Mark Fordham, an Aboriginal activist from the Northern Territory and member of the Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union, is touring the east coast to raise awareness about the jobs with justice campaign. The campaign aims to force the government to provide real jobs and services to remote Aboriginal communities in the NT (see article page 7).
In Sydney, Fordham spoke to waterside workers with Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) officials. He thanked maritime workers for their solidarity with the Gurindji workers who walked off Wave Hill station in 1966.
At the time, the maritime unions were among the strongest voices demanding Aboriginal rights. But Fordham said it was time for unions to raise their voices again, against the horrific exploitation of Aboriginal labour currently taking place.
Fordham was scheduled to visit construction sites in Sydney and visited Brisbane over October 24-25.
In Wollongong, Fordham addressed 40 people at the Illawarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre on October 19. The meeting, organised by the Illawarra Aboriginal Rights Group and chaired by the South Coast Labour Council (SCLC), voted unanimously to endorse the Jobs with Justice statement and continue to build the campaign in the region.
Richard Davis welcomed Fordham to country and stressed the unity of all Aboriginal people in the struggles in the NT. He acknowledged local trade union legend Fred Moore, who was in attendance, as a key contributor to Wollongong's long and proud history of fighting for Aboriginal justice.
Also at the meeting were former Community Development Employment Project (CDEP) workers, delegates from the South Coast MUA, the Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation, the local Aboriginal Land Council, the Koori Men's Group, Northern Illawarra Reconciliation and Treaty Group, the University of Wollongong's Woolyungah Indigenous Centre, the Greens, the Socialist Alliance and the Reconcile Australia Party.
Fordham's presentation on the appalling conditions of Aboriginal workers in the NT was followed by a report from Tina McGhie, who explained the impacts on the local community since CDEP was cut. "We went from almost 200 people with viable jobs, which included 120 positions on award wages, to just 40", she said.
MUA branch acting secretary John McGartland said he was "embarrassed and disgusted" by what Fordham had told the audience, and said the MUA passionately supported Fordham's cause. He handed over a cheque to support the campaign.
The following evening, the SCLC also unanimously voted to endorse the statement. SCLC secretary Arthur Rorris said: “We will not tolerate industrial apartheid, treatment of Aboriginal people that is unacceptable in any other environment.”
McGartland said: “The least we can do is show our commitment and let them know that they're not on their own.”
[For more information, visit www.jobswithjustice.wordpress.com.]