Category: Human Rights

- Originally published by Ocean Road Magazine edition #45, Summer 2022. On the morning of Sunday, 13 August 1961, the citizens of the German capital, Berlin, awoke to an unfamiliar flurry of activity on their streets. During the night before, at the witching hour of midnight, under the orders of the East German Communist Party leader Walter Ulbrict, police and military units had begun sealing off the border between the Soviet-controlled east of the city and the west. By daylight, they had torn up the streets along the border, rendering them unusable, and lined them with barbed wire entanglements and fences that would ultimately stretch all along the 156 kilometres surrounding the three western sectors of the city.
In this day and age, virtually everyone has high quality audio-visual recording equipment right at their fingertips. Our ever-ready mobile phone can record and disseminate information worldwide with the click of one or two buttons. So it's perhaps no wonder so many get a little bit click-happy nowadays when they find themselves in the presence of the Thin Blue Line.
Between 1905 and 1970, generations of First Nations children were forcibly removed from their families, under a policy of so-called ‘protection.’ The 1995 Bringing Them Home report estimated that between ten and thirty-three per cent of all First Nations children were taken from their loved ones.
We've all heard the news of protesters demonstrating in the streets of Hong Kong, decrying the proposed amendments to that city's extradition laws with China. We've seen the television news footage of university students, right here in Australia, pushing and shoving each other over whether Hong Kong citizens should be tried in the Communist mainland. But what's it all about? Doesn't Hong Kong belong to China? Well, yes and no.
The late great Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison for his opposition to the apartheid system of racial segregation in South Africa. When he was finally released from custody in 1990, he famously said "To deny a person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity."
As the bartender gave me the nod for last drinks, I reached for my mobile. It was well and truly time to call it a night, and I was in no state to drive. So I pulled up Uber on my phone and scanned for the nearest driver. The first one that bounced up showed a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.
On the weekend our parks were full of Australia Day revellers. Most, I expect, were celebrating their deep affection and appreciation of their nation of birth or adoption, the great natural gifts of a lucky country and its lucky people, the pride and the delight of being part of an essentially liberal, inclusive, and egalitarian community of mateship and ‘fair dinkum’ Aussie values. I suspect few, if any, were there to remember and rejoice in the misery of the boatloads of wretched convicts who were transported in irons from their homeland to be cast upon the desolate shores of distant antipodes.
“I am the result of a loving upbringing in a peaceful country, with wonderful parents and siblings, a very long-term relationship, stability, support – but a feeling that life isn't always just and that there is injustice for people and we should do something about it.”
This week I learned something kind of crazy that I never knew before.A gentleman came to my office complaining that five police officers had recently materialised at his front door, without warning or invitation, wanting to conduct a psychiatric assessment on him. It all sounded more than a little bit bizarre to me but, since the gentleman appeared otherwise quite lucid, I tried to dig a little deeper, in the hope of understanding what it may be all about. He didn't really know. The best he could tell me was the officers concerned were apparently attached to something called the Fixated Persons Unit. 
What goes around always seems to come around again. In February 1862 a familiar advertisement appeared in the employment columns of the London Times newspaper. It read simply "WANTED: A smart, active girl to do the general housework of a large family, one who can cook, clean plates, and get up fine linen, preferred. No Irish need apply."
The complaint this week from would-be patrons of a popular Adelaide hotel that they were refused entry on racial grounds, has reopened some old wounds, and focused attention on sadly unfinished business. Claims by aboriginal woman Taylor Power-Smith and her indigenous friends Peter Miller Koncz and his wife Kahlia that they were turned away from the Palais Hotel because of their aboriginality, raised more than a few ghosts of our often shameful past.
Today’s news out of the Broncos Rugby League headquarters about an alleged “drunken incident” involving star centre James Roberts has let more than a few old spectres out of the closet. Newspapers today reported that an allegation Roberts verbally abused a barmaid in a drunken rage at the Normanby Hotel has been referred to the NRL’s integrity unit, which reportedly imposed a 12 month alcohol ban on Roberts in 2014 following his sacking at Penrith.