thursday 02 march 2000

found a haunting book here in the pod library that brenda croft lent the lab -- 'far from home -Aboriginal prisoners of rottnest island 1838-1931', by neville green and susan moore (uni of western australia press, 1997, ISBN=1-875560-92-0)

it's a kinda dictionary, and has used police and prison reports to make a detailed listing of the Aboriginal men and boys who came from all over western australia to be incarcerated at rottnest.

it's fucken sad reading, i cried, in fact it's fucken heart-breaken reading. so many imprisoned for terms of 6 months -3 years for the *crimes* of spearing cattle or 'stealing and eating' and sheep. drunk and disorderly. vagrancy. manslaughter. tribal killing. 10 and 12 year old boys here. many who died here of influenza, measles, whooping cough and other illnesses (the men were only given a thin blanket and light clothing, and it's fucken cold here already at night and its only february).

the prisoners were chained at the neck on the journey over from the mainland. this was just 100 years ago. there are photos. you see their initiation scars, their traditional clothing, their gaze.

again i weep.

an estimated 354 people died at rottnest in bleak lonely conditions. this is the highest deaths in custody burial site in australia

rottnest is a big tourist destination in australia. there are camping grounds and rental apartments, and from time to time, applications to construct more, including proposals to build over the Aboriginal burial grounds. the authors makes the point that this is akin to transforming Auschwitz into holiday cottages.

this is a brutal country, and still it continues, with mandatory sentencing laws in the northern territory and western australia. in the past few weeks two Aboriginal youths have been imprisoned far from their homelands for ... stealing some tea and biscuits (xmas day), stealing some glue and stationery.

they are no longer chained at the neck, but even blind freddie can see there is no justice in australia.