People & Ideas

Dec 13, 2017

Rundle: remembering two stalwarts of the Indigenous Black Power movement

Sol Bellear and Denis Walker were two mainstays of a movement that, for the most part, was about building black community.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


Sol Bellear

We passed a milestone on the long path of black and white Australia this week, though it wasn’t the one everyone thought — the 25th anniversary of Paul Keating’s Redfern speech — but something else.

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7 thoughts on “Rundle: remembering two stalwarts of the Indigenous Black Power movement

  1. AR

    As has oft been noted, this country has a Black history.

  2. paddy

    Thanks for this timely reminder Guy.
    That last par is spot on.

  3. Rebecca Smith

    I know a doctor who treated a victim of Denis Walker – the man was bashed to an inch of his life and on life-support for quite a while, for slightly Walker over a woman. The doctor, who spent many years in remote communities and still works with predominantly Aboriginal men, remembers Walker as a violent thug. Numerous court cases Walker was involved with attest to the same. This lionising of Aboriginal thugs does nothing to address the high rates of lateral violence in Indigenous communities, nor go anywhere positive in addressing Aboriginal violence against women – where Indigenous women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised from DV than their non-Indigenous sisters. With so many non-violent Aboriginal people to fete, why stick a thug on a pedestal? Would you laud a violent non-Indigenous person the same?

    1. Jack Robertson

      Rebecca, Marlene Cummins had a go at articulating the terrible dilemma – in a political solidarity sense – your post raises, a few years ago.

      I suppose I am like many white, middle class Australians of good faith: helplessly clueless, when it comes to understanding what Indigenous Australians want, and need, and how best to get there. I think the poster on another thread who suggested that Non-Indigenous Australia should seek to assimilate/reconcile better with Indigenous Australia, rather than the other way around, is onto something though.

      1. [email protected]

        How/where can I find more about this idea? As a n0n-Indigenous Australian it would be so amazing to be able to work towards better reconciliation.
        Ann McGrath

        1. Jack Robertson

          Ann, as I said, I am probably a typically useless, albeit well-meaning, average Australian as far as concrete ideas go. But I was referring to the poster ‘John Newton’ over on GR’s Pearson thread.

          Dunno how you would go about getting in touch but judging from his contributions to that thread I think he’d have a much better answer than most.

        2. Helen Razer

          Hi, Ann. Professor Foley’s online resource is a great place to start understanding Black Power in Australia.
          As Guy notes in the article, the idea of “blackness” as a broad category, rather than a specific cultural or ethnic identity, was so important to this era of activism. You can hear the echoes of this in the Black Lives Matter movement (very easy to search) and get a great account of the Black Panther Party easily. I think there is even a pretty good Netflix doco on them.
          The film Australia Daze is an entertaining introduction to some of these ideas. (Search for it on YouTube.) I would also say that the idea of “reconciliation” is not one that Black Power particularly likes. For good reason, in my view. This is, as Guy says, a matter not of working within a system, but opposing it. It’s not friendly “let’s forget past grievances!” but a radical and informed attempt to rebuild a system that continues to reproduce racism. So what you get are some really interesting things, like the Aboriginal Legal Service, that take a new approach to law.
          Here is a very recent talk between Jack Latimore (top bloke and occasional Crikey contributor) and members of Black Lives Matter, recently in Australia to accept the Sydney Peace Prize.

          Wheeler Centre usually posts the audio or vision of talks within a month of them occurring.
          I hope that Professor Foley will publish his account of the movement in coming years. You can access his doctoral work, though, at the University of Melbourne.
          I would also recommend the reporting work of Amy McQuire, over at Buzzfeed. Like many young black intellectuals and reporters, she is aware of the Black Power movement and sees that “reform” (AKA reconciliation) has its limits.
          (I should own up to the fact that I was bang into reconciliation in the ’90s.)
          Happy reading. This stuff is amazing. It shows us not only the way out of our racist history, but a way that politics can be DIY for us all.

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