Phil Perrier, 1948-2007

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Queensland Aboriginal activist Phil Perrier died on January 26 after struggling with cancer for several months. A ceremony for Phil was held on February 2 at Sorry Place on Jagara nation tribal land in Brisbane's West End.

Addressing the ceremony, Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson said: "This is Sorry Park where we honour the pain and tragedy of the stolen generations. This place is also the ending place for the very special Kurilpa Dreaming story that belongs to the Jagara people and is shared with many other tribal nations and communities. This place is also the starting point for the dreaming story of Kabul, the great carpet snake.

"This ceremony is very important to us as Aboriginal people. We want to do this thing, on our sacred land — to show the respect and to show the love that we hold for our brother Phillip and his family. Phillip has been called onto the Dreaming and we have come together to honour his life and to wish him farewell.

"By conducting this ceremony here, we can show that in our way Brother Phil is a senior man and he is respected in our community. But now my brother we close our eyes and we open our spirits as we approach this moment. We drink in the air, we smell the cooking fires, we hear the laughter of children, the talk of people."

After the Sorry ceremony, a cavalcade proceeded to Mt Gravatt Cemetery where Phil was put to rest. Then family and friends headed to Ahimsa House in West End to share stories of Phil's life.

Phil's long-time friend and union comrade Bernie Neville penned the following eulogy:

"Warrior go home

Warrior go home

Your time in this place has passed

But we shall never forget you

We shall remember you and we shall carry on

The great struggle that you fought with

Honour, courage and commitment

Warrior go home

Warrior go home

"I first came across Phil at a trade-union support group meeting in 1985 being held at the Old Trades Hall in Brisbane to support the electrical workers sacked by SEQEB on the orders of [Joh] Bjelke-Petersen, the then-premier of Queensland.

"The next time I came across Phil was two days later when I was about to organise a lunchtime sit-in at the SEQEB headquarters, which at that time was located in Ann Street in the city centre. When we entered the building and sat down, I looked around and there was Phil. Now let it be explained that Phil was not a sacked electrical worker but a worker who had taken time to show solidarity with workers under attack by a right-wing government.

"I did not realise when I looked at Phil — who I considered somewhat of a hippy — that we would form a friendship that would endure for 22 years and see us involved in many working-class struggles (the 1998 MUA dispute and the current IR laws campaign in particular).

"Phil was a great political cartoonist and must have caused great grief to many politicians and union officials down the years.

"The words I now put to paper are not mine but Phil's own, they were words he used to express his admiration for a fellow activist but I will now take the liberty of using them in relation to my own late comrade. 'If ever I was going into battle in the future (and that is on the cards) I would rather be in the company of troops to match his class commitment, unyielding tenacity and tactical expertise.'

"Phil fought every inch of the way and for most of his working life. One of Phil's last wishes before he died was that there would be no shedding of tears; it was a wish that would never be realised."

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