Coral Wynter

Chanting "Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land," more than 500 members of Aboriginal communities from across the country and their supporters marched from Civic in the centre of Canberra to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in front of Old Parliament House on January 26, also known as Invasion Day.

The embassy was also the site of the second meeting of the Indigenous National Freedom Summit, following its founding in Alice Springs in November 2014.

Maralinga: The Chilling Expose of Our Secret Nuclear Shame & Betrayal of Our Troops & Country
By Frank Walker
Hachette, 2014

Frank Walker, who worked as a journalist for Australian and international publications for 38 years, was talking to his daughter's university friends one day and discovered they had no idea atomic bombs had been exploded in Australia.

In fact, 12 had ― excluding the 300-600 minor trials at Maralinga, Emu Field, both in the South Australian desert, and Monte Bello Islands off the Western Australian coast.

In the past five years the global bee population has been devastated. This matters because they are critical to the food chain, pollinating 70% of our food either directly or indirectly. Besides pollinating vegetables, fruits and nuts, they also pollinate the lucerne that feeds our cattle and cotton that makes our clothes.

The US lost 60% of its bee population in 2012 and then another 40% last year. The European wild honey bees have all but disappeared.

There has been a dramatic rise in the female prison population in Australia in the last 10 years. This increase is largely due to the rising number of Aboriginal women going to prison.

In 1996, about 21% of women in prison were Aboriginal, last year it was 33%. The rate of increase is much greater than that of men.

Australia has the dishonour of jailing the highest proportion of its Indigenous female population in the world. Aboriginal women are 17 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Aboriginal women.

The Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has asked for another $104 million from the federal government to hold hearings until the end of 2017.

The commission has released an interim report, for which they held more than 1600 private sessions and received more than 1600 written accounts from survivors of sexual abuse.

Under intense lobbying by big electricity companies, the Tony Abbott government is attempting to scrap the Renewable Energy Target (RET) which aims to have 20% of Australia’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020.

In response to this threat, a new community group called Solar Citizens is campaigning to defend existing solar power and extend solar to even more households. They have held public meetings in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne.

Australia is at risk of becoming a scientific backwater due to the federal government’s budget cuts to the CSIRO.

The government has proposed a $111 million cut to CSIRO funding in the May budget — about 20% of its total funding — and at least 1000 full-time staff will lose their jobs over the next four years.

Eight CSIRO sites around the country will close. Many are in regional country towns, which rely on the sites for employment.

The Royal Commission into the Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was set up in January last year, after decades of campaigning by victims.

Led by Justice Peter McClellan, the first public hearings began in April last year and apply only to children sexually abused up to the age of 18. It does not include physical or emotional abuse.

The Pilliga Forest is at the centre of a large battle over the right for companies to drill for coal seam gas (CSG) on public land.

Coal seam gas company Santos is planning to develop a $2 billion CSG project in the forest and it has already begun operating 40 exploratory gas wells.

The exploration licence was supposed to end on April 3, but Santos has been granted multiple extensions by the NSW government to put in more exploratory drill holes.

The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aboriginal people made Australia
Bill Gammage
434pps, $40
Allen & Unwin, 2012

This is an extraordinary book that details how Australian Aboriginal people cared for the land, or as Bill Gammage calls it the “Biggest Estate on Earth”.

Gammage describes, with many examples, how Aboriginal people looked after the land. No corner was ignored, from deserts and rainforests to rocky outcrops, across the entire continent for at least 60,000 years until British colonisers began to destroy all this work after their arrival in 1788.


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