Twenty years ago, I worked as a teacher on a cattle station about 300km west of Mareeba, in Far North Queensland. Racism was rampant in the area. In fact, it's the reason why I quit my job after just two months. The locals referred to sex with the black girls as "black velvet", a term which I also heard when I got back to Sydney. Even one of my uncles, married with four kids, told me there was "nothing like it".
The Aboriginal "ringers" I worked with would labour for months on the local cattle stations, then head into town on a Friday night, with a few hundred dollars in their pockets, and blow the whole lot in a couple of days. On Mondays, white farmers would drive up to the Chillagoe pub in their 4WDs, pick up half-paralytic black bodies from the side of the streets, and drive them out to their stations for another few months' work.
One of the older Aboriginals I worked with still had scars on his back from childhood beatings with a chain by white property owners. He told me how they used to have leg-irons in those days.
"Not so bad these days, mate," he said.A younger bloke called Francis complained that he used to enjoy school, but he and his friends frequently went bush, and the government had a policy of never allowing Aborginals to repeat a year of classes (it would look bad on government stats, you see). After a few years he just couldn't understand what the teachers were talking about any more, so he dropped out.
Twenty years later, nothing has changed. Peter Beattie is telling Queenslanders not to worry about yet another black death in custody:
Mr Beattie said the death would be "fully and properly investigated".Yeah, right. Tell that to the Mulrunji family, Pete.
"We've demonstrated here that none of these get covered up," he said.
So far the "facts" indicate that the latest victim just upped and died all by himself. He just happened to be in the back of a police van at the time:
Police said the middle-aged man was being transported to the Mareeba watchhouse for questioning when he was found dead in a police vehicle.Obviously the problems so recently detected by John Howard in the Northern Territory are widespread. Given that Howard's preferred solution involves military and police action, it's surely just a matter of time before he sends dozens of cops into Queensland, and then WA, and western NSW, and South Australia, and a few other areas too. I would like to nominate Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley as leader of a new national force. If we are short of cops, I'm sure Howard's friends at Blackwater could help out.
What a bloody farce, what a national disgrace.