 royalist ex-ministers (including Kamal Thapa, ex-Home Minister) for instigating violence by groups claiming to represent the Madhesis.
Violent campaigns by these groups make elections proposed for the 22nd of November 2007 unsustainable. Such violence has included the massacre of 28 Maoist sympathisers on 4th April 2007 and continuing bomb attacks, including the bomb attacks of September 9th that caused multiple injuries and deaths and were claimed by a group claiming to represent the people of the Terai.
The policy of the CPN (M) has adapted to this new situation. In his Mayday speech, CPN (M) leader Prachanda, admitted that the party had been mistaken in not explaining to the people how it tried to vigorously fight for a fully federal structure for the state and a fully proportional electoral system before going into government. It had made this mistake in the interests of holding quick elections in June but these were cancelled in any case. In reality neither Congress nor India and the US wanted elections in June. They all needed time to try and isolate the Maoists in different ways. Congress has done this by making its own agreement with one faction of the MPRF, an agreement which sells out the interests of the Madhesis and undermines Maoists demands for the rights of the Madhesis to be promoted. The Indian government and its US mastershave done this by allowing the false friends of the Madhesi people to take over Eastern Terai through violence and terror.
The August Extended Central Committee Meeting of the CPN (M) had decided on a direct challenge to this isolation and the efforts to undermine the Constituent Assembly elections. 22 demands have been made by the Maoists. These include demands such as the punishment of those responsible for the Gaur massacre. They also include the creation of a fully proportional election system prior to theelection. Most importantly the CPN (M) is demanding the announcement of a republic before the election. Without this there can be no election at all, as the royalists, in league with Indian expansionists and the US, will prevent any meaningful election taking place. A deadline of 18th September 2007 was set for meeting these demands.
This deadline has now passed and the CPN (M) has quit the government. The CPN (M) has announced a program of mass actions and political strikes to achieve its demands. We call on all progressives and democrats to support this campaign. The CPN (M) and the Nepalese people urgently need this support. We must remember that not one state has declared their backing for the revolution in Nepal. This makes it even more vital that the support of the people ismobilised around the world. Even those who may express some disagreement with the line of the leadership of the revolution still have a duty to publicly show their solidarity and to create a positive public opinion towards the revolution and mobilise the masses. It makes no sense to adopt a line of 'waiting and seeing' what the results of the current people's movement in Nepalwill be before deciding whether to express solidarity. Theenemies of the revolution are not 'waiting and seeing', they are actively trying to undermine the revolution. Support for a revolutionary struggle is most necessary when its result is uncertain, not when victory is assured!
The peoples of Nepal are making a revolution for all the people of the world, we
urge you to unite with them.

Women for Wik

Adelaide Public Forum, Monitoring the Federal Government Action in the Northern Territory
Part of Cultural Heritage, Social Justice and Ethical Globalisation - A World Archaeological Congress Symposium

This discussion panel gives people in South Australia an opportunity to learn directly from the Northern Territory Aboriginal women who are affected by the intervention.

Symposium Dates: 28th & 29th September 2007

Opening: 9.00am, 28th September, including Kaurna dancers

Public Forum: 11am-12.30pm, Friday, 28th September, 2007
Venue: Hetzel Lecture Theatre, Institute Building. State Library of SA, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia.
Convener: Claire Smith, President, World Archaeological Congress, Dept of Archaeology, Flinders University

Speakers: Northern Territory Aboriginal women, Rachel Willika, Eileen Cummings, Olga Havnen, and Raelene Rosas.

Women for Wik Statement

The Federal Action in the Northern Territory could provide a unique opportunity to improve conditions in Aboriginal communities, but there is also a real possibility that it may make things worse. As currently planned, it will undermine key aspects of Aboriginal societies - country, kin and culture. Moreover, by using a top-down approach, it has the potential to work against self-government and, in some instances, contravene human rights. This will not improve the lives of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory.

Accordingly, we call on both Federal and Territory governments to recognise the importance of Indigenous identity and develop an environment of mutual respect through cross-cultural awareness, communication and engagement. Like the many Australians who walked the Sydney Harbour Bridge in support of reconciliation, we believe our generation can ensure a fair go for Indigenous citizens.

Prominent women

Prominent women supporting us monitoring the Federal Action in the Northern Territory include Lady Deane, Tamie Fraser, Lowitja O'Donoghue, Justice Elizabeth Evatt, Helen Caldicott, Anne Deveson, Kate Grenville, Gabi Hollows, Faith Bandler, Anita Heiss, Margaret Fulton, Rosemary Stanton, Judith Rodriguez, Drusilla Modjeska, Margaret Pomeranz and Fiona Foley.

Who Are We?

Though we have the support of prominent women, we are primarily ordinary Australians. Our parents have brought us up to believe in the best of Australian values-justice, equality, fairness. We are concerned that Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory are not getting a fair go, and our voices are joined in protest. We are concerned about a particular policy, not political parties. We are committed to changing the current situation, so that it more clearly reflects the values of ordinary Australians and respects the contribution of our Indigenous people.

Go to the Women for Wik website here and bookmark for future reference.

Matt Walker - Howard Haters Art Exhibition

The above is an invitation to attend the opening of Matt Walker's brand new art exhibition, featuring commentary on the Howard regime. Matt’s art is very popular with Howard haters and he also puts it onto T-Shirts on request.
This exhibition opening is a timely artistic contribution on the eve of a watershed election.
Free entry.
The exhibition opening is 7.30 pm Thursday October 4th at the Wheatsheaf Hotel (a striking piece of his work is on the invite).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

SBS must remain true to its founding principles

Peter van Vliet, Executive Officer of the Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria, has published an excellent critique of the changes being imposed on Australia's Special Broadcasting Services, the multicultural radio and television broadcaster established by the Fraser Government.

His article can be accessed here.

When it was first established, SBS TV broadcast almost entirely in languages other than English, and was commercial free. Now, most of its prime-time viewing is in English, and the ads just keep coming and coming.

The demise of SBS reflects Howard's goal of assimilating all into the "mainstream". At a time when real leaders like Peter Cosgrove and so many in our business community are calling for greater awareness of other peoples and cultures, and a greater capacity for communicating with our near neighbours in their own languages, SBS is becoming an Anglophone commercial bore.

Gone are the days when, as a secondary school teacher of Chinese, I could direct my students to watch regularly-programmed Chinese language films or documentaries.

The corruption of SBS not only deprives Australians from non-English language backgrounds of a right to maintain an interest in, and exposure to, their languages and cultures; it also deprives many in the so-called "mainstream" of an opportunity to develop skills, including language acquisition, in intercultural understanding.

As a wise man once said: "The pump don't work 'cos the vandals took the handles".

The Myth of the "Information-starved" Parent

Kirsten Storry has published a piece in the Newcastle Herald (Sept, 15, 2007) under the title "Testing times for literacy and numeracy".

Regrettably, she has slandered school systems which she accuses of refusing to share information about student performance, allowing our "worst achieving continue to post low achievement rates year after year", and overriding "parents' right to know how their child's school is performing".

In SA each public school must compile an annual report, and that report must be made available to the school community either as a hard copy or online. The reports detail attendance, retention, achievement and other matters (see example: ).

How could any parent be "information-starved"?

Making such information available on a school-by-school basis is a far cry from the conservative voyuerism of page three league tables that certain publishers believe would boost sales of the print media.

There are more important issues in education - just look at the OECD's most recent report comparing education funding in the advanced capitalist world.

Australia recorded the third-lowest proportion of public funding.

Given that we have a huge country (same size, roughly as China or the US), massive mineral and other natural resources, a relatively strong economy and such a low population, shouldn't there be more funding for a world's best education system?

Write about that, Kirsten!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Music Teachers Fight Victimization

Instrumental music teachers in South Australia have rallied behind two colleagues who have been singled out by the Education Department for special treatment.

This follows their leading role in organizing resistance to cuts to the Department’s instrumental music program.

The two teachers, Geoff Barreau and Steve Eads, had spoken out in the media about the disastrous effects of the Department’s cuts.

They were exercising rights that we are taught in schools to take for granted, living in a “democracy”.

Barreau was soon to discover that workplace democracy, even under a “Labor” state government, is just a fig leaf for managerial prerogative.

He was dragged into head office and had the public sector Code of Conduct thrust under his nose by senior DECS officers despite the Code itself promising no fear of reproach for “professional service and advice that is frank and apolitical”.

Fortunately, he was accompanied by the President of his union and this first threat was waithdrawn.

Barreau then became a central figure in the organization of a public meeting attended by some 1500 members of the community.

In retaliation, he and colleague Eads have been told that they are being investigated by the Department for “bullying”, and both have been relocated to other worksites.

In response, peripatetic instrumental music teachers have held two rallies of support outside the Department’s office, and took their first step industrial action by refusing to use their own cars to go out to schools at which they deliver music programs.

These teachers have traditionally exercised goodwill towards their employer by not demanding Government cars despite the Commissioner for Public Employment ruling that no employee can be compelled to use their private vehicle on government business.

Most of the teachers will remain at their base, on duty, but unable to deliver lessons in the absence of G-cars or taxis supplied by the department.

The instrumental music teachers will meet next Monday to consider escalating industrial action, beginning with a stop-work on Tuesday.

Students from Marryatville High (a specialist music school in Adelaide) join teachers outside the offices of the Education Department)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

CD: Remembering John Cummins

John Cummins was a friend of mine.

More importantly, he was your friend if you were a working person. The thousands who turned out to his funeral last year (below) were eloquent testimony to that.

John was a as game as Ned Kelly in taking on the bosses and the cops, and his stints behind bars meant that he knew what the consequences could be every time he defied the powers that be.

They called John "one of Norm's boys" when he started organising for the Builders Laborers Federation in the early 70s, and the General taught him well.

Comrade Norm Gallagher, the 13 year-old who left school to go labouring, and became Vice-Chairman of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) and General-Secretary of the Builders Laborers Federation, was indeed probably the toughest trade union leader this country has produced.

John had that toughness, but not to the exclusion of endearing personal qualities that always ensured he never took himself too seriously. That was why we loved him.

John was an internationalist. He was involved in the Australia-China Friendship Society just as he was cutting his teeth as a BLF organiser. They were two sides of the same coin to him. John and I were the babies on one trip to China, in 1974, that included prominent working class veterans like Clarrie O'Shea (Tramways Union) and Ted Bull (Waterside Workers Federation), both from Victoria, and Syd Clare (WWF) from Sydney.

"Who's Vicky Vercka," I once asked John after I'd been caught only half-listening to what he'd been saying.

Another bloke who was with us kindly interposed: "I think John means vice versa."

John just smiled, as if to say "Got you that time!"
You can love a bloke like that.......

On the first anniversary of John's death, musicians Martin Doherty and Leigh Birkett have released a musical tribute to our comrade.

Titled Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win, the 13 tracks are a mix of traditional working class songs from here and overseas, and others like Tribute to John Cummins that are purpose-written for the tribute.

Between some of the tracks, short excerpts from the CFMEU radio show, The Concrete Gang, feature workers reminiscing about Cummo.

This is a great CD, samples of which can be heard here.
The CD can be purchased from CFMEU offices or online from for $25.
The CPA(M-L) has paid tribute to John on the anniversary of his death here in the latest edition of Vanguard.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Will People's War Be Resumed in Nepal?

Maoists to quit govt by Monday if there is no agreement: Prachanda tells PM

Kantipur Report

KATHMANDU, Sept 15 - Maoist chairman Prachanda informed him that they have decided to quit the government by Monday if there is no agreement on the 22-point “pre-requisites” floated by the Maoists for the Constituent Assembly elections soon.

Prachanda flanked by his second-in-command Dr Baburam Bhattarai had gone to meet Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala Koirala at the latter’s official residence at Baluwatar Saturday morning.

“The Prime Minister told the Maoist leadership that this is not the time to quit the government,” Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula told reporters after the meeting. “The Prime Minister also said that the eight-party unity must be further strengthened.”

The Prime Minister also told the Maoist leaders to stick to the agreements with the seven parties.

He also said that unity between the eight parties must be maintained for the next 8 to 10 years.
However, Prachanda insisted that they will quit the government if there is no agreement on their demands including declaration of a republic ahead of the Constituent Assembly elections, then they will hold a mass assembly in the capital in two days to announce Maoist withdrawal from the government.

The Maoists plan to hold mass assemblies in different parts of the country to declare their upcoming strategies in the next couple of days.

The Maoist leaders also meet CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal today to discuss their demands.

Only yesterday, Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara had disclosed that the Maoists have already issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Koirala to quit the government within the next few days if their demands were not fulfilled soon.

“We, all four Maoist ministers in the government, have issued an ultimatum to the Prime Minister to draw serious attention of the government to our issues related to 22 point (demands),” said Mahara, who leads the Maoists in the government. “We told him that if these issues do not become the agenda in the cabinet than we won’t have any other choice than to quit the government.”

When asked when they plan to quit the government, Mahara said that if the Prime Minister keeps on turning a deaf ear to their demand than they will be forced to quit the government by the end of the Nepali month of Bhadra (September 17). Earlier yesterday, Prachanda had said that efforts were on to take the other seven parties on board on “pre-requisites” for the elections.

At the same time, he had added that they would be compelled to take to the street if the consensus does not materialize.

The major factions of the ruling alliance such as Prime Minister Koirala-led Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have criticized the Maoists for trying to impede the November 22 elections by setting pre-conditions.

All other parties inside as well outside the parliament have already geared up for the elections.
(For further background, see also this Nepalese blogger on "Why I Agree with Prachanda on Republic and Proportional Election" here.

Workplace Deaths Double Under Howard

Remember when there was all that hoo-ha about the CFMEU's Joe McDonald being videotaped swearing at a boss on a Perth building site?

McDonald was trying to hold a meeting on site about workplace safety.

Under Howard's new industrial relations laws, unions have lost the right of entry to sites, and it was under these laws that a mongrel dog of an employer was standing over McDonald and forcing him off site.
About a month ago, there was a serious saefty breach at the same site when a concrete block fell from high on the building.

Such near-miss incidents are bad enough.

Worse are the incidents that result in death or injury.

New figures from Western Australia show a disgraceful 100% increase in workplace deaths in that State over the last 12 months. Twelve deaths in the previous period had escalated to 25 in the past year.
Most were in the mining, construction and related industries. These are the industries that Howard has targetted in his campaign to break unions on behalf of his rich masters.

That Howard must go is only half of the solution: Rudd and Labor must be forced to allow unions to do their job of protecting workers from unsafe practices. Rudd must not condone this level of workplace death and injury by fearing the multinationals and the local capitalists.

People before profits!

(Read the WA Branch of the CFMEU on workplace safety here, and while you're there, hit the link to the 107 and send them your support.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

UN Signs Indigenous Rights Declaration

The United Nations has today adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Declaration is an historic victory for the world's 370 million indigenous peoples and their supporters, and a slap in the face for the reactionary bloc comprising Australia, Canada, the United States and New Zealand who voted to oppose the statement.

The full text of the Declaration is available here.

What an acute embarrassment to Australians our Prime Monster is!

We are now playing a role internationally that was once reserved for the likes of apartheid South Africa.

We are one of four, out of 158 countries that voted on the Declaration, to have opposed a statement that defines the rights of indigenous peoples.


However, it is no surprise. John Howard has all along opposed native title and land rights; has actively promoted forced assimilation (only a week ago insulting NT Aborigines by telling them they had no future oustide of mainstream society); and has instituted the so-called NT "intervention" which is, in every respect, in total contradiction to the spirit of the UN Declaration.

Howard also stands condemned before the indigenous peoples of Canada and their supporters: his lobbying of fellow servant of imperialism, Canadian Prime Monster Harper, resulted in Canada changing its support of the draft Declaration to today's vote in opposition.

Australia must sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!

Australia must rescind the reactionary legislation behind the so-called emergency "intervention" in the Northern Territory!

Australia must work with its indigenous communities and empower their leadership structures so as to deal with all of the problems in their communities!

Welcome the Release of Sison!

Prof. Jose Maria Sison has been released from the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen, The Hague in the Netherlands.

This provocation against the revolutionary forces of the world was timed to coincide with the imperialist talk-fest APEC, held in Sydney last week. It was a gesture of support by imperialism for the Arroyo regime in the Philippines, but people all over the world rose to the occasion and pressured the Dutch by resolute actions outside its Embassies and consulates to free Comrade Sison.

Demonstrations in support of Sison also occurred in the Philippines in defiance of the state apparatus of the Arroyo regime.

Prof. Sison was released at around 6:30 p.m. (Philippine time) yesterday, Sept. 13, according to Connie Ledesma, a member of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel.

In a statement posted at the website of the Dutch Justice Ministry, the court said that there are no "sufficient indications that the accused [Sison], while living in the Netherlands, committed the offenses he is charged with, in deliberate and close cooperation with the perpetrators in the Philippines." It added, "Neither do they [charges] contain sufficient concrete indications that the accused incited others to commit these serious offenses."

Sison was arrested on August 28 and was charged with ordering the killings of Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara. The New People's Army, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has admitted the killings.

However, the Dutch court also said, "…there are many indications in the files which support the point of view that the accused is still playing a leading role in the Central Committee of the CPP as well as in the military branch of the CPP, the New People's Army (NPA)."

The progressive Filipino organisation Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) welcomed the development but said the persecution of Sison may not be over yet.

The group will continue to hold a mass action today, Sept. 14, to celebrate Sison's release and to warn the Dutch, U.S. and Philippine governments against further violating Sison's rights.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Book review: "Chopsticks" by Xinran

Book Review: Miss Chopsticks, by Xinran, Chatto & Windus, 2007, 257 pages

So what’s the difference between a Little Penguin in Tasmania, and a village girl in China? By the end of this remarkable book, you will no doubt understand the question, and agree with the author’s conclusion.

Xinran is a former radio journalist from Nanjing whose program pioneered the exploration of social problems confronting women in contemporary China, and whose major work to now has been Good Women of China which grew out of that radio program. (She has also written Sky Burial and What the Chinese Don’t Eat.)

Her new book is a further exploration of issues facing women - in this case, those young women who migrate to big cities from the poor villages of China’s vast countryside in search of work.

Her protagonists are three sisters who end up working, respectively, in a restaurant, a tea-house and a water-healing bath house. They are the “chopsticks” (daughters), useless little bits of wood that are unable to play the role of “roof beams” (sons) in supporting the family home. “It was all too easy for these girls to be utterly crushed by men and to feel that they were worthless” (p. 63).

The book explores the great gap between the backwardness of village life and the different values and pace of city life. Befriending one of the girls, the wife of the tea-house owner advises: “It’ll take a while, but you’ll come to understand why there are such huge differences between the city and the countryside. In many ways, people in the countryside are living in a different century from those in the city, and it will take them many years to catch up.” It is advice that Xinran may have intended for her readers, too.

The charm of this novel is that it is not a misery-tale, but a story drawn from real life that shows how kindness and generosity are still factors in the Chinese people’s make-up.

When you finish reading the book, Xinran invites you to the website of her charity for Chinese children, the “The Mothers’ Bridge of Love”. I’d also suggest you check out the work of Adelaide woman Josephine Charles, working with the minority Yi girls of Sichuan Province’s Liangshan Mountains.
Her website is:

You can read more about Xinran here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Black Armband 2 - Elliston Massacres

(Please note: This article was written in 2007. In 2017, the local Council erected a monument as a memorial to the massacre described below. The wording was contested, but confirmation of the massacre remains. See: )

I'm a South Australian, so I'll draw on South Australian history for my Black Armband examples.

Example One takes us to beautiful Eyre Peninsula on the west coast of South Australia, and to the white coastal township of Elliston (see red on map opposite).

This section of coast was home to large numbers of Aboriginal people.

Following the "settlement" of South Australia in 1836, it was also home to a small but growing number of European colonists. Their descendents, and other white Australians, live in Elliston today. The descendents of the original owners of the land don't.

Here are two accounts that explain why. The first is an indigenous history of a massacre in 1839 , the second a settler history of a nearly identical massacre ten years later.

The first is from Iris Burgoyne's The Mirning: We Are the Whales and is published by, and available from, Magabala Books in Broome.

The intruders landed on our soil and took our land without paying a penny. We fought for our tribal boundaries, yet we could not get a tiny plot. They sat back and took everything. They did not understand our ancestors were the landlords of this country. When equal rights were granted to the Aboriginal people in the sixties, we were promised our land. We were promised the world. Truth was a theory constantly disproved. Only lies went on forever.

This story was passed to me by my people. Their spoken words were always the truth. As young girls at Koonibba, we sat and listened to the old people like Jack Joonary, Jilgina Jack and Wombardy. (Photo shows old people in their camp at Koonibba - Mike). They were well over a hundred. They shared many of their experiences. They told us about how they survived the Elliston massacres in about 1839 and 1849. Jack Jacobs from Franklin Harbour, old lame Paddy and Dick Dory spoke about it as well. That day they escaped death as they tricked the European horsemen and ran into the bushes. They stood and watched in horror as their people were driven off the cliffs into the sea.

A camp of about two hundred Aboriginal people lived on the outskirts of Elliston. One day two Aboriginal men went out hunting. They looked over the bushes and watched a farmer as he rode his horse and cart into his yard. As the farmer stepped down, he noticed the hunters. When he checked his sheep the following day, he found there were four missing. Naturally, he suspected the Aboriginal men and reported them to the police.

The policeman approached the camp and asked the people whether the hunters stole the sheep. They replied that no one had taken any sheep. The policeman was suspicious of them. “Who went out hunting yesterday?” he asked.

The people named the two men and told the policeman they came back with wombat and kangaroo. But he did not believe them. He thought that the Aboriginal people lied. They arrested the two hunters, who spoke no English and kept them in the cells. A few weeks later a judge came from Adelaide for the trial, which was held in a big shed in Elliston. The Aboriginal people stood outside in the dark, peeped through the window and watched the two men as they pleaded with the judge. The men tried to tell the judge they hunted wombat and kangaroo, but the judge couldn’t understand them and said, “Hang them! Give them an example. Show them what will happen if they steal again!”

That very night they were hung in the centre of the town. Those innocent fellows hung there all the next day, while the Aboriginal people mourned them. That night, whilst the European townspeople slept, people from the camp released the two boys and buried them. They snuck around to the boarding house where the judge slept and coaxed him outside with a whoobu-whoobie, a device that made different sounds like and engine, a dog growling or a horse neighing. When the judge emerged, they grabbed him, knocked him unconscious and hung him up in the very same place. The next morning the townsfolk discovered what happened and decided to take the law into their own hands. The policeman rounded up farmers with about ten horses and rode out to the camp. They herded all the Aboriginal men, women and children like animals and forced them off the cliffs at Elliston. People tried to escape, but they were cut down by whips, sticks and guns.

Three teenagers – one girl and two boys – and a baby survived the massacre. The baby gently tumbled out of its mother’s arms onto the soft sand. The teenagers dared not move whilst the horsemen at the cliff top watched for survivors. They listened to the moaning and dying carried with the swirling breeze. When the coast was clear, they staggered around and looked for signs of life amongst the bodies, but to no avail.

They escaped along the coast towards Streaky Bay and with them, news of the tragedy spread. Aboriginal people were horrified and immediately fled the coast for Talewan, the Bight, Yardea, the Gawler Ranges and Ooldea. About ten years later, in 1849, there was another massacre near the Sweep Holes. No Aboriginal person has lived in Elliston ever since.

Those two hunters could not have carried off those sheep. They were executed without evidence. All the authorities had were tracks in the bushes. Usually when a farmer slaughtered sheep, Aboriginal people collected the guts and runners. That was if there was no bushtucker around. They believed in healthy food. Aboriginal people did not steal those sheep. There were kangaroos, lizards, goanna, possums and birds. They lived where there was an abundance of fish. They saw farmers looking after those sheep and knew they were not allowed to touch them. It was something of value.

Years later, people discovered those Aboriginal men were innocent. Non-Aboriginal men stole the sheep and started their own farm. The police were told the Aboriginal men were murdered for no reason. They owned up but nothing could be done. Innocent people were killed.

This is Iris' account of the first massacre. But as if that weren't enough, a second, nearly identical massacre occurred a decade later. I've got to point out that were it not for the fact that these massacres had become part of local folklore, they might not be known about today. Many of the episodes of frontier war between the "settlers" and the Aborigines were not recorded. The author of what follows had access to people who had had "secrets" passed on by word of mouth in the local community.
(I came across a similar thing when I was teaching local history in a school south of Adelaide some years ago: a student who lived in the Clarendon-Kangarilla area tried reseraching the Aboriginal history of the area, and was told by several elderly residents that there had been a massacre of Aborigines, pushed down a steep cliff in the hills to the east of the towns, in the early days. Of course, there were no records and the informants were not enthusiastic about discussing the matter.)
In the account that follows, note how there is again, no direct evidence of Aborigines actually killing the victim. Nor were Aborigines who resisted the dispossession of their lands given to beheading people. Their victims (and there were a number on the West Coast) were speared. My first question is what was the motive for the murder, and did the murderer(s) use the local Aborigines as a scapegoat? Note too, how the author adopts an "end justifies the means" viewpoint in the conclusion. And I thought it was just us commie bastards that did that!
Across the Bar to Waterloo Bay: Elliston 1878-1978, compiled and published by the Elliston Centenary Book Committee.
It was in the year 1848 that John Hamp was murdered by natives, which started the legends, various rumors and conjectures which have persisted in the area around Elliston for over one hundred years regarding the “Elliston Massacre”.

After hearing many and varied stories of the murder and subsequent extermination of the native tribe one clear fact only was definite. John Hamp was found dead when his brother returned to the hut he shared with his brother near the northern end of Lake Newland. It was then late in the day. The indications were that the crime had been committed by the natives, who had decapitated the body, leaving John’s head beside the body, then ransacked the hut, and taken all the food. No natives had been sighted.

John Hamp and his brother were joint lessees of the pastoral run from Talia Station southward to Lake Newland.

Talia Station was managed by Dr Browne…

John’s brother, immediately after discovering the body, rode to Talia Station to let Dr Browne know, and to ask his advice regarding what should be done. Dr Browne immediately took it upon himself to organize a punitive force to punish the natives, and to report the killing to the police. He sent a message to Trooper Gerherty, the police trooper for that area…

So the small force was assembled and eventually left Talia to hunt the natives. As some time had elapsed since the murder all the natives had left the area, and it was to be a hunt, for there were hiding places all the way southward, which Dr Browne assumed was the direction taken, as there were numerous watering places along the coast and lakes…

As the bush gave good cover for the natives, who knew all the tracks through it, it was not an easy task for the pursuers to search it thoroughly, and the chase was necessarily slow. From the Lake Newland area the force of white men proceeded south, keeping near the coast, looking for signs of the natives. Not until they passed Waterloo Bay did they find any, when they surprised a party at a waterhole near a lake, later named Hamps Lake. There were men, women and children in the party at the waterhole, who took fright when they saw the armed men, and made for the titree. Some shots were fired at them, without effect other than to further frighten the natives who ran southward through the titree scrub, from one lake to another, and not until they broke from the cover of the titrees to the more open mallee and sheoak land, near where the roads to Port Lincoln and Lock now separate did they present any fair target to the pursuers.

Even though the country was more open, the low growth and scrub did not make it easy going for the horsemen, who however continued to shoot when they caught sight of the fugitives, and several natives were shot. The majority, however, continued their flight southward, and the leading horseman saw them race for the cliffs and jump over. As the white men were on unfamiliar ground, they approached the cliffs very cautiously, and when they did reach the brink and look down no trace of any natives could be seen. Straight down, 150 feet below, was the sea!

All the natives were presumed drowned.

So ended the “Elliston Massacre”.

Immediately after, Dr Browne addressed the men who comprised the punitive force, and told them bluntly that by killing a native, or natives, or being party to such killings, they had all broken the law and could themselves be hung as murderers. He explained that the men had achieved the purpose of the expedition in wiping out the coastal natives, or by driving them to their death over the cliffs, so unless they wanted to be arrested for murder they should say nothing about the events of the last few days while even one of the party was still alive. So they all swore an oath of secrecy…

…the only survivors of the massacre…were a small boy, whose mother had hidden him in some bushes when she fled during the chase of the natives, and a girl, quite young, who was left behind because she was lame. Who cared for these children I do not know, but more than one person told me of them living and visiting Elliston well into this century.

It is my opinion, in view of the description of the country and the stories of the natives, their knowledge of the coast and coastal country, their agility in descending and climbing the cliffs, and the delay of the party of white men in starting the pursuit, that the natives escaped, probably by leaving for the Gawler Ranges before the pursuit started, or even while it was in progress, and that the natives surprised at the waterhole at Hamps Lake were only a section of the tribe, and possibly unaware of what had happened at Talia. Of these people the few who were shot could have been the only losses, as once over the cliff they would know all the caves and hiding places below, only to leave for the Gawler Ranges when the hunt died.

Whatever the result – extermination or else escape – the purpose of the punitive force was achieved. The natives did not continually frequent the coast, and in the area concerned there were no further crimes committed.

I take that to mean that no more colonists were murdered, not that there were no more massacres, but I guess that depends on how you define "crimes".

Black Armband 1 - History by Government Decree

The phrase "black armband view of history" was coined by bourgeois historian Prof. Geoffrey Blainey in 1993.

He used the phrase to attack progressive historians who had had the temerity to argue that the 1778 "settlement" of Australia by the British was more accurately an "invasion", and that frontier wars had characterised the relations between settler forces and the indigenous peoples, rather than a process of "peaceful colonisation".

Yesterday, the History Teachers Association of Australia claimed that the Howard Government had shut them out of the development of a national Australian history curriculum for high schools.

They alleged that the curriculum was being "drafted in backrooms" away from public scrutiny and without the involvement of History teachers.

Howard is a right-wing Anglophile (British culturally and US imperialist politically) zealotwho heads a ministerial clique that is unapologetic about its attacks on indigenous land rights and trade union and workers' rights.

His Education Minister has alleged that "Maoists" are running the curriculum in schools.

If only!!!!

The Howardites want public education destroyed, except for a residual service aimed at the poor and dysfunctional, and all education brought under the ideological control of the most reactionary and most powerful sections of the capitalist class and the imperialists.

Last year, Howard convened a so-called "Australian history summit" to serve notice on schools that they had to stop children and emerging young adults from thinking critically about social issues.

The Howardites then commissioned Monash University's Professor Tony Taylor to develop a Years 3-10 Australian history curriculum that would confine history in schools to a pro-settler, pro-imperialist linear narrative.

But Taylor failed in his task. Howard thought that the Taylor draft raised too many questions and still allowed for the teaching of some history from an indigenous perspective.

In June, Howard tried to gather around his drawing board a four-person writing team. It included arch-conservative political commentator Gerard Henderson, author of a "history" of Howard's Liberal Party, and the original anti-indigenene Geoffrey Baliney! Two less conservative persons were added: Nicholas Brown, from the Australian National University, and Jennifer Lawless from the NSW Board of Studies. Lawless, however, was told that she could not participate by the NSW Minister for Education because the four person group was "biased". She was then replaced by former Presbyterian Ladies College principal Elizabeth Ward.

It is this group that the History Teachers Association accuses of hiding away in a backroom and concocting a "history" fit to be taught in our schools.

It is this group that is charged with carrying out the Howardites' decree that the teaching of Australian history not convey a "black armband view" of our past.

In support of the History Teachers Association and of honest and progressive history teachers, I'll devote some posts to Black Armband discussion.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bush and the Asslickers of the Pacific Empire Conference (APEC)

This little gem is from the wonderful website.
My only comment, from an Aussie perspective, is that Deputy Prime Minister Vaile would never speak so disresectfullt to his overlord and master.
A more appropriate captioning around the same general idea would read:
Bush: I feel like getting my ass licked.
Vaile: At your service, my leader!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

We will not be silenced! Support this campaign!

Fremantle Trust is still trying to intimidate supporters of its North London workers. Please support this campaign and show the capitalist class that there is still such a thing as proletarian internationalism!

The following is a message from Eric Lee. Read and respond! We will not be silenced!


The campaign we launched a little more than a week ago in support of low-paid workers in care homes in north London has generated more support than any other campaign we have ever done.

Already, well over 8,100 messages have been sent to the employer. This is even bigger than our 2005 campaign in support of the Gate Gourmet workers, which was a much more widely publicized dispute in the mainstream media.

As we mentioned in this week's message, the employer reacted swiftly and brutally -- first threatening us with a libel action in the English courts and then sacking a union rep.

And then on Thursday, in an unprecedented move, the employer (Fremantle Trust) contacted our internet service provider and demanded that they shut down the campaign or else face a lawsuit themselves.

We were contacted by the legal department of the internet service provider and told that we had until noon on Friday to close down the campaign or else the entire LabourStart site would be shut down.

We worked very hard over those 24 hours to attempt to get our provider to back down, and had the full support of Unison (Britain's giant public sector union, whose members are at the center of the dispute) but were not successful in doing this before the noon deadline on Friday.

As a result, at 11:59 on Friday we were compelled to shut down the campaigns.

But -- we instantly revived the campaign in nine languages on a different server, in a different country, with a new name that reflects our feeling at this time.

The new site is called "We will not be silenced!" and is located, appropriately enough, at

If you have not yet sent off your message of protest to Fremantle, please do so from the new page.

Remember that you can use our system to send out your own message to the chief executive of Fremantle Trust -- and you can tell her, if you wish, what you think of this attempt to silence our campaign.

Please also inform all your lists and every trade unionist you know to use the
new site to send a loud and clear message to this employer.

If Fremantle Trust were unhappy to receive 8,000 emails, how are they going to feel about getting thousands more in the next few days? Because that is exactly what is going to happen.

We will not be intimidated, we will not be bullied, and we will not be silenced. The campaign continues.
Enjoy your weekend.

Eric Lee

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Fremantle workers: defiance is a good thing!

The LabourStart website has been running a campaign of support in a struggle by workers, above, in north London care homes whose pay has been cut by 30% by a privatized employer, Fremantle.

Within hours of initiating the campaign last week, working people around the globe, including me, I'm proud to say, flooded the inbox of Fremantle's chief executive with thousands of messages. By the weekend, over 5,000 messages had been received.

The reaction of the company was swift: On Friday afternoon, they fired off an email message to LabourStart website manager Eric Lee threatening LabourStart with legal action, accusing them of "libel". (As you may know, English libel laws are biased against the defendant, and are used by corporations to attempt to suppress dissent.)

A couple of days later, Fremantle got even more aggressive, and sacked Unison rep Andrew Rogers.

"This bullying behavior is, I am told, typical of how this company works," said Lee today. "They've asked us to stop this campaign, to stop saying negative things about them, and to stop sending them email protest messages.

"I say: let's flood them with thousands more messages. Let's raise the profile of this campaign.

"If Fremantle decides to follow through on its threat to sue us, if its attorneys send us a registered letter in the post, here is what I intend to do: I will put the letter up for auction on eBay, and I will invite all our supporters to bid on it.

"We will not be bullied and we will not be threatened. The campaign continues."

Eric Lee's attitude is the correct one to take under the circumstances. Defiance of reactionaries is a good thing.

If you've not yet sent off your message of protest -- it will take just a few seconds -- please go here to do do.

Today, LabourStart has launched a major Google ad campaign to put further pressure on the company. These campaigns cost money - please make sure to donate by clicking here.

A nightmare decade for Aboriginal people.

A decade under Howard has been a living nightmare, says new black leadership group.

A new coalition of Aboriginal leaders from around the nation has released its first public statement since forming a fortnight ago.And the group, which has yet to adopt a formal name, has come out swinging, issuing a release that is written in the vein that the group intends to continue fighting… with plenty of aggression.

Describing the past decade under the Howard government as “a nightmare” for Aboriginal people, the group attacks both the Liberal and Labor parties for creating policies which “blame the victims”.

The group includes former senior public servant Pat Turner, Olga Havnen (ACOSS and ANTaR), Naomi Mayers (CEO, Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service), Dennis Eggington (WA Aboriginal Legal Service), Sam Watson (Murri academic and activist), Bob Weatherall (FAIRA), Michael Mansell (Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre), Michael Williams , Gracelyn Smallwood (North Queensland), Nicole Watson and Larissa Behrendt (both Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University Technology Sydney) and Bradley Foster (community leader from North Queensland).

It formed a fortnight ago in response to the federal government's 'emergency intervention' into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

“A decade under John Howard has seen native title made harder to get with his 'bucket loads of extinguishment' legislation,” the statement reads.

“The elected body ATSIC was sacked; the Reconciliation Council dumped; paternalistic funding conditions imposed, such as being asked to wash hands and attend school to get Commonwealth monies.

“The Northern Territory Land Rights Act has been amended to increase access for mining and now vulnerable Aboriginal communities in the NT are invaded by troops.

“It has been a nightmare decade for Aboriginal people.

“We have been reduced to beggars in our own country.”

The group accused the Howard government of selective listening when it came to hearing Indigenous people.

“Any dissenting voice is ignored by a Government that selects "yes" people to promote its own agenda, and the select few are tragically held out as the voice of Aborigines,” the statement read.

The group accused both the Coalition and the ALP of 'blaming the victims' and launched a scathing attack on the NT intervention plans, which are endorsed by both major parties.

“The Howard and Rudd response to policies that have kept families and whole communities destitute is to blame the victim.

“Those victims, long denied a real chance to make a go of it, will now have their income stolen and must go to the local store with food vouchers: those vouchers will have a list of purchasable items on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

“The balance of family incomes will never be seen by the "beneficiaries" because the bureaucracy keeps it to pay "other" costs.

“This demeaning approach will create greater dependency and strip the last form of human dignity from those subjected to a destructive policy.

“The increased police presence in community areas with "dob-in desks" is designed to humiliate, not rehabilitate.

“Portraying all Aborigines as paedophiles and drunks, and taking land away, undermines the remaining virtue we have: our dignity.

“We cannot watch developments in silence any longer. Our people deserve better.”

The group says the new coalition will seek to “represent the unrepresented Aboriginal communities” from around the nation and it promises to never align with any political party.

“We believe we bring experience and sincerity to the national political landscape.

“In our quest, we will not favour any political party as we see Aboriginal issues as being above party politics. Our single aim is to improve the lot of our people.

“We see our culture and people as an asset, not a liability.

“If we cannot persuade governments, then we will take our case to the court of public opinion - to the Australian people, to give us a chance to create a better future.”

Source: National Indigenous Times (

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Despite genocide, "I Still Call Australia Home"

ABORIGINAL activists are using the cutting edge of the internet - including key sites like YouTube and MySpace - to get their increasingly sophisticated message across.

Following the Howard Government's "emergency intervention" to destroy land rights in the NT for the big mining and pastoral interests, calls for reconciliation and justice have been posted by campaigners and artists.

NSW hip-hoppers The Last Kinection posted their incredible version of Peter Allen's classic I Still Call Australia Home on YouTube and MySpace.

The threesome - Joel Wenitong, Naomi Wenitong and Jacob Turier - turn the song into a hip-hop lament which also samples Rolf Harris' Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport.

Wenitong, the band's emcee, is a university lecturer in Newcastle who has also gigged with award-winning hip hop group Local Knowledge.

His little sister Naomi is with the pop group Shakaya. The two joined Newcastle DJ, Jacob Turier to form The Last Kinection.

Watch and hear their track by clicking:

It was posted on YouTube by a contributor using the name Tidda7 - a woman called Larissa - who says: "The song and the images tell the story...that we are a strong and proud people with a culture and tradition dating back 40,000 years...we are survivors of the Australian genocidal practices"

Cochlear workers take message to Youtube

Dear Friend

I am writing to thank you for supporting the listen up Cochlear campaign through the Labour Start website. Our campaign has led to almost 4000 emails being sent the Cochlear CEO Dr Chris Roberts. This campaign has been a massive inspiration to Cochlear workers.

Unfortunately Cochlear management are still refusing to negotiate with the AMWU (the Union for Cochlear workers).Last month Cochlear used Australia’s unfair workplace laws to force their employees onto individual contracts. Under these new contracts Cochlear workers will have their pay tied to monthly production targets. Some workers stand to lose up to $80 each week.

These new contacts come into effect on the 6th of November 2007.

Cochlear workers are fighting not only for a fair deal at work but to change Australia’s workplace laws. They have made a video message to the Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Mr Howard is currently spending millions of Australian tax payer dollars to promote his unfair workplace laws.

Please support the Cochlear workers by taking two actions

1. Watch the Youtube video
2. Please forward this video to all of your contacts

You can watch the Youtube video by clicking on the link below:

Thanks for your continued support
Daniel Kyriacou
Ph-0408 283 226