Friday, 24 February 2012

Stupidity Rules Part 6

There has now been a fourth inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain, the baby who disappeared at Uluru in August 1980.

This is, of course, a good thing. The law should ensure that, as far as possible, justice is done and is seen to be done, and it appears that in this case, the succession of inquests and one Royal Commission has indeed attempted to find out the circumstances behind the disappearance of this small child.

The famous cry, 'A dingo took my baby!' has continued to be heard by the legal authorities for over thirty years. How different it might have been, however, had the cry been 'A policeman took my baby!'

Consider the case of Eddie Murray, a 21-year old Aboriginal man who died in highly suspicious circumstances less than an hour after being apprehended for drunkenness in 1981. There was an inquest (which found police had attempted to mislead the coroner), and then after his family joined others in similar circumstances, a protest movement that led to a Royal Commission which examined Eddie's case (amongst 98 others). The report into that hearing found police had been unreliable witnesses and that they had lied to the commissioner. This, however, is as far as official inquiries have gone.

Despite a subsequent legal report into the case complied by the Newcastle Legal Centre, Too Much Wrong, and my book, Eddie's Country, not a single further formal inquiry has eventuated. The closest the law has come to doing so is when the NSW Police Integrity Commission held a 'preliminary investigation' into Eddie's case on the basis of the material presented in Too Much Wrong. After three years, however, it declined to proceed to a full inquiry and stunningly also refused to release a report detailing what it had looked into - on the grounds that it was 'not in the public interest'. Say what???!!!

Don't Eddie's family deserve to live under the same legal umbrella as Lindy and Michael Chamberlain? Don't Aboriginal people deserve to see that justice in Australia is indeed, 'justice for all' and not 'justice for some'? And aren't there many, many other Aboriginal parents out there whose cries are similar to those uttered by the Murrays, who want just to know what happened to their children?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

It's a Writer's Life Part 5

So, 12 is coming along. We've checked the mirrors for traffic coming up from behind, accelerated smoothly into the road and moved efficiently into second, leaving Christmas diminishing rapidly behind us, a solitary fragment of tinsel dangling languidly from the passenger sun visor all that remains of yet another exhausted festive season.

Now it's time to roll up the sleeves again and get back to the coal face. Or at least the 21st Century politically correct version of the coal face, now carbon has become environmental enemy number one. Energy-wise speaking, after being the new black for so long, what will replace carbon?

Sooner or later we will have to get used to being without coal. I think we're getting better at dealing with changes. We used to have records, then we had CDs, now we have mp3s. Videos have given way to DVDs have given way to hard drives. We face so much new stuff, but it's good to see at least one thing surviving: community (and I'm not talking about the quirky pop-culture referenced American sitcom, as cool as it is.) I know this because the other day I saw a strange creature on the beach.

Glaucus atlanticus - a pelagic aeolid nudibranch

I didn't know what it was and had never seen anything like it before. It was suggested to me that I contact a marine biologist to identify it. Instead, I put it on FaceBook and asked if anyone knew what it was. That was at 1030pm.

What I saw after that was the diversity within my group of friends who then chose to comment. Jonathon (son of my best friend from high school) was the first off the mark, claiming it was a divine reincarnation of someone named Jesus. Sandy (former uni colleague from seventeen years ago now living interstate) asked me lots of questions about it. Nijole (friend of an ex-girlfriend) thought it was beautiful, Terri-Ann (grand-daughter of a man I wrote the biography Eddie's Country about) was curious, Rachel (partner of an old friend I also met at uni ) re-posted it on her wall, Rebecca (friend I've known for about fifteen years) was witty and shared my picture on her wall, Michael (ex-partner of an ex-girlfriend from twenty years ago) thought it was a sea slug, my daughter thought it would make a good pet, Jane and Ziggy and Nicole (people I also met through uni) thought it was beautiful as did Cindy (wife of best friend from high school), and Hugh (friend and former work colleague from over twenty years ago) who was also witty. Goknur (friend of yet another an ex-girlfriend) won the big prize though, formally ID'ing the little blue thing (as did another friend, Rose, a few days later). What was interesting is that Goknur (and possibly Rose) did her successful research via Wikipedia, the creation of another community.

Just 25 minutes after posting, I knew my brilliant blue water dweller was Glaucus Atlanticus, a bizarre animal that walks upside down on the underneath of the top of the ocean hanging onto the surface tension. It eats bluebottle jellyfish and absorbs their poison, which it then uses on anyone silly enough to be aggressive towards it. If that wasn't enough, it's also a hermaphrodite.

I was and remain very proud of my group of friends who contributed to the discussion and were also able to experience some of the joy of discovery. What a diverse bunch they are, and what a valuable resource they make - not just as a means to find something out - but to have on hand virtually to make me laugh and remind me to be amazed.

12 is going to contain its share of changes, these days, they all do. At least it's good to know that I should be able to rely on one thing at least. Scattered around Australia and around the world, their locations as separated as the reasons they came into my lives, this eclectic reflection of my own experience makes me both proud and humble at the same time. Thanks, everyone!