The Riot

I live in Sydney and was not aware of the riot that occurred in Redfern until yesterday afternoon. I have since had family members respond with phrases like “they were given that place and look at what they’ve done to it” and “no white person would do that”. And all this while trying to actually find out what went on amid media grabs and sound bites.

It seems that no-one, including the Redfern Aboriginal community, feels that violence was the best response to the situation. It seems that media coverage (print media that is – I don’t bother with TV news anymore) has made that point reasonably clear. Needless to say I am not a believer in violence as a means to resolve any issue.

Let me respond to those family comments first though. Firstly, we are the trespassers on this land – white Europeans who still do not have the guts to recognise Aboriginal land rights nor apologise for the Stolen Generation. To claim that they were “given the land” is just plain wrong. It was returned to the people, in a state and situation far different to how they would have chosen to run the place.

Secondly, the claim that “no white person would do that” is wrong in so many respects, not least of which in the assumption that a white person lives in the same circumstances as the Aboriginal people do in this country. Endemic and institutionalised racism is just the start (that family member’s comments, and John Brogden’s remarks – see below – are just a case in point)…

The SMH ran an article written by Ray Minniecon, an Aboriginal living in Redfern. Bravo to SMH for actually publishing a voice from the Aboriginal community. The rest of the reports are all written from the white folks perspective. It was a refreshing change to see that lone voice. Among other important points, Ray had this to say:

What happened on Sunday night is not to be confused with the type of place that Redfern is and the positive future it has to offer all who choose to live here.

I think this is a vitally important message that I suspect will be lost in the general population as the media barrage no doubt continues. I have walked through parts of Redfern on numerous occasions, including late at night, and never felt threatened or ill at ease. It is also clear that the local community, with the support of the NSW government have, plans to revitalise the area.

The most useful report I found so far is, almost surprisingly, also in the SMH: Brogden’s riot response: bulldoze The Block.

What we know so far: The NSW opposition leader is an attention grabber after populous support for racist policies. Maybe he should move to the west bank where bulldozing people’s homes is a way of life. Given he emanates from the same party as our gutless Prime Minister, I don’t know why I’m shocked.

Second thing I know is that the Carr government feels that having one Aboriginal representive on one of the three inquiries into the event is sufficient to give the Aboriginal community a voice, and some sense of transparency into the inquiries. Glad you thought of it Bob, but not enough if you actually want the Aboriginal people to feel like they have a part in this process and that it’s not going to be a witch-hunt swayed towards covering the police and the government’s ass.

Brogden is also responsible for this gem:

“The fact that 40 or 50 police were injured whilst they stood there and copped it from young Aboriginal thugs and others is an unacceptable position going forward,” Mr Brogden said.

You know what – the Aboriginal people, and the odd inquiry, have been telling us for years that they have just “stood there and copped it” from the police, and from the population, and from the Government. It doesn’t excuse the violent response that occurred, but it also should shed some light into how an incident like this could explode the way it did.

Some other reports: The Guardian, the ABC’s 7.30 Report. The Democrats also comment: “There is much more to this than whether this young man was chased by police or not, even though community people have described to me actions by some police which equate to harassment.”