Wednesday, 1 December 2010

King Brown Country - Russell Skelton, Fred Cheney, Michael Cathcart: Sack Macklin Protest: Alison Anderson


I have been keeping you posted, Networkers, on the Sack Macklin Protest which was held last evening outside Readings in Carlton.  It was a great success in many ways - even before we got there. Jenny Macklin - who was to be in conversation with Russell Skelton the author of King Brown Country - withdrew from the event. This was because of "security reasons" we have been informed.  Clearly, she was afraid of the terrorists of the Melbourne Anti-Intervention Collective.

Somewhere in all this the man from the Australian Federal Police turned up and spoke to one of our number who knew his name.  He says he now looks forward to seeing happy snaps of himself when relevant files are opened in decades to come.  It is a comfort to know that even if the majority of Melbournians didn't know about us, someone is still watching over us.

Click to enlarge.
Sharon Firebrace, Alex Ettling, Keith Kaulfuss.

My guess is that somewhere upward of 50 people gathered outside Readings.  The footpath was packed. People spilled from the kerb onto the roadway.  People not connected with the protest but who were coming to Readings for the book launch paused to take in the event.  Speeches were made. Street seating made great platforms for the speakers.  Connections were drawn between The Intervention in the Northern Territory and the threatened closure of Ballert Mooroop College here in Melbourne.


An audience of somewhere around 50 people gathered in Readings for the launch of King Brown Country with Fred Cheney in conversation and Michael Cathcart facilitating.  Interesting and interested faces in the crowd included Petro Georgiou, John Cain, Sister Joan Hamilton, John Safran and Diane de Vere along with sundry people, including Miss Eagle, who have an intimate knowledge of matters Aboriginal and places of the Northern Territory.

If Russell Skelton thought this was going to be a nice book launch in arguably the trendiest bookshop in Melbourne with a receptive audience, then the event turned out quite differently. Even Fred Cheney, who does not have a reputation as a controversialist, interpolated in sheer exasperation with some of Skelton's views.  There were knowledgable people in the audience who questioned him closely or made statements - and many  of these 'contra' views were well applauded by the receptive audience. 

If anyone believes that support for Aboriginal self-determination and a better life for the citizens of Australia's First Nations is restricted to pinkos, lefties and greenies, then last night was visible evidence for support for Aboriginal people from both sides of the political spectrum.  Somewhere between the don't cares and don't wants are people who can talk to one another across the political divide in positive ways with the aim of seeking better solutions.  

It is fair to say that the audience for King Brown Country came down hard on methods of governance, politicians and bureaucrats. Policies announced but unfulfilled or long postponed. Bureaucrats and ministers on a roller blind. A minister in the Howard Government who was just getting on top of the portfolio was changed to something else. Bureaucrats that come and go so no lasting  relationships or long term knowledge building are possible. Bureaucrats that don't even go, and rule from afar - without knowledge, without expertise.  It was also made plain by Fred Cheney and supported by the audience that Aboriginal citizens could not be subjected to one-size-fits-all policy templates.  Solutions needed to be diverse, customised to specific communities and their particular and individual needs.

And, it must be noted, Alison Anderson was defended.

I purchased my copy of the book.  I didn't bother to do the usual and get the author to sign it. I found Russell Skelton, at this book launch, less than impressive.

Further reading:
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