Redfern revisited

Not that I want to go on about it, but I will. As part of the inevitable media fall out of the Redfern riots from last week end, below is one of the few media commentators that actually talks some sense. It is, like so often, Mike Carlton in his Saturday column in the Sydney Morning Herald. This is what Carlton had to say in today's paper:

The only surprising thing about last Sunday's riot at Redfern is that there haven't been more of them.

Here you have the pathetic flotsam and jetsam of Australian life, dwelling in a Third World stew that should be a national scandal, crushed by poverty, without jobs and without hope, shackled to social welfare and lashed by the scourges of alcohol, heroin, prostitution, crime, illiteracy, innumeracy and ignorance. All within sight of the gleaming towers of the nation's richest city and one of the most prosperous in the world. These facts are indisputable. It is a miracle that Redfern doesn't riot every Sunday.

I first visited the slums of Eveleigh Street as a young TV reporter in the '60s, when Aboriginal elders such as Chicka Dixon and the late Mum Shirl ran the Block. The grim truth is that, in 40 years, things have only become worse.

Common sense suggests that the death of 17-year-old "TJ" Hickey was a symptom of Redfern's troubles last weekend, not the cause. When a police car was sighted nearby, rumour ran through the streets like wildfire and, mixed with an inflammatory cocktail of sorrow, booze and Sunday's baking heat, the joint inevitably exploded.

I happen to believe the police story, that they were not pursuing Hickey, that they were summoned later to the scene, and that they had the boy's blood all over them as they tried to revive him. I have talked twice now to the Redfern police commander, Superintendent Dennis Smith. I think I can pick a police con job when I smell it. On the contrary, Smith appeared to be an honest and committed officer who has done his level best to keep the peace in the toughest beat in Australia, and who was devastated when it crashed in ruins about him.

In the end, the extremists hijacked the day, as they so often do. The so-called "indigenous community leaders" ranting about racist police pigs. The right-wing radio ratbags and claret-sodden tabloid pontiffs baying for vengeance. At times like this you can only think, in despair, that we have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing since 1788.

There are things in here I totally disagree with - white commentators should NEVER assume that they can define who is a black community leader and who isn't, and his evaluation of "I believe the police story (contrary to several witness reports) because I believe the police" is circular and disingenuous. Still - it's important to hammer home to white Australia one simple fact: considering the history, and perhaps more importantly, the current social, economic, political and cultural degradation of indigenous Australians, Redfern (and Aboriginal Australia) should riot every week! Whitey's exceptionally lucky that it doesn't.

Postscriptum: I guess M.C's assessment puts me in the "extremist" camp, as someone "ranting" about "racist police pigs". Update: TJ Hickey's 14-year-old girlfriend has now been arrested on the grounds of using "indecent language" last Sunday, allegedly saying to police after TJ died something to the effect of "You fucking killed him, so fuck off". Hickey's aunt has been arrested yesterday, basically for being on the streets on Sunday night (police say she took part in the riot but can't actually prove it), refused bail and will miss his funeral in his home town of Walgett this week.

Meanwhile, white former share trader Rene Rivkin, after being convicted in a court of law, evaded jail for about a year because of what was widely seen as an outrageously fabricated medical diagnosis declaring him unfit for jail. This was reported with a smiling, Oh-isn't-he-a-card, almost admiring air by white Sydney media. Did the cops arrest Rivkin, when all evidence pointed to him evading jail, and throw him in the clanger? Did they fuck.

Do they arrest the poor, genuinely psychologically disturbed, black 14-year old girlfriend of Thomas Hickey, and arrest his poor, genuinely psychologically disturbed, black, drug-addicted aunt, preventing her from attending TJ's funeral? Hell, yes.

I'll say it again: Racist. Police. Pigs.