Redfern Now last night, and memories of Aunty Beryl

Lovely acting in last night’s sweet episode of Redfern Now.

In her mid fifties, Coral (Tessa Rose), works in a food van, which sometimes brings her into contact with victims of abuse, leading her to the mistaken conclusion that her daughter’s bruised face is the result of more than just an accident. As a result, Coral and her daughter Rosie don’t talk.

On her way home from the pet shop one day, Coral is knocked down by a bunch of teenage boys in a stolen car. One of them, Danny (Rhimi Johnson Page), hadn’t wanted to be there in the first place and instead of running off like the others, he checks to see if she is okay. He calls for an ambulance and the police are able to trace the call back to Danny’s mobile. He won’t dob his mates in and so takes the blame and is sent to jail.

Back at home Coral starts having dizzy spells and her granddaughter Julie (Shari Sebbens) is reluctantly brought in to help. Coral complains about her daughter Rosie "I knew she wouldn’t come" but Julie just wants her mum and grandmother to get on again – forgive and forget. When the spells get worse, Coral is admitted to hospital and Julie agrees to stay on to look after the house until Coral is better.

Coral (left) was memorable, and in fact she reminded me of a woman I met once in a Redfern pub…


But it was a small item in ABC News that really took me back.

An overlooked sandstone lodge with a rich history has been transformed into a modern café offering food with a bush-tucker twist and on-the-job training for unemployed people, following a major restoration by the City of Sydney.

Visitors to the Gardener’s Lodge Café will be able to make the most of the beautiful setting in Victoria Park, with the option to try traditional foods served up with hampers and picnic blankets.

"The Gardener’s Lodge Café is a great addition to Victoria Park – a spot much loved by the local community and university students," Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

"We’ve carefully carried out a major restoration of this heritage asset. It has a new lease on life which will allow visitors and locals to experience foods infused with the flavours of the original custodians of this land."

The building was one of *two lodges built in 1885 by the former Colonial Architect to NSW, Edmund Blacket, to provide a grand main entrance to the university.

The Gothic-styled Gardener’s Lodge was the former home of the University of Sydney’s groundskeeper, who tended the sweeping lawns and gardens surrounding the campus.

In 1911, ownership passed to the City of Sydney and the building was later converted into public toilets, or ‘conveniences’ as they were then called. In need of repair, it was closed to the public in the mid-1980s.

Aboriginal Elder Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, from the Gamillaroi people of north-west NSW, is one of three hospitality teachers who will run the café.

"There’s so much Aboriginal history in Victoria Park because it was once a gathering ground for our people," Aunty Beryl said.

"We hope the new café will also become a place where people gather and enjoy the surroundings of the beautiful park while also learning a little bit of Aboriginal history through our bush tucker flavours, like lemon myrtle aioli, kangaroo with bush tomato sauce, and rabbit pies."

Aunty Beryl runs Yaama Dhiyaan, a hospitality training college in Darlington that teaches students – primarily young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – how to prepare food using bush flavours. The college has an impressive 70 per cent success rate, with most students gaining work.

That’s Aunty Beryl in 2009 when I interviewed her at Yaama Dhiyaan for the South Sydney Herald. Click on the photo for the relevant posts. This is the SSH story I wrote.

Aunty Beryl’s three word dictionary

“My dictionary has just three words,” Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo says. “Communication, Education, Respect. That’s what I tell those students in there all the time.”

Not a bad dictionary that, and there’s a story and a half behind it.

Three years ago, following an initiative by the Redfern Waterloo Authority, Aunty Beryl co-founded the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality and Function Centre with chef Mathew Cribb. The Centre is in Wilson Street Darlington just by Carriage Works. Those three years have seen quite a few personal transformations – young students made confident enough by their success at Certificate II Hospitality to go back and do the HSC; families now well fed with good slow food and a real knowledge of nutrition; people finding jobs in the hospitality sector.

Of the 106 graduates who have now completed the nine week hospitality training course with Yaama Dhiyaan, 66% have gained employment or moved on to further education.

Things like Yaama Dhiyaan don’t come from nowhere, and in this case it is a long-held dream that holds the key. As a young girl in Walgett with no formal education Aunty Beryl dared to dream. She knew education was the key and dreamed of one day bringing back to the community whatever skills she might learn. At sixteen she was in Sydney working as a nanny in an upper middle-class Eastern Suburbs family.

“Yeah, I had to learn to read then, what with the kids going to Sydney Grammar.” So she did, and that was just a beginning. She remained close to that family and still does.

Her real formal education began at age thirty-one while she was working as a cook at the Murraweena preschool, then in Surry Hills. She worked days and at night studied nutrition and budget cooking at East Sydney TAFE. This was something she felt she could take back to the community.

Then she met a challenge: an invitation to become a trainee teacher for TAFE. “But I have no formal education,” she countered. That, she was told, would look after itself as she had the life skills and knowledge and an ability to communicate.

It didn’t quite look after itself as she found herself working as before, going to TAFE, and undergoing teacher training. When I asked her when she slept she just smiled.

Graduating in 1988 she went ahead in her new career. When retirement loomed the Redfern-Waterloo Authority made their offer. Here was at last the greatest chance to bring all that knowledge and experience right back into the heart of the community and make a real difference. She decided to give it a go for twelve months – and now it’s three years.

Aunty Beryl has been part of the Redfern community for fifty years now, but her beginnings are with the Gamillaroi people. The Centre’s web site says: “Yaama means ‘welcome’ and Dhiyaan means ‘family and friends’ in Aunty Beryl’s Yuwaalaraay language of the Gamillaroi people of north west New South Wales.”

“A great life,” I read somewhere years ago, “is a dream formed in childhood made real in maturity.” Aunty Beryl would probably reject that applying to herself, but it’s hard to deny.

She wanted to know if this would be a positive story as we had talked a bit about the dark side and the way Aboriginal issues are represented so often in politics and the mainstream media. How could it not be positive? Seeing the college, the students, and meeting Aunty Beryl have been inspiring. Anyone who dropped in would be inspired too – and well fed, if you happen by when food is on offer. As Aunty Beryl told SBS’s Living Black: “We specialise in bush tucker. We might have crocodile – we’ll do that with a lemon myrtle sauce, we might have kangaroo and we’ll just do that with skewers, and make a bush tomato sauce for that, vegetables in some of our herbs and spices.”

But it is the transformation of lives that is the real work at Yaama Dhiyaan. “You can’t forget the past because that is who you are. It’s in your heart,” Aunty Beryl told me. “But we have to move on for the sake of the future generation. Some come here needing their self-esteem building up and we show them they can have confidence, and they do have choices.”


Hard to believe that was three years ago now! Aunty Beryl is one of the most remarkable people I ever met.

See also Ambassadors for dignity and grace.


Supplement “Redfern Now”

I have already mentioned the excellent drama series Redfern Now. Supplement your viewing with the independent local paper The South Sydney Herald, a monthly. The November issue is out now and includes a feature on “Redfern Now”.


Safety issues in Waterloo and Redfern

Michael Shreenan

Simmering social concerns are reaching boiling point in Waterloo and Redfern. A community meeting held on Tuesday October 16 at The Factory Community Centre noted the disconnect between what the police are working on, and Housing NSW allocation policies that house those with the most chaotic lifestyles and complex needs without much thought for the impact on communities. Police are dealing with a disproportionate number of recently released ex-offenders, people with mental health needs, as well as increasing drug availability and associated crime and anti-social behaviour.

Serious assaults, a number of suicides and numerous daily incidents are creating communities of anxiety out of communities that have historically been caring and neighbourly. Over-stretched and under-resourced services (both government and non-government), especially for those with mental health problems and ex-offenders with little post-release support, are creating an environment of fear and uncertainty. The meeting heard stories of “unauthorised” occupants standing over people, taking over properties and taking money, as well as damaging property to gain access, drug-dealing queues in internal corridors, ineffective security contracts and little care from most government agencies.

The meeting suggested inviting Probation and Parole into discussions and looking at the way allocations are made. The Factory and its partners, Waterloo Safety Action Group, REDWatch and Redfern Neighbourhood Advisory Board, are calling for a more integrated approach to human services, and more early prevention strategies to community safety challenges.

At a community meeting on Tuesday October 30, called to discuss the installation of the afterhours Needle Dispensing Machine outside Redfern Health Centre, Sydney Local Health District’s Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson announced the creation of a part-time community health liaison role in Waterloo and Redfern. Hopefully this will encourage other agencies to look more closely at how they can better respond to complex issues in our area.

— from the November South Sydney Herald.

Of course you do realise I have in the past written for the SSH! But despite that I really do commend it. Smile

Weather and readings and possibly half-baked ideas…

In other words, welcome to a typical blog entry.

Currently I am reading:


… which links to the very clever accompanying website. The Guardian review:

Opening Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of TS Spivet brings to mind that useful old instruction of Mark Twain: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." Larsen wants to transport his reader to something like the world of Huck Finn, that place of adventure where adult codes are suspended. To this end, he places us in the head of Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet (TS for short), a 12-year-old prodigy with a compulsion to make maps of the world in order better to understand it.

Spivet lives on Coppertop Ranch in the wilds of Montana and it quickly becomes clear that the cartography he is interested in is not the stuff of the Ordnance Survey. His co-ordinates are all over the place: he maps the flight paths of bats around his house, the dynamics of his sister shucking corn cobs, the spread of McDonald’s in northern Montana, the rising waters of the local lake, which he believes is set to inundate the town. Many of these maps illustrate the margins of his story, along with all sorts of other digressions and diagrams.

The result is a wilfully original and diverting book, full of carefully penned ephemera, a bit like Schott’s Miscellany written as a confessional novel. In design, it appeals to the same contemporary nostalgia for the niceties of between-the-war text books and all things Baden-Powell. There is, of course, a reason for Spivet’s mapping….

I did have two difficulties with it. The first, slightly unfair one, is that if you take away the brilliant typography and illustration, the story clunks, particularly toward the end. The second is that at no point did I feel that this was at any stretch the voice of a 12-year-old boy. Even the New Yorker’s resident outlier Malcolm Gladwell wouldn’t have sounded like this at 12: "Last year, I did an illustration for an article in Science magazine about a new technology at ATMs and automated kiosks that registered not just the tone of the customer’s voice but also his or her facial expressions."

Much of the wit of the book arises from this disjunction, as in the moment when Spivet is faced with a rattlesnake and falls into an existential reverie: "Was there an acknowledgement – beneath the assigned roles of fear, predation, territoriality – of our shared sentience? A part of me wanted to reach out to the rattlesnake and shake his invisible hand." But it also courts a deadening kind of irritation. In one chapter, Spivet anatomises, rather riskily, the "five different kinds of boredom": from "anticipatory boredom" (where the looming presence of something in the near future prevents you from being able to concentrate on anything) to "let-down boredom" (where an event or activity is expected to be a certain way only for it to turn out differently)….

I have just passed the rattlesnake incident.

The October Monthly is out. I am drawn by quite a bit there — Linda Jaivin, Waleed Aly, Paul Kelly…

And Mungo MacCallum being very sensible:

In ‘Junk Politics’, Mungo MacCallum laments the cult of character, which has seen personal attacks and gossip supplant debate over substance and, heaven forfend, the merits of actual policies. In the wake of the wall-punching allegations against Abbott, MacCallum searches for the genesis of this fixation and finds both sides of politics culpable.

Then there is Marcia Langton, to whose views I am rather inclined, unfashionable as that might be. A few years ago she wrote:

IT SEEMS ALMOST axiomatic to most Australians that Aborigines should be marginalised: poor, sick, and forever on the verge of extinction. At the heart of this idea is a belief in the inevitability of our incapability – the acceptance of our ‘descent into hell’. This is part of the cultural and political wrong-headedness that dominates thinking about the role of Aboriginal property rights and economic behaviour in the transition from settler colonialism to modernity.

In this mindset, the potential of an economically empowered, free-thinking, free-speaking Aborigine has been set to one side because it is more interesting to play with the warm, cuddly cultural Aborigine – the one who is so demoralised that the only available role is as a passive player. The dominance of the ‘reconciliation and justice’ rhetoric in the Australian discourse on Aboriginal issues is a part of this.

The first Australians are simply seeking relief from poverty and economic exclusion. Yet, in the last three decades, rational thinking and sound theory (such as development economics) to address the needs of Indigenous societies have been side-tracked into the intellectual dead-end of the ‘culture wars’. This has had very little to do with Aboriginal people, but everything to do with white settlers positioning themselves around the central problem of their country: can a settler nation be honourable? Can history be recruited to the cause of Australian nationalism without reaching agreement with its first peoples?

Paradoxically, even while Aboriginal misery dominates the national media frenzy – the perpetual Aboriginal reality show – the first peoples exist as virtual beings without power or efficacy in the national zeitgeist. Political characters played by ‘Aboriginal leaders’ pull the levers that draw settler Australians to them in a co-dependent relationship. The rhetoric of reconciliation is a powerful drawcard – like the bearded woman at the old sideshow. It is a seductive, pornographic idea, designed for punters accustomed to viewing Aborigines as freaks. It almost allows ‘the native’ some agency and a future. I say ‘almost’ because, in the end, ‘the native’ is not allowed out of the show, forever condemned to perform to attract crowds. The debate that has surrounded the Emergency Intervention has been instructive. It has exposed this co-dependency. It has also revealed a more disturbing, less well-understood fault-line in the Aboriginal world. The co-dependents in the relationship seek to speak for the abused, the suffering, the ill, the dying and those desperately in need who have been left alone to descend into a living hell while those far removed conduct a discourse on rights and culture.

The bodies that have piled up over the last thirty years have become irrelevant, except where they serve the purposes of the ‘culture war’. But in the meantime, the bodies of real people continue to pile up, human lives broken on the wheel of suffering. How much longer will this abuse of Aboriginal people be tolerated?

In the October Monthly she writes about the recent Northern Territory election.

In the recent Northern Territory election, Barbara Shaw was the Greens candidate for Braitling, one of the electorates in Alice Springs. She is Aboriginal and strongly opposed to the Northern Territory intervention.

To southerners, this may well seem a natural arrangement. Shaw won friends on the east coast by helping to contest Jenny Macklin’s housing intervention in the Federal Court, and thus stopped the building of houses in the Alice Springs town camps for several years on the grounds that residents had not been properly consulted. Shaw’s activism also saw her play a role in the Australia Day melee in Canberra earlier this year.

Her efforts did not go unnoticed in Alice Springs. On 25 August, Shaw received just 9% of the vote. The swing against the Greens in Braitling was almost 6%. Territory-wide, the Country Liberal Party (CLP) gained 56% of the two-party preferred vote, enough to win 16 of the legislative assembly’s 25 seats.

Few commentators picked the conservatives’ victory…

But the most significant factor was the Aboriginal body politic itself. Strong local leaders have worked hard to bring economic development to indigenous communities where welfare has turned residents into perpetual mendicants reliant on the state. Time and again, native title groups have spent years getting an agreement with a resource company over the line, negotiating income streams that might shift indigenous people from the margins to the centre of regional economic development in return for land access, only for a ragtag team of ‘wilderness’ campaigners to turn up with an entourage of disaffected Aboriginal protesters to stop development at the eleventh hour.

While the federal Labor government likes to feign shock at the more flaky antics of its coalition partner, Aboriginal people have known for years that the Greens are no good in bed. Their notions of economic development in remote Australia, which chiefly involve employing Aboriginal people as wilderness caretakers, are inspired by children’s books and anarchist tracts. As I’ve been saying for 20 years, this concept of wilderness is nothing but a new incarnation of terra nullius. With luck, the NT election represents a tipping point. The time of dismissing Aboriginal aspirations for economic development is over.

You know, she just could be right.

Meanwhile, with a kind of relevance to the above, but not necessarily endorsing anything I have said so far, visit Redfern and South Sydney via the October South Sydney Herald (PDF). It is worth it.

This issue of the SSH includes a feature on the Schizophrenia Fellowship NSW, which emphasises the importance of supported in-community care. Peter Maher’s faith column on sexual abuse by clergy, and the aftermath for the mental health of victims, is harrowing and essential reading…

Which brings me to the weather, as here in The Gong we are already into 30C+ and it is just October! El Nino is back, it appears.

The past week has provided a pretty good preview of the long, hot summer in store.

Temperatures soared into the thirties, with Albion Park recording the highest temperatures in the region of 31.6 degrees yesterday, and 31.2 degrees on Wednesday. The southern suburb also hit a top of 33.7 degrees last Friday.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding said October is usually the month when we start to see some warmer weather on the east coast, and this year didn’t disappoint.

"We’re still getting westerly winds coming across the ranges which are dragging the warmer air from inland Australia," Ms Golding said.

Temperatures were expected to stay pretty warm last night – at 18 degrees, which is five degrees above average – but things should start to cool down today.

"A change will be coming through the Illawarra during the middle of the day, with a south to south-easterly change keeping temperatures a couple of degrees cooler, in the high 20s," she said.

"That cool change will remain throughout the weekend and there’s a chance of showers on Saturday, which may develop into thunderstorms later in the day.

"However, the warming trend is set to return mid-to-late next week".

Meanwhile the State Emergency Service (SES) has warned NSW residents to brace themselves for a slew of fierce summer hail storms.

More than 50 severe storms are predicted to hit the state’s east over the coming months, with some of them likely to be as damaging as Sydney’s eastern suburbs hailstorm of 1999.

Hail stones as large as cricket balls caused more than $1.5 billion of damage during the intense, long-lived thunderstorm.


Yesterday in West Wollongong – hot


More on “Tony Abbott was right: we really should move on”

See my posts Tony Abbott was right: we really should move on and Back to my post “Tony Abbott was right: we really should move on”.

There have been so many viewpoints expressed about this – even, if not surprisingly, in a homily last Sunday at South Sydney Uniting Church. By the way the 100th South Sydney Herald is now out. Get a copy!

But today I want to commend an article in The Guardian by Tom Keneally, which was republished in today’s Illawarra Mercury.

In saying that I have conflicting views about the hustling of Julia Gillard, the prime minister, to her car through a cordon of Aboriginal demonstrators and police on Australia Day last month, I am merely reflecting a genuine confusion many of us feel. The protesters later said that their anger was directed at the opposition leader, muscular, all-surfing, all-bicycling, former Catholic seminarian (like me) neocon (unlike me) Tony Abbott. Yet I have to say Abbott’s remarks about the determinedly ramshackle Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, founded 40 years ago, did not seem to me racist or wild.

I assert this though I am not an admirer of Abbott’s. The idea of his winning the prime ministership from the unpopular Labor leader, Gillard, makes me fantasise about political asylum in Scunthorpe. But this is what Abbott said about the Tent Embassy: "I think a lot has changed for the better since then [the setting-up of the Embassy]. I think the indigenous people of Australia can be very proud of the respect in which they are held by every Australian … I think it probably is time to move on from that."

I don’t utterly agree with him, but his is an arguable opinion. When the Tent Embassy was founded outside federal parliament in 1972, it was established by four Aboriginal leaders planting a beach umbrella in the turf. There they stood to protest the refusal of a conservative government then in power to recognise Aboriginal land rights claims. When that brave beach umbrella was raised, the obscene doctrine of terra nullius was still accepted as Australian common law; a legal fiction that Australia was land belonging to no one. This made seizure of Australia – and the continuing possession by settlers – utterly legal…

One Aboriginal leader I have had something to do with is the formidable Lowitja O’Donoghue. She is a former nurse who – on her merits and not on the basis of sentiment – would have been a frontrunner for president had we become a republic in the late 1990s. Her present programme is to do away by referendum with a clause in the Australian constitution she calls "potentially prejudicial" to Aboriginal rights. O’Donoghue seeks a 2013 referendum to eliminate it, to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples as original occupiers of the continent, and to express the duty of the commonwealth to attend to the advancement of indigenes. Sadly, shock-jocks, exploiting what happened on Australia Day, might defeat her dream.

Just as Abbott’s remarks, though untactful, are defensible as free speech, there is an obvious case for the right of Aboriginal activists, wisely or not, to retain the Tent Embassy on the same basis. Even if it does not represent majority Aboriginal opinion, and even if it might annoy more people than it persuades, it stands for justifiable complaint.

Aboriginal deaths in custody are still not unknown. The death of Mulrunji Doomadgee on a cell floor in Palm Island in 2004 remains the focus of endless inquiry and racial bitterness in Queensland. Aboriginal life expectancy is still 20 years behind that of non-indigenous people. Nearly one out of two Aboriginal males is dead by the age of 65. Aboriginal people account for just under a quarter of jail inmates though they are only 2.5% of the population. In the past decade one-quarter of indigenes in the cities have completed high school, and fewer than one in 10 in remote Australia. Fewer than one in 10 urban Aborigines achieves a university degree, and fewer than 3% of those in remote Australia. The figures are improving but so far by small increments…

…The Australia Day Council, led by the former Test cricketer Adam Gilchrist with considerable imagination and competence, emphasises immemorial Aboriginal occupation as one of the elements of the day. But this anniversary of the founding of the penal settlement in Sydney Cove, of modern Australia’s extraordinary beginning as an Eden for pre-fallen and pre-condemned Adams and Eves, was also the beginning of what proved a tragic dispossession of Aboriginal peoples.

So nothing will finally allay hostility until Aboriginal equality is achieved by white goodwill and, above all, by indigenous education, political skill and leadership. Until then, the mourning and the howling continues.

Lovely Sunday

South Sydney Uniting Church, Waterloo.

Our Artist in Residence, Johnny Bell, has been working hard on a set of paintings for his show this month. It’s been a tough year for him and his family – many worries. And yet Johnny paints joyful scenes – couples dancing, people laughing and singing. There’s a reframing here. Last week we took delivery of Johnny’s paintings all beautifully framed. He’s even asked that the framer frame the works in such a way that Johnny can easily remove the images and do a little more work on them before we reframe them and hang them. My first picture of joyous anticipation is Johnny with invitation cards for his family and friends – Johnny with cards to herald his first solo show in more than 10 years. – Andrew Collis




Then with Sirdan and B – Trinity Bar Surry Hills for lunch, then Midnight Shift in Oxford Street – the VERY LAST Sunday as Sirdan moves to Queensland next Wednesday.


FotoSketcher - P1080006


Central Station – waiting for the 5.30 train.

I’m feeling justified in the matter of David Hicks

Last year I wrote this in The South Sydney Herald.


Click to read

In that I wrote:

…When David Hicks memorably confronted John Howard on Q&A in October he asked two questions: was I treated humanely? and was the Military Commission process fair? Howard answered neither question, applying the airbrush liberally  to what really happened to Hicks between 2001 and 2008.

After distracting us with a motherhood statement about what a great country we have to allow Hicks to bail him up like this, Howard spun first into irrelevance: “Now, having said that, can I simply say that I defend what my government did in relation to Iraq, in relation to the military commissions….” How did Iraq get into this?

He went on: “We put a lot of pressure on the Americans to accelerate the charges being brought against David Hicks and I remind the people watching this program that David Hicks did plead guilty to a series of offences and they, of course, involved him in full knowledge of what had happened on 11 September, attempting to return to Afghanistan and rejoin the people with whom he had trained. So let’s understand the reality of that David Hicks pleaded guilty to.”

TONY JONES: Mr Howard, on this question of him pleading guilty, Mr Hicks says in his own book that his military lawyer, David (sic) Mori, was told by your staff that Hicks wouldn’t be released from Guantanamo Bay unless he pleaded guilty. Was that your position?

JOHN HOWARD: Well, I’m not aware of any such exchange but, look, I mean, there been a lot of criticism of that book by sources quite unrelated to me and I’ve read some very, very severe criticisms of that book…

Howard’s late-blooming desire to see Hicks returned to Australia had everything to do with VP Cheney’s visit to Australia in February 2007, when the deal that led to Hicks’s “conviction” was stitched up, and behind that was the 2007 Election. Howard knew the issue was losing him votes.

Colonel Morris Davis, the prosecutor in the case, recalls that in January 2007 he received a call from his superior Jim Haynes asking him how quickly he could charge David Hicks. (Now an attorney for Chevron, Haynes had in 2005 told Davis: “Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. We’ve been holding these guys for years. How are we going to explain that? We’ve got to have convictions.”) David Hicks was eventually charged on 2 February 2007, even though the details about how the commissions should be conducted weren’t published until late April. (Interview Amy Goodman and Col. Morris Davis 16 July 2008.)

Davis resigned from the Military Commission after prosecuting David Hicks, stating that “what’s taking place now, I would call neither military or justice.”

Howard assured us that the US had a long tradition of Military Commissions. He failed to mention that this particular Commission had been struck down by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Hamden v Rumsfeld in June 2006 so that what David Hicks was dealing with was a reinvented version, but as much a kangaroo court, to quote a senior British judge, as the previous edition.

More  airbrushing. And there’s more.

David Hicks’s guilty plea was an odd beast, an Alford Plea, something peculiar to US law. It is the plea of guilt you make when you don’t believe you are guilty but do believe the court is likely to find in favour of the prosecution. I may also add that David Hicks was never at any stage charged with or found guilty of terrorism. Some of the charges in Gitmo seem to have been invented specifically to justify the imprisonment of people there. Mr Howard passes over such technicalities….

Today in the Sun-Herald we read US did Howard a ‘favour’.

AS HE sought re-election in 2007, John Howard called in a political ”favour” from the US government to get any charge possible laid against David Hicks, a former Guantanamo Bay chief military prosecutor has claimed.

Colonel Morris Davis’s accusation against the former prime minister, in an interview with The Sun-Herald, adds weight to an American journalist’s report which quotes leaked US government documents.

Jason Leopold, from the internet publication Truthout, says he has obtained material, including documents from the office of the former vice-president, Dick Cheney, stating that Mr Howard met Mr Cheney in Sydney on February 24, 2007, and told him the Hicks case had become a ”political threat” to his re-election campaign….

See also Truthout Exclusive: David Hicks Speaks Out on Torture, Medical Experimentation at Guantanamo and Former Guantanamo Chief Prosecutor: David Hicks’ War Crimes Charge Was a "Favor" for Australia.

  • Read the letter from David Hicks pdf
  • Submission to UN Human Rights Commission pdf

    Read more: The letter that never arrived.

    Time Mr Howard revised that chapter in his autobiography and time that self-satisfied goon Downer ate some crow.