Greg Eatock, a well-known Indigenous activist in Sydney, passed away aged just 51 on August 24. His early death, from chronic health problems, was more proof of the shameful 11.5-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous males in Australian.
One of Greg's brothers, Ronald, had already passed away, aged 27.
Greg came from a family with a four-generation history of political activism. His great grandmother, Lucy Eatock, and her husband William were veterans of the great 1890s shearers’ strike. Lucy later moved to Sydney from Queensland.
In Sydney, she and her children, including Greg's grandfather, Roderick, were involved in militant anti-eviction struggles organised by the Unemployed Workers Movement and the Communist Party of Australia, during the 1930s Great Depression.
Many members of the family were jailed and victimised by the police for years. Greg's other grandfather, Alex, was shot by police in one of the anti-eviction struggles.
According to his mother, Pat, Greg's first political speech was in 1972 when he was in his first year in Bonnyrigg High School in Sydney's western suburbs. His mother, as spokesperson for the renowned Aboriginal Tent Embassy protest, was on the news and 12-year-old Greg was asked to explain Aboriginal issues to his class.
The young Greg joined his mother in Canberra and was influenced by his early experiences around the Tent Embassy. Greg further developed his activism for Aboriginal rights participating in the land rights rallies of the 1970s and 1980s.
From 1986-’91, Greg was a leading activist and a spokesperson for the Committee to Defend Black Rights which initiated the powerful campaign against Aboriginal deaths in custody. That campaign eventually forced the Hawke Labor government to announce, in 1987, the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Subsequently, Greg established Perleeka Aboriginal Television, an Aboriginal production and broadcasting service in Sydney, which lost funding due to cuts to Aboriginal programs under the former Howard Coalition government. Greg was also an active member of the National Indigenous Media Association, Tribal Warrior and the Redfern-based Babina Aboriginal Men’s Group.
Greg's most recent political activism was through the Aboriginal Rights Coalition, which organised many of the earlier protests against the Northern Territory intervention.
He played a leading role in organising the national convergence on the lawns of Parliament House Canberra, where more than 2000 people protested against the racist and oppressive intervention, on the eve of former PM Kevin Rudd's February 13, 2008 apology to the Stolen Generations.
Greg is survived by his mother Pat, his father Ron and partner Liz, his sisters Lesley, Amanda and Cathy (also a political activist), and his brother Norman.
A salute to mark the passing of another passionate warrior for justice, from all his friends and comrades.
It is said that one of the hardest things is to bury your own children. Pat, your friends and comrades reach out with deepest solidarity to you and your family.