"If you are still in the Labor Party today, you should be ashamed of yourself", 71-year-old Aboriginal activist Pat Eatock called out to delegates entering the stage-managed proceedings of the first day of the ALP national conference.
Most delegates scurried past Eatock, but a few, including Linda Burney, NSW community services minister, felt compelled to stop and give her a hug. Another delegate squeezed out an embarrassed "Good to see you are fighting on, Pat".
"I recognised a few people who I once fought alongside in the struggle for land rights", Eatock, a veteran of the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, said later to Green Left Weekly.
"Now they remain members of a Labor Party that is trying to force Aboriginal communities to give up land rights. They should be ashamed."
"What part of the word 'perpetuity' don't you understand?" she asked delegates. "Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory was granted in perpetuity to communities. Perpetuity means forever. And now you are trying to force us to give that land back in return for promises to build houses, promises that have not been kept, to add insult to injury.
"It's not blackmail, it's whitemail!"
The corporatised conference venue was a long way from the Tree of Knowledge at Barcaldine, Queensland, where following the Great Shearers' Strike of the 1890s the ALP was formed by, among others, Eatock's grandparents.
"My grandmother Lucy Wakenshaw and her husband William Eatock were unionised Aboriginal shearers and drovers and during the Great Shearers' Strike they acted as liason between the striking shearers and Chinese and Aboriginal workers who were being used by the squatters as scab labour.
"They helped form the ALP, but when the first Labor government in Queensland subsequently introduced the racist 'protection' laws, my grandmother became disillusioned with the ALP", Eatock said.
Today, the federal Labor government imposes a new apartheid-style regime in the NT that returns Aboriginal people to the racist humiliation of early 20th century "protection" laws.
If Eatock was pricking the consciences of delegates, they didn't show it. They just filed in like bloodless robots to do their duty as a cheer squad to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. One delegate brushed past and then, from a coward's distance, screamed back at her: "Why don't you join the Liberal party, then!"
But Pat is a proud member of the Socialist Alliance, which supports the GLW project. Eatock will be one of several keynote speakers at the NSW Socialist Alliance conference in Sydney on August 8.
GLW gives voice to those still fighting for justice in a country run by two racist parties of the corporate rich. GLW gets by with an annual fighting fund appeal for $250,000. A lot of hard work by our supporters goes into raising this each year. Fundraising dinners, jumble sales, etc., are organised, as well as the collection of donations.
Through this sort of activity, we have managed to raise $129, 210 so far this year. If you can help us raise the rest, please make a donation today to our fighting fund at: Greenleft, Commonwealth Bank, BSB 062-006, Account No. 00901992. Otherwise, you can send a cheque or money order to PO Box 515, Broadway NSW 2007 or phone in a donation through on the toll-free line at 1800 634 206 (within Australia).