Thursday 6 September 2007

Let's play "Count the black man"

I was disturbed to read the comments from Rommel.

These observations ring all too true for me. I recall much discussion since the first tree was ripped out of Shitty Place 5 years ago, and many were saying around the town that Council wanted to "remove those Aboriginals from our town centre", among other places. I know Bynre had a list on his desk with the top five spots he wanted "eradicated".

I heard a contractor working on the 'redevelopment' of City Place, share with a few of us drinking one afternoon at PJ O'Briens, that the pavers they were laying were designed to "keep out those darkies." I remember hearing at the time that the rationale was that they could simply hose the place down, and it was to be an effective method to deter anyone to linger there.

I was incensed. A town square is an ancient, even tribal facility to bring it's people together, to congregate; to celebrate; for leaders to address it's people; to dance and sing; relax and enjoy. It's where the town crier would come to mount the soap box and furnish the ideals and news of the day and it's governors. A meeting place and a place of integral importance in the structure of a city. Around the world and through history, these are sacred spaces. But what is City Place, Cairns? It's an abyssal failure on all this measures. At close to $4.5 million, after several attempts under the Byrne administration, to redo it over and over again, look at what we have got.

I'd only been here for 3 years at that point, so reserved my judgement about what seemed like ethic discrimination. But subsequently learnt about the infamous busing out of indigenous Cairns residents to north of Cooktown by the first Cairns Council, also under Byrne. I thought this was urban legend, but no, it did happen. I was shocked and therefore knew that they were on a mission to cleanse this town, come hell or high water.

It wasn't long before discreet signs started to appear along northern parts of the Esplanade and some other locations around the city, highlighting the "Move On" powers of the local constabulary. There was a pattern evolving and the City Council was covertly employing a hostile environment for our native citizens.

By providing no shelter whatsoever in in Queensland's northernmost city, and removing all the grassy knolls and shady trees to relax on and around, Council are aggressively out to create an environment to discourage native residents to congregate in public spaces.

It's also to do with Council's need to create a 'proper perception to visitors'.

Rommel also believes the Cairns Police have had input into this decision. This is reasonably obvious with their lobbying for the archaic and draconian Move On laws. This is nothing more than ethnic cleansing of the lowest order. As a Kiwi, I find this type of governing abhorrent and repugnant. New Zealanders have a more recent native history but lead the word in title settlement, reconciliation, integration, shared curriculum, and respect for difference. They also operate within a true multi-cultural society. Australia does not. And Cairns Council is party to this disgusting betrayal of it's local ancestors and the true custodians of this land we now call Cairns.

The new "modern Cairns" is all being designed around the visitor, not the resident. And certainly not our current day ancestors of Aboriginal Australia. Shame on you Councillors that have allowed this climate of hatred and fear to permeate for our black citizens.

Respect and understanding for Maori New Zealanders is not one of lip service, like a simple Haka at a game of footy, or an "I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land" before a speech. It is now ingrained into the Kiwi psyche. Sure there are problems with Maori. But there are as many problems with the white fellas as well. However most New Zealander will happily and proudly call their nation Aotearoa, with dignity and respect, even if they don't know one native Kiwi by name.

Respect and understand of difference and history have made New Zealand a place to appreciate the diversity and talent that comes with acceptance and understanding. Cairns sometimes seems to be a modern day Bosnia with it's attitude towards the Haves and the Have Nots in our community. The systematic destroying of places and buildings they used to frequent and squat, was occurring regularly in 2002/03 around the city. No strategy was put in place nor accommodation created to replace or assist the nature of these unique people.

I hate to admit it Rommel , but I've played the Count the Black Man game a few times. They and their ancestors may have been here for 40,000 years, but this Council in 8 short years have decimated their legacy in such a violent way.

Maybe their behaviour at times is a direct result of how the polices of Cairns City Council ends up alienating them.


Anonymous said... much as I love your blog, the Kiwi thing is wearing a bit thun.... you are starting to suffer from the small flightless bird syndrome... I'm sorry to have to break this to you, buddy, but Aoteoroa is undoing all the good work of your great rugby players, good sailors and Chinese Gooseberries with your largest export...dodgy kiwis..."got anuva Crownie,'bro?"...

Anonymous said...

Mike, with this one, I think you may have touched a raw spot with a lot of locals. It is hard to leave a comment on this without sounding racist, here goes. In all the towns and cities I have lived in around Queensland, I have always seen this problem. Not only with indigenous people, but also with whites as well. I have strong views on this as I have had to deal with the violence personally. If someone is a vagrant, and setting up house in a public place, and drinking cheap alcohol out of a plastic bag, unfortunately, you are breaking the law. Weather you are white or black. I have seen people here in Cairns, robbed at ATM's for $20. In Mackay while living there, I have seen a 15 year old girl, beaten, raped, and then beaten again by a group of indigenous people for enough money to buy another "goonie bag".
I admit, this councils way of bussing them out isnot the answer, but, a lot of mayors around Queensland have done the same thing over the years. It is a major problem in most towns and cities. The main problem with this is not so much the councils removing these people, but how the people have ended up in that situation, which can not be blamed entirely on the council.
I will admit that I do not go into the city centre because I dont like looking at vagrants fighting over a coke bottle full of cheap wine, or a cigarette but thrown out of a window of a passing car, and I will not start using the city centre until the problem is fixed. But unfortunately, the problem is much bigger than the council. No matter who the new leader is going to be.