I faced the consequences of stepping on Mundine’s toes by Ray Jackson President, Indigenous Social Justice Association 20 January 2014
he film Utopia had its inaugural public showing at the block in Redfern on Friday night where a free public screening was successfully held. A crowd up to an estimated 3,000 crowded into the block, the ‘Aboriginal heart of Redfern’ as Utopia Director John Pilger described it. What the large audience was not made aware of however was that the public showing of Utopia had been placed in some jeopardy during the Friday prior to the screening.
The organisers of the showing included Paddy Gibson of the Stop the Intervention Collective (STICS) and the chosen mc, Ms. Bronwyn Penrith of MudginGal Women’s group. The free screening event was sponsored by the Redfern Community Centre, Jumbunna Indigenous House of
Learning Research (UTS), Tracker magazine, STICS, the City of Sydney Council and the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC). One of our active members suggested that the Indigenous Social Justice Association (ISJA) should also be listed and this arrangement was readily agreed to by the organizing committee. All in all, quite an eclectic group were gathered and were all very proud to support John and his new film. I saw the AHC logo and expressed some personal surprise but was informed that as it was being held on the block their inclusion was necessary. I remained silent on my views. The previous Tuesday Bronwyn and I were invited to attend a special screening of Utopia at
Protestors march on the anniversary of TJ Hickey’s death. Mick Mundine tried to prevent Ray Jackson from advertising the TJ Hickey 10th anniversary protest march at the screening of Utopia at Redfern last Friday.
Studio 12 of the Fox Studios complex and sat in awe of the film’s factually shocking revelations of Aboriginal Australia in the 21st century. Being an activist for over 25 years I was not unaware of the everyday horrors of Aboriginal life but to actually see and listen to those living under such conditions only served to re-enforce the pure bastardry of our Australian governments, but especially successive federal governments. When the proceedings were over I asked both John and Bronwyn permission to have Ms. Gail Hickey on the Friday evening screening to be able to access the event to advertise the 10th commemoration anniversary rally and march to be held on 14th February this year. Both, including Paddy, saw no issue to the request. I also asked John if he could join us on the 14/2. We are awaiting his reply. I thought no more about it and on the Thursday afternoon ISJA had its annual meeting with the Redfern police to seek an agreed march route for the TJ rally/ march. As I said we do this every year about this time. We met with the Commander of the Redfern Station, Luke Freudenstein, and some of his executive, especially traffic control. Each year we agree to disagree on the reasons for the march and the likelihood of any possible violence, whether by the march participants or ‘other groups’! This time however they asked about violence, possible or otherwise at the Friday night screening. I am generally bemused at the paranoia of police as to suspected violence but this comment shocked me. Why would there be any violence? We expected a large crowd, both black and white but I surmised that we would be outnumbered by our
white supporters by 5 or 6 to 1, and that’s how it turned out. All knew the hate groups to be cowards so they were most unlikely to appear on the night. They always preferred the odds to be in their favour as shown by the gutless bashing of a Vietnamese student recently. They asked if Gail Hickey, myself and other ISJA activists would be present and I pointed out that of course we would be there! Imagine my consternation then when I was rung by Paddy, who was with Bronwyn, to be told that neither Gail nor I could advertise the 14/2 event. When I enquired why, I was informed that such advertising was not in favour of one Mick Mundine, head of the Redfern Aboriginal Housing Company. Mick had threatened to pull the event if Gail or I were allowed to speak. I was gob-smacked! Were the police behind this action? I don’t know. And if they were, how high up in the chain of command did the orders or suggestions to Mick come from? Again, I just do not know. What I do know, and know well, is that both the Redfern police and Mick Mundine have been constant critics of the TJ anniversary marches. The police for their own ends of course and as for Mick, he informed me years ago “that the Hickey’s should just move on as we were lowering the ‘tone’ of Redfern”. I suspect by that he meant the property prices in Redfern. Paddy and Bronwyn were concerned by the threat and for the sake of the film showing asked if ISJA would accept the dictum. I replied ISJA would not. But that placed me also between a rock and a hard place. I did not want to push Paddy or Bronwyn into a personal untenable position and
whilst I did not believe Mick would or could pull the show I was very well aware of Mick’s belief that he was in charge of the block. Mick is the CEO of the Redfern AHC only, he does not ‘own’ the block. The block was given to the Redfern Aborigines as a co-op, owned by the tenants. I know there was a struggle for the company during the 90’s between Mick and another Redfernite, a popular and well respected local identity at that, but Mick won. The rest is history. Now the block seems to be used as a parking space managed by the AHC. I told Paddy that I would ring Mick, which I did. The phone call was torturous as I went through the history of the advertising of the 14/2. Mick waffled on about respect and land and other inanities but finally agreed to either Gail or I appearing on stage. Either of us had to just do the invite without details of how the young man died. I did keep it brief but I did state that TJ died as a result of a police pursuit. The show went ahead but so too did the invitation to the audience to join us at 10.30am on Friday 14 February at the Tauranga Units,1 Philip Street, Waterloo, to rally at the fence line then march to Parliament House to demand an apology from the parliament to Gail, his sisters and extended family for his death arising from a Redfern police chase back in 2004. And further, for the O’Farrell government to overrule police obstruction from placing a memorial plaque on the fence-line to honour and remember the young 17 year old who died as a result of his wounds from the police chase. All’s well that ends well.