indigenous social justice association: on a public meeting and other things

some final things for 2013 as we wind up for the year.

tonight, thursday, and apologies for the short reminder here, we will be holding our meeting at the redfern community centre at the block at 7pm to further our call for solidarity from those groups and individuals previously invited by letter to discuss the upcoming tj rally, amongst other solidarity actions.

the next and final isja meeting for the year will be held on 12 december. all are welcome to attend at 7pm at the redfern community centre. the january meetings will be held on 9 and 23 january, 2014 and thence every 2nd and 4th thursday of the month thereafter.

on friday 13 december we will be holding our last public meeting for the year at the settlement, 17 edward street, darlinton. . we begin at 7pm and finish, at the latest, by 9pm. tea, coffee and water…

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The case for Indigenous self-determination

The case for Indigenous self-determination


If we want to shift Aboriginal disadvantage, then self-determination is the only way, writes Sol Bellear.

Last week, I wrote a story for The Drum about the Bugmy High Court case. It sparked a flurry of commentary, much of it, unfortunately, quite ignorant.

The Bugmy decision reinforced the long-standing legal principle that a court must take into account a person’s background during sentencing, including any history of disadvantage.

The point that seems to have been lost on many readers – despite it appearing in the article several times – is that the High Court declined to make a finding on the basis of race. White people are just as entitled to have their background considered as people of colour. It was not a victory for Aboriginal people, it was a victory for ALL people … and common sense.

However, I argued that while I respected the High Court decision, the case I’ll celebrate is the one in which the High Court determines it has no jurisdiction over Aboriginal people. If we want to shift Aboriginal disadvantage, then self-determination is the only way to achieve that.

One reader, Mike, made a genuine attempt to engage:

Sol, I don’t agree with most of your article for various reasons, many of which have been captured in the comments above. But I do want to thank you for posting. It’s good to hear the point of view of an Indigenous man closely involved in Indigenous legal affairs. I know you won’t reply to this comment, but I, and I’m sure some other readers, would appreciate it if you followed up with an article about your suggested changes to the current system (legal or political) to address the imbalance between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians. Without making any presumptions, it sounds like you might be in favour of creating a separate and legally sovereign nation for Indigenous peoples within Australia. I’m not being facetious; I’m genuinely curious.

Mike, you hit the nail on the head. That’s precisely what I’m in favour of, and here’s why.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of Aboriginal people, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world, and in the process I’ve witnessed firsthand the benefits of self-determination for Indigenous peoples.

I’ve looked at the Sami Parliament in Europe, I’ve visited reservations in the US and Canada, and I’ve spent time in Maori communities.

What I found in my travels shames our nation and makes a mockery of our fear of a ‘nation within a nation’.

Dozens of treaties have been signed in the US and Canada which afford First Nations communities varying degrees of genuine self-determination, from controlling their own schooling to giving them a real capacity to generate an economic base.

In the United States today, there are more than 250 Native American tribal courts across at least 32 states, which handle everything from criminal matters to family court.

Native American corporations and individuals are exempt from a raft of state and federal taxes, including state income tax for people living on reservations.

Native Americans and First Nations people in Canada also have significant political structures which ensure a greater degree of power in their own communities. In Canada, they have the Assembly of First Nations. In the US, individual reservations act as partially autonomous bodies, providing their own law and policing, schooling, health, housing and infrastructure, and income through tax breaks and initiatives like casinos.

In New Zealand, Maori have seven seats which sit over the entire nation, in which only Maori can vote (although anyone can contest a seat).

This is real self-determination in action, yet none of these nations has imploded or been crippled by their relationships with their Aboriginal peoples.


This is real self-determination in action, yet none of these nations has imploded or been crippled by their relationships with their Aboriginal peoples. All of them have been enhanced. Of course, things aren’t perfect overseas. Treaties are regularly breached, and the life statistics of Indigenous peoples consistently lag behind those of their non-Indigenous countrymen. But here’s what Canada, the US and New Zealand don’t have.

They don’t have trachoma, a third world disease that has been eradicated in most nations.

They don’t have the world’s highest recorded rates of rheumatic heart disease, another third world condition linked to overcrowded housing.

They don’t have jailing rates of Indigenous people up to eight times greater than the jailing rates of black males in Apartheid South Africa.

They don’t have world-beating rates of suicide and self-harm.

They don’t have life-expectancy gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations in the double digits.

And they don’t have third world infant mortality rates.

And in particular, they don’t have an excess mortality rate even approaching that of Indigenous people in Australia. Research by Australian Dr Gideon Polya reveals that the excess mortality rate of Aboriginal Australians is one of the worst on earth, twice that of the mandatory reporting death rate for live cattle exported on a boat from Australia, and the same rate as a sheep in an Australian paddock. It’s actually higher than Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam during their respective wars.

But can we blame all this on a lack of self-determination? Research by Dr Paul Kauffman, another Australian researcher, provides some interesting food for thought. In 2003, he completed a study called ‘Diversity and Indigenous Policy Outcomes: Comparisons between Four Nations‘.

In Australia, the rate of Indigenous over-representation in prison is 10 times greater than in the US.


Briefly, it compared the progress in Canada, the United States and New Zealand against the appalling state of affairs in Australia. And it looked specifically at what sort of institutions each nation had which could be classed as self-determination in action. The results are startling.

In Australia, the rate of Indigenous over-representation in prison is 10 times greater than in the US.

Australia’s Indigenous youth suicide rate is twice that of New Zealand and three times that of the US.

In New Zealand, 85 per cent of Maori have a post-school qualification. In the US the figure is 65 per cent. In Australia, it’s fewer than 14 per cent.

To round out the study, Dr Kauffman noted that Canada, the US and New Zealand all have treaties, constitutional recognition and extensive employment diversity programs. Australia does not.

Dr Kaufmann’s study may not be conclusive proof that self-determination is the difference, but it’s pretty compelling. Either Australian Aboriginal people have a knack for death and destruction, or something else is going on.

That’s not to suggest Australia doesn’t pretend to support self-determination, because we certainly do when the rest of the world is watching. In 2008, the Australian Government endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a document which was crafted specifically to set out the rights of First Peoples to govern their own lives and communities.

Yet virtually every Australian government policy announced since flies in the face of our stated international position. The Northern Territory intervention and its bastard son, the Strong Futures laws, for example, breach almost half the articles of the UN Declaration.

Dr Kauffman’s study was completed in 2003, a decade ago, but today my people are further from self-determination than we’ve ever been.

In the coming weeks, the Abbott Government will unveil its signature Indigenous affairs policy – a hand-picked board of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who will advise the government on the best ways forward for Indigenous peoples in this country.

It is the precise opposite of self-determination, light years from the only policies that have been shown to impact positively in other nations in a similar position.

It also happens to be a recycled policy that failed under the Howard government. It will fail under the Abbott government too because as history shows, the new National Indigenous Council will spend its time telling the government what it wants to hear, not what it needs to know.

And that’s one of the key problems in this country – we don’t learn the lessons of our history.

The great lie of 100-plus years of Australian Indigenous Affairs policies has always been that Aboriginal people are so backward that we need to be saved from ourselves.

After socially engineering our communities into world class poverty, governments blamed us for circumstances, and declared themselves the only ones capable of fixing it.

So they took our children away. They forced us from our ancestral lands. They held our wages and savings in trust, and then found better ways to spend the money. We were forced into slavery, denied equal wages and prevented from ever building generational wealth.

That great lie still underpins thinking in Indigenous affairs policy today. So it’s time to do something different, and time to acknowledge that the case for self-determination for Aboriginal people in Australia isn’t just compelling – it’s overwhelming.

Of course, we’re not debating HOW it should occur. We’re still debating WHETHER it should occur. And most Australians think it shouldn’t.

That speaks some volumes not just about our maturity as a nation, but also about our capacity to stare down the racism and paternalism that infects our national character, and the truthfulness of our claimed national identity as ‘the land of the fair go’.

The solution, obviously, is for the Australian Government to practice what it preaches, step back and let us make decisions for ourselves. On that front, I can offer you a couple of guarantees.

The life circumstances of Aboriginal people will not improve overnight. There is no silver bullet. Over the course of that journey, there will be corruption and nepotism. There will be wasted funds, political in-fighting, and examples where well-meaning programs cause more harm than good.

Put simply, we will make many of the same mistakes that have been made – and continue to be made every single day – by mainstream Australian political and governance structures.

On occasions, our ‘parliament’ will be as toxic as yours. On occasions, our leaders will embezzle funds and abuse their travel entitlements, just like yours do. On occasions, our leaders will make bad decisions that favour themselves and their families, just like yours do. On occasions, our communities will erupt into crime and violence, just like yours do.

But I can also guarantee you this: over time, the advances we make will be far greater than those under a system of colonial occupation.

How do I make this guarantee? Because we could hardly do any worse, and because decades of international experience, research and outcomes tell us so.

We are the only first world nation on earth that thinks self-determination is a dirty word, and yet Australians are in the worst position of all to lecture.

The fact is, my people will not simply surrender anymore than you or your children would if Australia was invaded tomorrow. So you can talk till the cows come home about wanting to help Aboriginal Australians, but until the conversation shifts to how non-Aboriginal Australians can stand aside and permit Aboriginal Australians to help themselves, then we’re just marking time.

While we wait, many more of my people – people like William Bugmy – will die, having lived tragically short lives marked by violence, dispossession and misery.

Sol Bellear is the Chairman of the Aboriginal Medical Service, Redfern, and a long-time Aboriginal activist. View his full profile here.


We have at least managed to get a meeting for Gail Hickey and ISJA with the NSW aboriginal affairs minister, Victor Dominello, and the NSW attorney-general, Greg Smith, on investigating methods to be employed to allow for a new non-police investigation and a full and open coronial inquest to occur. The first meeting proved to be barren except for victor’s constant reminders that he was the first government minister to actually meet with Gail. Yes, we know, victor, but there was no follow through. Greg on the other hand, as the first law man of the state and so sworn to uphold justice, offered well known advice and the insult of counseling.
Offering counseling to families of death in custody victims is very much given with the single disgusting view of seeking an outcome that is morally and legally reprehensible. Their perception of our families is so bloody warped by the genocidal history of the invasion that they truly consider that we do not grieve. We do not suffer sorry business. That life moves on and so should our families. For some we are still in the flora and fauna category. Absolute shame. Gail and so many others do not want counseling; that will come after when justice is finally allowed to happen. Then counseling may occur.
Our families grieve and are traumatized by not only the death of their loved one but by the total blind injustice that is brought to play to protect those who kill by the governments and courts of this country. we can bury our loved ones but we cannot, and never will be able to, ‘cop it sweet’ by a society that still dismisses us as nothing more than a legal irritant to be pushed aside as having no real human or legal rights. We are placed as nothing more than de trop!
Advising aboriginal families that they can take legal action is a slap across their face. We cannot afford it. Our legal service is not resourced enough and is facing cuts from the one who loves us, aka Tony Abbott. Legal aid is also not able to assist. The fact that both are government funded Ii will leave in the air. So that leaves pro bono, which is now rare. The recent plea for funds from others also raises little. So our families are left with nothing. Death in custody families must be funded by the individual governments as these cases do not have an end date.
For nearly 10 years, NSW governments have had the moral opportunity to make apologies to Gail Hickey and other families who have had a loved one killed, whatever the circumstances, by sworn officers of the state who, tragically, have been granted the government-appointed immunity and impunity to do so. The NSW police association is so powerful that for 9 years they have successfully blocked a plaque being affixed to the fence line in honor of TJ because they find the truth to be confronting. This is not police truth! Other police said so, and lied in court to prove that the death of tj hickey was an accident. It was not. It was a police chase by a police detective gone wrong.
Our NSW police not only stop the family, and his community, from putting up a plaque to honor TJ, they will not allow the government to apologize to Gail and the other families. When will the NSW government accept that we have more than just an expectation for justice and pull their ‘bully-boys’ into line and make them professional but accountable? We must not continue to live in neverland.
Ray Jackson
indigenous social justice association
(m) 0450 651 063
(p) 02 9318 0947
address 1303/200 pitt street waterloo 2017
we live and work on the stolen lands of the Gadigal people.
Sovereignty Treaty Social Justice

Family demands independent investigation into death in custody in Alice Springs Hospital

Published on Treaty Republic –   Indigenous Australia Sovereignty, Genocide, Land Rights and Pay the Rent   Issues (

Family demands independent investigation into   death in custody in Alice Springs Hospital

The family of Arabana man, Peter Clarke, issued a call today for the   Northern Territory Government to launch an independent enquiry into his death   in Alice Springs Hospital. He was 56 year old.

Mr Clarke died on Tuesday 3 April 2012. He’d been due for parole on 26   March 2012 but was hospitalised on 19 March.

When Peter Clarke’s younger brother Wayne and sister Gladys visited the   hospital, they were shocked to find their brother cuffed by the ankle to the   hospital bed. A Corrections Officer was also standing guard at the door. He   was kept like this for the first two days he spent in the Intensive Care   Unit. Clarke’s eldest daughter, Kylie Hampton, who is the family   spokesperson, described this treatment as “appalling and inexcusable.”

After the death, a doctor told the family a Coroner might need to do an   autopsy as the death could be treated as a death in custody. But the death   would not be investigated. His family was told Mr Clarke was “a free man” as   of 26 March. The family disputes this, as Mr Clarke could not sign his   release forms due to being in an induced coma.

Mr Clarke had been in jail for 3 and half years. He was jailed for   possession of an ounce of marijuana. Ms Hampton said her father was “looking   forward to his parole so that he could get on with his life, travel and see   his children.” She is angry that he spent his last conscious hours shackled   in leg irons.

The facts leading up to Mr Clarke’s death have left the family with many   questions.

Why was a man sick enough to be in intensive care shackled to the hospital   bed? Did Mr Clarke receive proper treatment while in custody for his   diabetes? Could there have been early warnings to suggest Mr Clarke had   cancer? Did Corrections follow all of their protocols?

They are calling for Corrections to release his medical records and for   these to be compared with the records made by Alice Springs Hospital in time   leading up to his death.

Peter Clarke was from Arabana nation. The Arabana people are the   traditional owners of a large part of South Australia, including Lake Eyre.   His mother Thelma Ahchee, was Arabana and was born in Anna Creek in South   Australia an lived in Ooodnadatta with her mother and father until she moved   to Alice Spring’s in her teenage years where she is now laid to rest. His   father, Keith Clarke, was a non-indigenous man from Sydney. Thelma, a single   mother, provided for and raised 14 children. Peter grew up in Alice Springs   and spent most of his life in the Northern Territory.

Kylie Hampton says the family wants the Minister for Correctional   Services, Gerald McCarthy, to launch an independent inquiry into events   leading up to her father’s death. “My family wants to expose the flawed   nature of the system and wants justice,” she said.


Peter Alexander Clarke Date of Birth: 24th August 1956 Parole release date: 26th March 2012

17th March – Visit by Aunty Glad (Dads eldest sister) to   Alice Springs Prison

18th March – Visit by Aunty Gladys to Alice Springs   Prison – signs of continuous coughing (emphysema)

19th March – Dad admitted to Alice Springs Hospital.   Visit at 7pm by Aunty Glad and Uncle Wayne (Dad’s youngest brother) to Alice   Springs Hospital. Uncle Wayne stated that Dad’s left ankle was hand cuffed to   the end of the hospital bed and was like this for the next two days whilst in   I.C.U.

Ask if Corrections followed their protocols?

Subpoena his release/parole records from Corrections.

Dad also had diabetes so he should have been followed up at the prison   from the Doctor. Could there have been an early warning from his medical   information from Corrections to suggest that Dad had Cancer?

20th March – Aunty Gladys to Alice Springs Hospital.   Doctors advised that Dad needed to be sedated to help him breathe as he   couldn’t breathe normally due to diagnosing him with Emphysema and Pneumonia.   Previously Dad was admitted into Alice Springs Hospital with Pneumonia in   October 2011.

22nd March – Peter Clarke Jnr found out Dad was in ICU   and visited him. This day he then messaged me to let me know how serious Dad   was. This was the first time we found out he was in I.C.U.

Subpoena his medical records from   Corrections.

26th March – I flew to Alice Springs, I was advised by   Doctor Raj that Dad would not live for long. Dr Raj called a meeting once all   family was there and stated he had Emphysema, and pneumonia that he had had   for obviously quiet some time

He also gave us the inevitable, which was that the CT Scan showed signs   Dad had cancer and that it was on both lungs and his condition was   worsening.

Was there conflicting information from the Hospital to his   Corrections medical records?

2nd April – I was advised by Dr Raj that palliative care   needs to be considered

3rd April – Dad passed away early in the morning at 6am   on 3rd April 2012.

5th April – My brother Peter and I started planning   funeral proceedings

6th April – I rang Dr Raj to let him know we needed my   father’s body released to funeral services so we can go ahead with   arrangements.  I was advised by Hospital we could not plan a date due to the   Coroner needing to do an Autopsy as “this could be treated as a death in   custody”. Dr Raj said “he will ring the coroner and will ring me back”.

7th April – I asked Dr Raj if he could follow this up and   advise what the process is as I explained we desperately wanted to put my Dad   to rest.

8th April – Dr Raj rang me and advised that this will not   be treated in a “Deaths in Custody” due to his release date being 26th March  and was a “free man as of midnight”.

How could he be a free man if Dad could not sign his release   forms due to being in an induced coma?

20th April – Dad’s Funeral at Alice Springs Catholic   Church.

8th June – Corrections Apologised to Aunty Glad on her   loss.

Why didn’t Corrections advise Dad’s children of their   loss?

Stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody National Network Sydney: Ray Jackson, President, Indigenous Social Justice Association, 0450   651 063 Melbourne: Alison Thorne, Indigenous Social Justice Association Melbourne,   0411 080 031 Perth: Bruce Campbell, WA Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, 0409 947 457



Janet Galbraith shared a photo.
My respect goes to the 20 or so people who came to support this action in Castlemaine.
We heard about the state of incarceration of Indigenous people in this continent, some stories of those who have been killed or died in custody, read the late Elder Jack Davis’ powerful poem for John Pat, signed a petition, wrote in cards to send to the families of some of those who have passed away and sang for the men and women who have died in custody and the mothers who mourn. A song adapted from Bernice Johnson Reagan’s song for Ella – ‘We who believe in freedom cannot rest, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. Til the killing of a Black man, Black mothers son, is as important as the killing of a white man, white mothers son. We who believe in freedom cannot rest, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes…’.
Thankyou to those who sent their apologies and best wishes: Rick Nelson, Cath Ryan, Melissa, Colin, Harkirat Singh and others …