Indigenous and trade union activist Chicka "The Fox" Dixon (1928-2010), was farewelled by more than 1000 people in a state funeral in Sydney Town Hall on March 31.
In the last of many tributes, fellow Black Power activist and 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy veteran Gary Foley noted the sweet irony of this official send off.
"ASIO investigated the Fox for alleged communist connections and alleged terrorist connections and now the government is giving him a state funeral. I reckon Brother Fox is having the last laugh today", he said.
With an eye on the many politicians in the hall — including NSW Premier Kristina Keneally and federal Indigenous affairs minister Jenny Macklin — Foley earned a thundering acclamation when he shouted out: "End the NT intervention! Free Lex Wotton!"
There were many moving tributes from family members, other Indigenous activists like Michael Anderson and Bob Morgan, and Maritime Union of Australia leader Paddy Crumlin. But there was also an unconvincing tribute from Keneally.
In her tribute, Keneally suggested that all rights that had to be fought for once had now been won. All that was left for us was to acknowledge the contributions of activists like Chicka. But Foley revealed that in a conversation he had with Chicka before his death, they had agreed that things had actually got worse for Aboriginal people and there was still much to fight for.
"Native Title is not land rights. Reconciliation is not justice", Foley said.
He was speaking the simple truth. How dare Keneally pretend that the fight for Indigenous rights is over when Indigenous youth in Australia today are 28 times more likely to be jailed than non-Indigenous youth and the life expectancy gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous population is as high as 20 years in some parts of Australia?
Just a few days before, the March 26 Christian Science Monitor had reminded the world of this shameful state of affairs.
"Aboriginal adults are six times more likely to be arrested than other Australians and 13 times more likely to be jailed. In the Northern Territory, they make up 80 percent of the prison population although only one third of the territory's residents are indigenous", it said. It quoted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda: "One of the biggest problems we have in this country is denial of racism. I keep saying to people: 'Come and live in my world for a while and you might change your opinion.'"
So Gary Foley's fighting call was a fitting end to Chicka's state funeral. It reminded everyone of the freedom fighter whose life was being celebrated. This activist spirit is what Chicka Dixon will always represent to all those still struggling for Indigenous rights.