06 | 09

Respect: more than just a word

Categories: Accountability, AHRC/HREOC, Australian Federal Police, Corruption, Democracy, Discrimination/Racism, Equality, Equality of opportunity, Human Rights, Law, Law Enforcement, Police, Racial Discrimination Act, Racism, Respect, Rule of Law, Sexism

by: Bakchos
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Last week, I came across this post by Cate via a mutual friend. I asked if Blak and Black could republish it, to share it with a more diverse audience and she has asked for a response. After discussion with Bakchos, I gratefully accept Cate’s invitation on behalf of Blak and Black, which will be posted simultaneously on our own site.

I am a sixth generation Australian of Anglo-Celtic heritage. Raised in Melbourne’s western suburbs among people of varied cultural backgrounds, I was blessed with the sort of childhood security and stability that whilst painted as idyllic, is in fact aberrant.

Approximately six weeks ago, in retaliation for his efforts to shine a light into the darker corners of Australia’s human rights failures, Bakchos was attacked in a Ku Klux Klan motivated attack in Sydney’s suburbs. Having finished speaking on the phone on the evening of April 30, Bakchos needed to return to his car to collect some items. On his way, he was assaulted by four white-hooded men who placed a pillowcase over his head, a noose around his neck and poured petrol over him. A range of abusive taunts including ‘nigger’ and ‘coon’ were directed at him during this attempt at humiliation.

This is not the first time Bakchos has been assaulted, nor the last. It is perhaps, one of the more disconcerting in terms of method. He sees no point in referring it to the police or Australian Human Rights Commission (formerly known as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission). There was a witness to the KKK assault who has provided a statement, but given the failure of the AHRC to independently investigate other cases, most notably the former Commissioner for ACT Revenue (aka ‘Pat’), he believes that organization to be anything but independent.

What happened to Bakchos and the reason he has become an advocate for Indigenous human rights points to the most fundamental problem of black-white relations in Australia – a lack of respect at the highest levels of the justice system. Bakchos has been banging his drum for years, asking for only one thing – transparency and accountability on the part of the law enforcement and judicial systems. So many people he knows and has represented over the years have been failed for the simple reason that they identify as Indigenous Australians.

The most disconcerting thing for me as a white Australian is the lack of progress this country seems to have made in the treatment not just of Indigenous Australians, but particularly Indigenous women. The cases of Ms. King and Lucinda McMillan, two Indigenous women assaulted Australian males of European extraction who have been refused their right protection by the Australian Federal Police after their assaults, is an example of the true rhetoric at the heart of law enforcement in Australia’s capital. Both women tried to report their assaults, both were refused the right to do so. This places Australia in direct contravention of its duties under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Article Six.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article Seven.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

These two Indigneous women are not considered people by those who refused them in their hour of need, evidenced by the failure of the law to recognize them by taking their statements. This is sadly, the lot of the Indigenous woman in Austrlala, regardless of her professional standing and ultimately, evidence of the need ofr a renewed sufragette movement.

Ms. King is (and was at the time of her indecent sexual assault) Australia’s most senior female Indigenous banking executive. There were three independent witnesses to her assault, which occurred in a very public space, including a minister of religion. The police in Canberra not only refused her the right to report her assault and carry out an investigation, but threatened to charge her male companion if she did not leave the police premises.

Lucinda McMillan was twice assaulted by her assailant in separate public locations, requiring medical attention. She tried on both occasions to report her assaults, but despite one of the AFP officers who attended her first assault giving her a business card with his name and rank, has been unable to effect any report let alone investigation of her case.

There are of course, the deaths of Cameron Doomadgee in Queensland and Mr Ward in Western Australia whilst in police custody, both of which have occurred despite to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations. There is the death of Kwementyaye Ryder in the Northern Territory at the hands of five assailants at a time when the Racial Discrimination Act (which includes the Racial Hatred Act) was suspended in that jurisdiction, preceded by the deliberate terrorization of an Indigenous community not once, but twice on the same night. There is the pitiful sentence handed down to the convicted killers, so disproportionately short compared with other similar cases where the victim was not Indigenous that it cannot be considered a just outcome.

Cate, you ask what Indigenous Australian’s want. From the examples above, I think you can guess, but I will let Mick Madden’s reply to your post speak for his people:

Cate what we are looking for is respect and accountability. As it stands we have neither. There are thousands of examples of this – one ‘Pat’ has been discussed in detail on Blak and Black. What has whitie done about all of the crimes that the AFP and the Inquisitor have committed against Pat? Nothing. This shows a total lack of respect and accountability by whitie with regards Pat. Pat is but one of thousands of examples. That’s what we want respect and accountability.

Respect. That one word says it all. If Indigenous Australians were afforded the same respect as victims of a crime as their non-Indigenous counterparts, then much of what has happened, much of the ill-feeling would not exist. What has happened to all the people I have mentioned has been racially motivated, with a particular patriarchal sexist hegemony reserved especially for the Indigenous women. It pains me that more than forty years after the feminist era, my Indigenous sisters are still being silenced when assaulted by a man, must still bear the shameful stain of indecent assault because male non-Indigenous police officers refuse to treat them with respect. It pains me that no matter the qualifications or attempts of Indigenous Australians to rise above the taunts and antagonism through turning the other cheek, through education, through recourse to supposed rights constituted to them in our so-called democracy, that they are still being denigrated for no other reason than the colour of their skin or cultural heritage.

I know many of your readers will be displeased with my allusion to our “so-called democracy”, but the reality is when one group of people is treated differently because of their ethnicity, gender, colour or creed, democracy has failed. The only way to rectify that situation is to allow every person the same avenues for legal protection and to ensure that our human rights bodies are empowered to operate independently. Once that happens, the respect will be demonstrated to Australia’s Indigenous people and the grip of racism will be broken. Once the legal protections that apply to every person in this country are applied equally, Indigenous Australians will feel valued, will feel that they are respected. Until that happens, reconciliation in this country will remain a bridge too far and I will be standing on the far side of that bridge with my blak and black brethren.

Will you sign the petition calling for a Royal Commission into the Australian Federal Police?


  1. This post written by Watershedd seeks to address some points raised by Cate in a post she shared with Blak and Black. Cate wanted to know what mainstream Australia can do to help address the inequities that currently exist between mainstream Australia and Aboriginal Australia. While there are obviously many facets to this, in my view and apparently in the view of Watershedd and Mick Madden, the answer is quite simple: treat us with respect and be prepared to stand accountable for your decisions which impact on us. To my mind and that of many other Aborigines I’ve spoken with, great strides will have been made once this is achieved.

  2. All that’s required to make a difference is a little understanding. Embrace the differance, don’t fight it.

  3. Anne you are right, a little respect goes a long way.

  4. Watershedd you are right, respect like sorry is more than just a word. Without meaning both are hollow. Without respect, there never can be justice. Without justice, well… So lets start with a little respect.

  5. Watershedd like others leaving comments here, I agree with what you say, it all comes down to respect. Let’s all try showing some.

  6. No respect for blackfellas in the greed-centric world that has come to replace community, family and social values.

  7. A little bit of respect goes a long way.

  8. Indeed it is Watershedd, a pity more people didn’t show some when dealing with ATSI Australians. Thank you for your support!

  9. Yes Watershedd, wit a little respect all of the issues, or at least most of them that are raised here would become non-starters.

  10. Whitie you heard the lady, give us respect or fuck off!

  11. Respect should follow from sorry, has it? If it has I can’t see it. Respect would extend to genuine equality of opportunity, I can’t see it. Respect would mean that miners rights would not come before indigenous rights, as far as I can see they still do. Respect would mean no NT Intervention, it’s still there. Is Australia sorry? I don’t think so…

  12. Mahmud Ahsan via Facebook says:

    Respect, All’ah asks that we respect each other, All’ah obviously has no presence in Australia or at least in the AFP and the public service. Yes Marie McCray respect does equal genuine equality, where is the genuine equality in Oz?

  13. Yes respect is more than just a word, the meaning is what makes us civilized, or not. Australia lacks respect for many; including indigenous Australians, refugees, Indians, etc… can Australia really call itself civilized?

  14. Respect, show us a little and any of Australia’s social problems may simply disappear

  15. Respect without justice, will its just another word. How about some real respect Australia!

  16. Hey whitie give us respect or, well you know where the boat leaves from…

  17. Yes respect is more than just a word, like sorry is more than just a word. If the majority showed us a little respect, maybe a lot of the peoblems in our community would just cease to be.

  18. Respect is not a dirty word, look I know it’s ego, but with a few less ego’s we might get a little more respect 🙂

  19. Give us respect, or give us death should be our rallying cry as we confront what is shaping-up to be the century of greed. This has the potential to be more harmful to the human condition that the previous century, which was all about war, death and destruction. What we need need is real leadership.

  20. I remember Bakchos Glass leading a demonstration from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy to Civic demanding respect. We had none thyen and we still have none today.

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