Campaigns for First Nations justice, housing and international solidarity were discussed at the Festival of the Daring on October 16 at the Elixir Music House. The event was part of Ecosocialism 2022.
Gimuy Walibara Yidinji Elder Gudju-Gudju Fourmile opened the first session with a welcome to country, discussing the continuing colonisation of Aboriginal land.
Gudju-Gudju, chief minister of the Sovereign Yidindji Government, spoke about his great grandfather’s experiences fighting the colonisers in Cairns and how the struggle to protect culture and country continues.
Kuku Yalanji woman Pat O’Shane spoke about how climate change is impacting First Nations people. During a recent trip to the Torres Strait Islands, she saw how devastating sea level rises are.
“These people can’t just pack up and leave. Their ancestors have been living on those lands for at least 60,000 years.”
O’Shane also spoke about the need to campaign against a proposed new youth detention centre in Cairns. “It’s not gonna be white kids that are getting locked up; we all know who they are building it for.”
Drawing on her long experience as a barrister and magistrate, O’Shane spoke about alternative ways to deal with young people who have committed a crime, including organising physical and mental health checks and encouraging community participation.
On the second panel discussing the cost-of-living crisis, Socialist Alliance national executive member Alex Bainbridge explained how inflation is caused by rising business profits, not wages.
He said raising welfare payments, the minimum wage and the “social wage” by investing in public housing, education and healthcare are key to addressing the crisis.
Geraldine Mallinson, author of Housing the Homeless and member of the Tableland Housing Action Group, spoke about the growing number of homeless people in Far North Queensland, the impact of Airbnb on housing availability and strategies to make more housing available.
Jonathan Strauss, National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) branch president at James Cook University, spoke about how organised union action can also help address the cost-of-living crisis.
Strauss said strike days are on the rise, and pointed to NTEU members at the University of Sydney who have just finished their sixth day of strike action for a fair enterprise agreement. He encouraged support for the NTEU strikes being organised on six Queensland universities on October 20.
A panel on organising for change featured Home to Bilo campaigner Angela Fredericks give details about the successful campaign to stop the deportation of Tamil refugees Nades and Priya Murugappan and their two daughters.
Socialist Alliance co-convenor Sam Wainwright spoke about the campaign to stop the Roe 8 freeway from being built in Fremantle, Western Australia.
With a nearly $2 billion price tag the freeway would have destroyed the local environment, harmed native wildlife and disrupted homes. Wainwright and about 400 others were arrested for blockading the construction site, before the incoming state Labor government cancelled the project.
Both speakers highlighted the need to bring people into campaigns to ensure their success, as well as involving unions, community groups and leveraging media attention.
Green Left journalist Isaac Nellist spoke about building a radical, class-based media project and encouraged attendees to contribute to GL.
On the final panel, George Dimara discussed West Papua’s struggle for self-determination against Indonesia’s attempts to suppress them, including its armed forces unleashing massacres. However, he said the resistance is ongoing.
Human rights lawyer and solidarity activist Veronica Koman spoke about Indonesia’s attempts to silence her for speaking out about West Papua and encouraged people to speak out against Australia’s complicity in silencing West Papua’s legitimate struggle.