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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Southern Cross: 'refuge of all the oppressed from all countries on earth'

The Southern Cross: 'refuge of all the oppressed from all countries on earth' 
(Eureka - a flag for the refugee)

Flags make great tattoos. Some more so than others. They are icons of nationality, ideology and symbolism. They represent culture, ideas and identify something that people are willing to live and die for. They can be combined with other icons of a culture to create a powerful image of the wearer's manifesto. In Australia, perhaps none more so than the Southern Cross, particularly as it appears on the Eureka Stockade flag. Many tattoos abound with either the Eureka Flag or a combination of that flag and the other icon of Australia's rebel spirit, the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly (who is believed to have been born in December 1854 during the Eureka Stockade(1)).

Original and restored Eureka Stockade flag
Both Kelly and the Eureka Stockade represent a fierce, fighting spirit against tyranny and corruption while defending justice and compassion. Some see Kelly as nothing more than a thief and murderer. However, to many others he is a hero who fought against the corrupt land acquisition and injustices of the government. Local aborigines see Captain Cook as representative of the 'theft of their land, the exploitation of their labour and the denial of their cultures', while they consider Ned Kelly as being 'concerned with freedom, dignity and true justice'(2). Kelly himself, claimed to be acting against police corruption and seeking justice for the poor. He called on anyone who has cause to fear him to give '£10 out of every hundred towards the widow and orphan fund'(3).

The Eureka Stockade was a battle between miners and colonial forces in Ballarat, Victoria, on 3 December 1854. The miners were incensed at the cost of mining licences and taxes, the persecution and attacks by police and soldiers, the injustice of the courts, as well as government corruption. At a monster meeting on 29 November 1854 at Bakers Hill, 10,000 people raised the newly designed Eureka Stockade flag and swore the following oath of allegiance to it:

'We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties'.

Swearing allegiance to the Southern Cross 1854.

'According to Frank Cayley′s book Flag of Stars, the flag′s five stars represent the Southern Cross and the white cross joining the stars represents unity in defiance. The blue background is believed to represent the blue shirts worn by many of the diggers, rather than represent the sky as is commonly thought'(4).

Over the years, the Eureka Stockade flag has been adopted by numerous groups, including unions, outlaw biker gangs and various protest groups. During the administration of Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, harsh laws were passed to crack down on motorcycle gangs, which included identifying members and their associates through certain imagery; the Eureka flag was one of those images. Newman also cracked down on the other Eureka flag flying group, the unions, by passing laws that targeted their members and placed restrictions on how they engaged politically. If there was ever a time where unity in defiance against injustice was important, it was during this time; a time when the oath of the Eureka flag was ever so appropriate.

More recently, the flag and the Southern Cross specifically, have been hijacked by those who fail to understand their significance or history. Specifically, those who have been caught up in the spirit of nationalism and its racist, bigoted vitriol aimed at attacking migrants, specifically refugees and Muslims. Yet these people would do well to remember the words of one of the architects of the rebellion, Raffaelo Carboni, who stated in his speech 4 days before the battle:

'Irrespective of nationality, religion and colour, I call on you to salute the 'Southern Cross' as the refuge of all the oppressed from all countries on earth'(5).

The spirit of Eureka and Ned Kelly was a fight against oppression and injustice.

The Southern Cross represents refuge for people from all over the globe who are fleeing oppression. It is the flag of the asylum seeker, the refugee. Yet nationalists and white supremacists proudly sport the Southern Cross through their tattoos or paraphernalia as a symbol of Australian culture without realising that the very culture they claim to be defending is one of multiculturalism. Modern Australia was built from the blood, sweat and tears of aborigines as well as immigrants from many foreign ethnicities and religions. Flying the Southern Cross is to acknowledge and respect Australia's indigenous people and to welcome and honour migrants and refugees.

The arrival of British settlers in 1788 brought a spirit of racism which saw the indigenous inhabitants displaced or murdered and their lands stolen. The Australian flag can therefore be described as a dichotomy in which the brutal racism of the British colonisers is represented by the Union Jack while the fight against government corruption and persecution is represented by the Southern Cross.

To use the Southern Cross as a symbol of bigotry to oppress and abuse the persecuted is to completely dishonour its origins in the fight against oppression and injustice.


1. Lewis, Ian. 'Ned Kelly: A Short Life', Notes - 1. Son of Red, location 7378, Kindle version. Hatchette Australia, ISBN - 978-0734405449, 2008.

2. Ibid, location 7334.

3. National Museum Australia, 'Jerilderie letter transcription', Page 39, (HTML version).

4. Ausflag, 'Eureka flag',, accessed 28 December 2015.

5. Carboni, Raffaelo. 'The Eureka Stockade', chapter XXIX, location 642, Kindle version. Amazon Digital Services, Inc, ASIN B004TP1N5I, 24 March 2011. (Digital version of original book published in 1855.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Flags - hijacked by hate

by guest blogger, Willz

What is it with all the flag waving going on at the moment? Right-wing racist groups treat flags like their something sacred that every patriot should bow down and worship. Anyone who doesn't is called an unpatriotic leftist, a traitor.

But what does the Australian flag represent? In one corner we have the Union Jack; a flag that brought terror to the traditional owners of Australia and a sign of imperialist aggression in every country conquered by Britain. Underneath that, we have the Commonwealth star; another symbol of our ties with colonialism and imperialist aggression. On the right, the Southern Cross is the only part of the flag that makes any sense in a modern Australia. It was first flown at the Eureka Stockade and has remained a symbol of resistance against oppressive federal and state governments ever since.

And here we have racists from the UPF using our flag for well let’s see … racist purposes. Do they even know what it represents? They claim to be patriots, yet we all know patriotism is just a cover word for racism and bigotry.

The First Nation people’s flag is black, yellow and red. Black represents the Aboriginal people of Australia. The yellow circle represents the sun, the giver of life and protector. Red represents the red earth, the red ochre used in ceremonies and Aboriginal peoples' spiritual relation to the land. If we are serious about making amends for our brutal treatment of aboriginal people in the past these elements need to be incorporated into a new flag.

First nation people marching for their rights with their adopted flag
In the below photo, racists from the Ku Klux Klan fly their confederate and Nazi flags outside the Mississippi state legislature, protesting against the anti-racist 'Black lives matter' protest…except it’s not a confederate flag at all it’s the battle flag from The Army of Northern Virginia a flag only to be used in battle by said army during the civil war from 1861—65. So these 'patriots' are in effect disrespecting the southern veterans they claim to be … er … respecting.

These are the real confederate flags:

Another favourite of racists in both in the US and Australia, is the Nazi battle flag that represented our common enemy in which the Anzacs and other Allied forces lost so many lives fighting against … and these racists claim to be patriots?

The Hammerskins are another neo-nazi racist group on the rise. Originally started in the US, they're now recruiting in Australia. Obviously not the sharpest tools in the shed, they are nonetheless dangerous white supremacists who've embraced the extremist ideology of Hitler, the West's enemy number one during World War II. Their  logo depicting two claw hammers crossed to resemble goose-stepping legs, is based on a fictitious neo-Nazi organization featured in the 1982 film Pink Floyd – The Wall. The portrayal of the fictional group in the film was intended to show the lunacy of Nazism and Fascism, not to be an instruction manual. The movie highlighted the damage caused and the lives lost in the fight against such intolerance and hate, yet neo-nazi organisations persist in furthering their extremist views through nationalism and a warped idea of patriotism.

So what does a flag truly represent? In modern society it should be used to represent a country, a state, an institution or a decoration for public festivities and celebrations. When a flag is used to intimidate and denigrate a particular group of people based on race, religion or other factors, under the guise of 'patriotism', it becomes a symbol of oppression and bigotry which cheapens the flag's true purpose. Something that a true patriot wouldn't do.

Those who wrap a flag around their ideology of hate have become known as 'hatriots' rather than patriots. They are the true traitors to the ideals of freedom, inclusion and the rights of all to live in peace which most western nations are founded on.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's easier to observe holidays than commandments

'How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments'.

 So said Benjamin Franklin.

Simple translation: It's easier to observe holidays than commandments.

No better is this demonstrated than in the recurrent claims by some Christians that there is a war on Christmas or on Easter or other Christian events. The complaints surface over things such as carol singing (even though many of the carols are about Santa or reindeers or holly, anything but Christ), easter eggs (again nothing to do with Christianity) or greetings (such as complaining about people saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas).

Yet, where are the complaints about human rights abuses by politicians who claim to be Christian. Some people are quick to accuse Muslims of not condemning terrorism but fail to condemn Christians who imprison and torture innocent people as Australia is doing to asylum seekers fleeing brutality, persecution and war. In fact, these particular human rights abuses are popular with the electorate and many conservative Christians.

Where are the complaints against politicians, pastors and others who propagate racism and Islamophobia, who call to ban Islam, who misrepresent Koranic scripture in order to fuel hatred and fear of Muslims. Christians are called to preach the gospel, not to twist the scripture of other religions.

Where are the complaints against Christian politicians who kill millions of innocent Muslims in order to further the Christian idols of democracy and capitalism.

Where are the complaints against Christian leaders who fund terrorism, whether it be Islamic, Israeli or Western.

Take for instance the funding of the Mujahideen and Jihadists in Afghanistan which gave rise to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the funding of Israel as it commits genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine, the funding of Saddam Hussein, the funding and support of the Ku Klux Klan and the Lebanese Phalangists, or the various death squads in South America, the funding of despots such as Saddam Hussein, Indonesia's President Suharto, Chile's General Pinochet and the list goes on. Millions displaced, injured or killed by the actions of Christians in pursuit of their idols.

Christians should remove the log from their own eye before picking on the speck in others.

There is the perennial campaigning against abortion clinics and against the welfare needed to support young mothers and families. The greatest driver of abortion is poverty, so those who oppose welfare are furthering abortion. They have no right to claim the high moral ground in their opposition to abortion if they aren't going to provide the support necessary to prevent abortion.

The parable of the Sheep and the Goats tells Christians to feed and cloth the destitute, to visit the prisoner. The Sermon on the Mount tells Christians to wage peace not war, to show mercy, to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Christ himself tells Christians to 'love your neighbour' and 'love your enemy', to pray for those who persecute you. When asked about who is our neighbour, Jesus responded with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, showing that our neighbour isn't just those of the same nationality or religion. Muslims are our neighbours, not our enemies.

It is much easier for Christians to attack Islam instead of loving Muslims, to torture and imprison the persecuted instead of visiting them or welcoming them with open arms, to wage war instead of bringing peace.

As Benjamin Franklin so eloquently stated, it is easier to observe holidays than commandments. The behaviour of Christians is anything but Christian if they simply carry on about the right to say Merry Christmas while failing to love their neighbour, to visit the prisoner, to defend and help the refugee, to love their Muslim neighbours or to provide welfare to the poor and the widow.

Forget the War on Christmas and stop the War on the Poor and the Persecuted.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Australia: A history of racism & bigotry

Australia: A history of racism & bigotry

- by guest blogger, Willz

Well, they were standing on the shore one day

Saw white sails in the sun

Wasn't long before they felt the sting

White man, white law, white gun.

(Excerpt from the song, 'Solid Rock' by Goanna)

This song describes how the first Australians saw the arrival of the white man and how soon they felt the sting of the white man's legal system and guns. With complete disregard for the first nation people's ownership of the land, the white invaders declared the whole of Australia to be terra nullius; a Latin term meaning 'owned by no-one'. Not long after, the original inhabitants found themselves forcibly removed from their land at gunpoint, with any attempt at resistance met with a volley of musket fire.

This sparked what is now known as the Frontier Wars, which spanned 146 years, finally dying out in 1934. Accounts vary, but it is estimated that at least 20,000 aborigines were killed, while 2,000 Europeans were killed(1). It was hardly a fair fight, with sticks and spears against rifled muskets. It was nothing more than a series of one-sided massacres. The indigenous people paid a huge price simply for defending their land.

There were many massacres of whole tribes perpetrated by landholders and wealthy graziers that went unrecorded and unpunished. Queensland in particular, has the worst record of all with 'nigger hunts' regularly taking place right up to the 1930s. Mobs of white men armed with Lee Enfied .303 rifles shooting aborigines wholesale out of the backs of trucks. By 1930, over 250,000 aboriginal people had been massacred, some were poisoned when their water supply was deliberately contaminated.

There were incidents of whole tribes being rounded up and the men made to watch while their women were raped and killed. There was one particularly sickening account of aboriginal babies being buried neck deep in the ground while the white men took turns at seeing how far they could could a baby's head(2).

Don't remember reading this in the history books? Neither do I. The history of the barbaric treatment of the first nation people has been hidden and manipulated to make it seem like white man was doing them a favour.

Mounted police killing indigenous Australians during the Slaughterhouse Creek Massacre of 1838. 

Far more devastating in their impact on the aboriginal population, however, were the effects of disease, infertility, loss of hunting grounds, starvation and general despair, loss of pride, and the impact of the alcohol 'remedy' for this devastation. Smallpox alone is estimated to have wiped out over 50% of the Australian aboriginal population. Diseases that aborigines had never seen, were introduced by Europeans and had a devastating effect on their bodies that had no defence against them.(3)

The Stolen Generation

Still from the movie, 'The Rabbit Proof Fence', 2002.

When we hear about the stolen generation, we think it happened between 1910 and 1970. In reality it started as early as 1814. In New South Wales, the policy of forcibly removing aboriginal children from their parents has left the indigenous population with a legacy of trauma and loss that continues to affect the community to this day. Sadly, it was all part of the ideology of assimilation which assumed that aborigines were inferior to white people and to make the aboriginal race either die out, be bred out or be assimilated into white society.

Children taken from their parents were forced to turn their backs on their heritage and culture. Their names were changed and they were forbidden from speaking their traditional languages. Some were adopted by white families, while others were placed in institutions where they were subject to physical, emotional and sexual abuse and discrimination.(4) (5) (6)

There are few, if any, aboriginal families who have not suffered the loss of a child through this barbaric policy. Stories abound of children being torn from their mother's arms at gunpoint, never to see them again.

An older aborigine told me a story that made me ashamed to be a white Australian. A truck and a police car turned up at their camp and two mothers and their children were forced into the back of the truck. The truck drove off and stopped about 10 miles down the road, where the mothers were kicked out without their children. It drove off with the children screaming for their mothers while the women wept uncontrollably. They never saw each other again.

A deep sense of sadness and loss haunts aboriginal people from that generation to this day. Unfortunately, many have resorted to the white man's drink to try to numb their minds from that dreadful past, often resulting in alcoholism and a shorter lifespan. This about this before you go pointing the finger at the people in public parks.

If you want to see a good movie about the realities of this abhorrent policy, I suggest 'Rabbit Proof Fence', a movie about three aboriginal girls stolen from their mother. The girls escape their captors and follow the rabbit proof fence back to their mother. It's a heart-breaking, but thought provoking movie.

Deaths in custody

Roebourne Prison inmates - sentenced for crimes such as 'absconding' from 'blackbirding' (slavery). Those who resisted were sent to Wadjemump (Rottnest Island). Most never survived, either killed by hanging or starved to death in overcrowded cells. 

A royal commission in 1987, investigated aboriginal deaths in custody over a 10 year period, giving over 300 recommendations which are still valid today, although very few have been implemented. Every year, aboriginal people continue to die in custody, many of them with physical and mental disabilities.(7)

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) conducted a major review of deaths in custody and found a substantial increase in the number of aboriginal people dying in custody over the past five years. The study found that the overall rate of deaths in State and Territory prisons has remained relatively steady over the past 20 years but there has been a spike in the number of indigenous deaths in custody, in line with almost doubling the number of indigenous Australians being locked up.

Around 30,000 people are behind bars and indigenous inmates account for a quarter of the prison population, while aborigines comprise only 2% of the general population. It hasn't been getting better. It is getting worse.

In addition, Australia imprisons thousands of indigenous people with mental and cognitive disabilities every year. A widespread lack of understanding and action underpins this shameful breach of human rights. Aboriginal people with mental and cognitive disabilities are being 'managed' by police, courts and prisons due to a dire lack of appropriate community-based services and support.(8)

The politics of racism

In a modern wealthy nation like Australia, one would think that the ills of the past would be a distant memory, but sadly this is not the case. The average life expectancy for an adult aborigine is 45 years. Infant mortality is still alarmingly high, aboriginal people living in remote remote locations do not even have access to the most basic health services, such as running water, electricity or safe housing. Third world diseases such as tuberculosis, pneumonia and trachoma have been eradicated virtually everywhere in the world, except in remote aboriginal communities. People in these communities live in abject poverty. While politicians publicly sympathise with their plight, while little is done to help.

Why is this so?

The answer lies with the voting public. There are few votes in helping the first nation's people. Politicians who stand up for them are invariably voted out of office. Sadly this is because there are still a lot of racist white Australians who refuse to acknowledge their ancestors' misdeeds and racist policy enjoys popular support.

It's a sad indictment on a country that likes to see itself as a 'tolerant country'.


1. John Harris, 'Hiding the bodies: The myth of the humane colonisation of Aboriginal Australia',

2. John Pilger, 'Utopia', 2013.

3. N.G. Butlin, 'Our Original Aggression: Aboriginal Populations of Southeastern Australia, 1788-1850', Allen & Unwin, June 1984

4. Australians Together, 'The Stolen Generation',

5. Stolen Generations Testimonies,

6. Creative Spirits, 'A guide to Australia's Stolen Generations',

7. Creative Spirits, 'Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody '.

8. ABC News, Martin Cuddihy, 'Aboriginal deaths in custody numbers rise sharply over past five years', 24 May 2013,