terra incognita archive

Racist Australia Day

July 3 2000

The following information was faxed and emailed to every person and organisation on our database and any other relevant addresses we could locate.

image of intervention at Australia House
Copies were also given to passers-by outside the Australian High Commission and tourists queuing for their Visas from 8am to 11am. Flowers were placed outside the entrance by ourselves and others.

Juliette Brown and Alana Jelinek, dressed in suits, leafleted and were systematically harrassed by security staff. Our behaviour was called 'Un-Australian' and three times the police were called to stop us from distributing the leaflets. Each time the police came they were more and more heavily armed until the final visit from the City of London Police in riot gear.

The police seemed to agree that the Australian High Commission were acting a little high-handedly and that we had done nothing to 'breach the peace' and that the right to protest is enshrined in law.

All living Australian former prime ministers and the current one, John Howard, were visiting the High Commission that morning. Apparently they had to enter by a side door because of our presence. In the end, a senior official felt forced to come out and ask whether we intended keeping our promise of leaving at 11am.
We assured him we both had work to go to.
He also warned us that the flowers would be taken inside after we left.

The day went according to expectation.


to intervene
in the centenary celebration of Australian national federation ('Australia Week', Australian High Commission, London)
to highlight
the ongoing institutional racism of Australian police, courts, judicial system, law
to mark
a moment in Australia's ongoing racist shame
to consider
our place in this process
"Until we white Australians give back to black Australians their nationhood, we can never claim our own"
John Pilger
A Secret Country

Australian High Commission, Strand, London WC2B 4LA

Monday July 3 2000 8 a.m. - 11 a.m.

PLACE FLOWERS at the entrance of the High Commission

ORDER FLOWERS for delivery to the High Commission

FAX the High Commission with your comment on 020 7465 8217

On July 3 2000, we delivered a quantity of flowers and placed them outside the Australian High Commission. Others also did.

From 8 until 11 am we gave out 2000 copies of the following:

July 3 2000: Australia's shame

Deaths in Custody / Police Brutality
Reports estimate that:
Aboriginal Australians form 2% of the population and 20% of the deaths in custody.

There is 1 death in custody every 14 days. In most states, there is no independent police complaints authority. No charges have been upheld against police.

July 1998: Deaths in police custody of black and white Australians reach their highest ever recorded figure (report by the Australian Institute of Criminology)

Indigenous Australian children made up 20% of those meeting their death in police custody between 1989 and 1994. Judicial System

Black children are arbitrarily detained in adult cells. (New Juvenile Justice Policies which contravene the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child).

Race is a contributing factor in decisions to imprison and length of sentence for black children. (Finding of the Judicial Commission of New South Wales, May 1999)

Stolen Children
Forced removal of over 10,000 black Australians from their families to be placed with white families and assimilated. Policies which continued officially to 1976 were found to be genocidal and to have resulted in restriction of movement, despair and physical and sexual abuse (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission).

Poverty and Disease
In surveys over the last 20 years, doctors have found that:
90% of black Australian children in New South Wales have suffered from Hepatitis B before their 10th birthday.
Pneumonia in Central Australia is 80 times more prevalent in indigenous populations. Blindness rates in North Australia are 7 times higher in indigenous Australians, a result of trachoma in Aboriginal populations without access to healthcare.
Half of all Aboriginal children suffer significant hearing loss due to untreated chronic middle ear infection.
Mortality rates of indigenous Australians are in places 4 times that of the total population. Life expectancy in places is 20 years less than total population figures.
Two-thirds of indigenous Australians earn under AUS $12,000 per annum (approximately 4,500) compared with a teacher's salary of $45,000 pa (Census of 1991)

Many Aboriginals live in dependent poverty which is extreme by world standards" (findings of an Anti-Slavery Society report, re-confirmed in 1988)

Social and political factors contributing to mental health problems and alcohol abuse include discrimination, imprisonment, loss of land, poverty, loss of language and culture, lack of education provision, high unemployment, lack of access to community facilities, lack of access to political power, devaluation of indigenous intellectual tradition.

Australian Law September 1999: UN questions Australian government policies on Aboriginal rights, which may violate international human rights agreements.

Please note: Groups of indigenous Australians are co-ordinating efforts, building confidence, looking for ways to access social and economic resources and autonomy, manage poverty and ill-health and tackle alcohol and drug abuse. There are also many white Australians who support indigenous land rights claims and have contributed to accessing better conditions for indigenous populations.

What you can do:
Don't pretend it's not your business.
British pioneers settled Australia at a time when approximately 750,000 indigenous peoples comprising over 700 language groups had lived on that land mass for over 40,000 years. In the first year of British settlement alone, it is estimated that 600,000 of these people were killed.

Read. Find out more. Talk to friends. Don't pretend that you don't know.
Then visit Australia, appreciate it for the amazing nation that it is but make acting on this information a condition of your visit.

"On your cruelty towards the Aborigines, you stand condemned in the eyes of the civilised world"
Jack Patten, 150th anniversary of the British invasion, Sydney
January 26 1938