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Protests, Land Rights, and Riots

Protests, Land Rights, and Riots: Postcolonial Struggles in Australia in the 1980s

Barry Morris
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Protests, Land Rights, and Riots
    Book Description:

    The 1970s saw the Aboriginal people of Australia struggle for recognition of their postcolonial rights. Rural communities, where large Aboriginal populations lived, were provoked as a consequence of social fragmentation, unparalleled unemployment, and other major economic and political changes. The ensuing riots, protests, and law-and-order campaigns in New South Wales captured the tense relations that existed between indigenous people, the police, and the criminal justice system. InProtests, Land Rights, and Riots, Barry Morris shows how neoliberal policies in Australia targeted those who were least integrated socially and culturally, and who enjoyed fewer legitimate economic opportunities. Amidst intense political debate, struggle, and conflict, new forces were unleashed as a post-settler colonial state grappled with its past. Morris provides a social analysis of the ensuing effects of neoliberal policy and the way indigenous rights were subsequently undermined by this emerging new political orthodoxy in the 1990s.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-538-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. viii-ix)
    Albert (Sonny) Bates

    This book covers an important historical era for Koori people in New South Wales in that events such as Black Deaths in Custody and Land Rights impacted and burnt into the consciousness of political and public opinion. The ramifications were such that from an international perspective Australia had an ‘image problem’ as our country was being branded the ‘new South Africa’.

    In August of 1987, my then dear brother-in-law, Lloyd Boney was found dead in a police cell in Brewarrina, in far-western New South Wales. The Prime Minister, Mr Robert Hawke, immediately called for a Royal Commission Into Aboriginal Deaths...

  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xi)
  6. Map
    (pp. xii-xii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The legacy of colonialism casts a long shadow over the political landscape of many modern nations. This book considers the complex fate of Indigenous peoples in settler colonial states, where struggles for autonomy and recognition are politically convoluted and where legal and institutional integration pervades everyday life. Not only must Indigenous rights be achieved without the abject flight of the colonisers, but the historical trajectory of ‘breakaway settler colonialism’ (Byrd 2011) seeks no less than to transform its own subordinate colonial status into an autonomous, self-governing entity — a transformation ‘primarily characterized by indigenous deterritorialisation accompanied by a sustained denial of...

  8. Chapter 1 Crisis of identity: Aboriginal politics, the media and the law
    (pp. 13-36)

    ‘Blood on the streets the night a town exploded’ reported the front-page headlines of theSydney Morning Herald (SMH) on 17 August 1987, framing the melee that become known as the ‘Brewarrina riot’ as a violent eruption between Aborigines and police in a small country town. Despite its characterisation as a riot, the civil disturbance was not an outbreak of frenzied communal violence, but a specific confrontation between state authority and the local Indigenous people of a small country town. The violence and anger were directed specifically at the police and the clients of one local hotel. For these reasons,...

  9. Chapter 2 Neoliberalism and Indigenous rights in New South Wales
    (pp. 37-67)

    On 9 October 1990 a large number of Indigenous people from all over New South Wales and their supporters demonstrated against amendments to theAboriginal Land Rights Act 1983(NSW) (the Aboriginal Land Rights Act). The amendments eroded Indigenous rights and came only seven years after the Labor government had passed the ground-breaking legislation, which recognised prior ownership and provided compensation. The Aborigines leading the demonstration demanded to meet with the New South Wales Premier, Nick Greiner. When the demand was ignored, it was reported that ‘several demonstrators climbed the 2½ metre iron fence at the front of Parliament House...

  10. Chapter 3 Firm government: state of siege
    (pp. 68-97)

    Politics in the 1980s underwent a significant shift in the way liberal states governed, what they governed and how they governed. As shown in Chapter 2, a major impetus for this transformation was the shift from neoliberalism as a political ideology to its entrenchment as a form of governance. In a period of major structural change, government policy focused more intensely on programs for governing the socially excluded. Despite the way neoliberal ideology depicts itself as deregulating the state, it is more accurate to assert that itre-regulatesrather than deregulates the agency of the state, and may be more...

  11. Chapter 4 Postcolonial fantasy and anxiety in the North West
    (pp. 98-127)

    One arresting detail that emerged from the national investigation into Aboriginal deaths in police custody, held in Australia in the late 1980s, was when police expressed the fear of an Aboriginal insurrection. The police reports surfaced as the Australian nation was preparing to collectively celebrate its bicentenary. While investigating the death of Lloyd Boney, the RCIADIC found unrelated evidence of the state of siege that haunted those policing the North West region of New South Wales. These details emerged as an aside, produced to explain why members of the police Tactical Response Group (TRG) had been brought to the small...

  12. Chapter 5 Police testimony and the Brewarrina riot trial
    (pp. 128-153)
    Kerry Zubrinich

    Judge Nash made this statement during the summing up of the ‘Brewarrina 17’ riot trial (R v. Bates, Murray and Orcher), which was held at the District Court in Bathurst, New South Wales, in 1991. The statement reiterates his position throughout the trial that the alleged crimes of the Aboriginal defendants, as citizens of the state subject to its laws, were on trial — not the issue of race relations. The composition of the courtroom provided a compelling but contradictory image to the judge’s pronouncement. The only Aboriginal people in the inner sanctum of the courtroom were the three accused in...

  13. Chapter 6 Aborigines behaving badly: legal realism and paternalism
    (pp. 154-180)

    The Brewarrina riot shows how imagery can be manipulated and recomposed to reinforce older patterns of relations. Besides the aspects already discussed, the riot was a visual event for mass consumption. The flow of dramatic images disrupted prevailing definitions of Indigenous people as the passive bearers of the conditions of their existence. Much of the interpretative work by politicians and the media sought to restore Aborigines to the position of the manipulated objects of others’ intentions or as victims of their own inherent weaknesses. My analysis of the media and political discourse shows how the normative power of dominant discourses...

  14. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 181-181)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 182-190)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-200)
  17. Index
    (pp. 201-204)