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Outrage over Aboriginal 'cooked alive' doco

Was I really the only person in Australia sufficiently outraged by the content of the latest ABCTV 4 Corners program, 'Who Killed Mr Ward?', to put pen to paper and fire off a protesting Letter to the Editor to the main daily newspapers in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra?

Horrendously, it seems I was the only one, and even then my letter was truncated, and run in only one. The following is what the Melbourne Herald Sun published of my letter. The bold print denotes what was was edited out.
'The ABC's 4 Corners report on 'Who killed Mr Ward' (15 June) was an absolute indictment of Australia's treatment of its aboriginal people.

'Given the outrage that followed the airing of the earlier 4 Corners story covering the rugby union sex scandal that mortified this country — and, more latterly, the racial assaults on Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney — there must be a national outcry over the abominable killing of Mr Ward, for that is what it was case.

'It's more than justice that's required, it's a real acknowledgment that too often white Australians' animals fare better than do Indigenous people. Truly, inescapably, we are a racist nation.'

For those who didn't see this story, it was, in the words of the ABC, 'the shocking story of a well-respected community leader in outback Western Australia who was locked in a metal cell in the back of a prison van and driven through the desert in the searing heat ... that killed him'.

He'd been picked up at random and arrested for driving under the influence. The metal in that cell was said to have got as hot as 56 degrees. As some said, 'he was baked. He was cooked alive.'

Mr Ward (whose first name is not used in respect for aboriginal custom) had gone from a traditional hunter-gather life in the desert of Western Australia to becoming a spokesman for his people in Australia and overseas (China).

Where were the expressions of horror from our political, civic and church leaders? Worse, where were the voices of the people?

Is it now for me to say 'what a bloody shame he wasn't a noted footy player, for a nation that couldn't shed a tear in print?'

Weep, Australia, weep!

Brian Haill is a parishioner at St Francis Xavier Parish, Frankston, Vic.



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Existing comments

I suggest we put all those people responsible for the death of mr ward,in the same van that he was killed in ,and let them all take the same trip.lets see how many times they pull up to have a "breather". I guarantee that not one of them would take the trip in the first place.

My belief is that the two security people that drove the van on that day should be charged with his murder. Although they are victims of circumstance as well.

The previous minister and the other departments involved, should be charged with accessory to the fact.

The coroners report did very little to address the deep rooted racism the indigenous population have had to endure for 221 years of european occupation.

Wherever there are humans, there is responsibility.

Leslie | 19 June 2009  

I share your outrage, Brian Haill and I too ask where are the demonstrations, letters to the editor, ministers and prime minister expressions of sorrow and shame. But all the blame in the world to both lower and higher levels of bureaucracy is not going to make any change. We need some leadership someone who can rally and bring into the open the many people who would be weeping right now.

To view more people writing to express their shame see the abc Messenger board on 4Corners. There seems to be quite an outcry there, too.And yes, the racism is obvious, but I think there is even a more pernicious attitude and that is the ability to judge and disregard people who for some reason find themselves in a lesser than conventional position. Any protest would have no chance unless it's organised. I am looking for leadership and a few addresses where to write. Would you help? Thank you. Antonina

PS) I agree with Leslie here under who suggests to give people in power a taste of the..VAN! There is nothing but first hand experience to smarten us all.

Antonina | 19 June 2009  

I am ashamed that I am one Australian who did make my voice heard, at this abomnible action of racism and cruelty. Thanks to Brian Haill for the courage of his convictions. This may be a wake up call to us. How do we want our society to progress? Are we to be a nation of compassion, or selfishness?

Bernadette Introna | 19 June 2009  

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