Townsville in the firing line


The shooting of two Aboriginal boys in Townsville on November 25 shows that racism isn't going away in the North Queensland town. The two boys, aged just 8 and 10, were playing in a park in Wulguru when they were fired upon by a drunken Townsville soldier wielding an air rifle.

The 10-year-old suffered a gunshot wound to his ankle, and the eight-year-old sustained injuries to his leg. It was reported that he had to have psychiatric counselling as a result of the shooting.

The December 3 Townsville Bulletin reported the 31-year-old soldier, Craig Gordon, would face charges of assault causing bodily harm, dangerous conduct with a weapon and possession of an unregistered fire arm. He was given bail, which has outraged Aboriginal elders and community members alike.

Townsville Human Rights Group chairwoman Gracelyn Smallwood told Green Left Weekly that, in Townsville, people continued to be dealt with differently depending on their race.

"The man should not have been given bail and the prosecutor should be pushing for attempted murder", she said. "We certainly have a long way to go in terms of race relations and the racial vilification of Aboriginal people."

The group is fuming about the way the issue has been dealt with and has called on state Premier Anna Bligh to explain why Gordon was given bail.

Florence Onus, also from the Human Rights Group, told the November 28 Townsville Bulletin: "More needs to be done about educating these ignorant people out there about our history. Children should be able to go to a park in any part of the country regardless of their colour or their culture, black or white, feel safe and play and use it as a social environment."

At a December 1 book launch organised by GLW and the Socialist Alliance, Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson described the injustices of an entrenched racism against Aboriginal people. He said the case in Townsville was yet another indication of an ongoing issue.

"Townsville is not good place for Aboriginal people", Watson said. "Its name stems from a white founder who originally used it as a slave trail for sugar cane farming. The deep-seated racial tension in Townsville has always existed between police, army and Aboriginal people."