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Pining for Deb


Debbie Kilroy

Former comrade and colleague, a giant among abolitionists, legend among activists, founder and leader of The Sisters, my once and always hero …

I mean Debbie of course. Who else? The girl what don’t take no shit.

Sometimes it just takes a single error, the simple mistake in a daily routine that can change everything – bringing decades of pain and misery. That’s what the penal system did the day it locked up Debbie Kilroy. Big mistake that. They’re still paying their debt and Deb’s offering no remissions, no parole.

Debbie wants to abolish prisons. Get rid of ’em. Open ’em up. Knock ’em down. So of course she takes no prisoners. Where would she put ’em?

And she’ll be in Sydney next Friday. Ray will be there too.

It’s been so long. Maybe too long.

I lost a lot of friends during The Long Darkness. Those I didn’t lose to The Dying.

Since I’ve come back some no longer know me. Some I don’t know any more. Some no longer want to know.

But not Debbie. Surely not. We’ll recognise each other. We’ll remember.

She’ll be up on the podium, firing up the troops, excoriating authorities. Like usual. Like the old days.

I could make it you know. Nine hours round trip by public transport, maybe ninety minutes of loud mouthed trouble making with the mob, and a brief chat with Debbie. And Ray. The first chats for years.

But I won’t make it. It’s too far. The trip too exhausting. I’m too old and too sick. They’ll be too busy.

When I moved to Newcastle I thought I’d be making regular day trips to Sydney to see my friends, but I miscalculated.
When I make the effort to get there I’m just too tired to socialise.

I end up stuck in a dissociative state from the buses and trains and can’t talk to anyone (Hey, everyone dissociates on long journeys, don’t they? Except drivers. I hope.) or I’ve wound myself into a compensatory hypomania and can’t shut up.
Either way, conversation and speechifying is out. Unless I feel invincibly, stupidly arrogant.

So Sydney is out of my socialising and rabble rousing range.

Even when it’s something really important like a Deaths in Custody rally.

Even when it’s someone really special like Debbie.

Am I worn out, burned out or just used up?



Please find the reminder of our Deaths in Custody, police brutality and social justice forum that will be held at the settlement, 17 Edward street, Darlington, 2008. We will begin at 3.30pm and be finished by 6pm at the latest.

We have been very fortunate to be able to gather a great eclectic mix of first class and knowledgeable speakers to address, and answer questions, on many of the custodial system problems that concern us as a society.

Our first speaker is Ms. Debbie Kilroy, oam, who is a legend in Queensland where she is the CEO of Sisters Inside. Sisters Inside Inc. is an independent community organization which exists to advocate for the human rights of women in the criminal justice system, and to address gaps in the services available to them.
They work alongside women in prison in determining the best way to fulfill these roles.

 Debbie spent time in the QLD gaol system in 1989 but in 2007 she was admitted to practice law by the Qld Supreme Court, a great example of self-rehabilitation.

Second is Dr. Gerry Georgatos who is a well-known human rights activist as well as working in the WA custodial systems seeking justice for both victims and their families. some of the issues that Gerry has become involved in include the wheelchairs for kids projects, a computer recycling program, the Without Borders campaign, the Asylum Seekers and Refugees Forums, the campaign for a Senate Inquiry (and redress) in Australian Deaths in Custody, a prison visitor program, a homelessness program and other social justice and human rights causes and campaigns. He is the CEO of the human rights alliance.

Third comes from the Victorian gaol system ( another great self-rehabilitation) but she now resides in Sydney. Vickie roach was in gaol in 2007, when she successfully mounted a High Court challenge against the Howard government’s ban on all Australian prisoners voting at elections. The ban was imposed by the Howard government in 2006. 

 Previously, only prisoners serving more than three years were prevented from voting. About 10,000 prisoners were able to vote in the 2007 federal election as a result.

 Vickie gained a master’s degree in writing, in prison in 2006, and now she is halfway through a PhD, an autobiography and a family history.

The fourth speaker is Colleen Fuller. In her own words, I am a grandmother of 11 wonderful children 1 of whom has been taken by DOCS NSW. He was never abused or neglected while in the care of his mother and the maternal family. We have been fighting the Lies and Corruption of this Department for 5 years now after first winning the restoration in the Local court only for DOCS to lie and steal him away. The Federal Government has to take control of this Department and stop the theft of loved children from their loving families.

 ISJA has been assisting Colleen in her fight to have her grandson returned to his mother, her daughter. as if this was not enough to put up with, recently colleen was physically assaulted by a city of Sydney council worker who knocked her out of her wheelchair whilst she was at the occupy Sydney site in Sydney’s Martin Plaza.

Up to 20 police were also in attendance and several assaulted her. Investigations into this matter with the sydney lord mayor and the police are on-going.  

The fifth speaker is Barbara Greenup-Davis. In the early-1990s, Colleen Walker, Clinton Speedy-Duroux and Evelyn Greenup were killed within six months on the Aboriginal mission and no-one has ever been held responsible for their deaths.

Two and a half weeks after the disappearance of Colleen Walker, 4-year-old Evelyn Greenup disappeared after a party at “The Mission”, on October 4, 1990. She was last seen by her mother as she was put to bed some time during the night. The next morning she was gone from her bed. Evelyn’s skeletal remains were found six months later in bush land near the side of the road, about 5 kilometers (3.1 mi) from Bowraville. An autopsy could not conclusively determine the cause of death, but noted that a skull injury was “consistent with a forceful penetration by a sharp instrument”. A recent meeting of some of the 3 families met with the a-g Greg Smith but sadly found no government assistance to further the matter towards justice.

Our sixth speaker is Nina Ihaka whose partner was shot by the Redfern police on 23 November, 2012 as he was driving a stolen truck at the back of the Redfern police station. He was unarmed. The why and the wherefore of this death in custody event is, as yet, mostly unknown. We await the coronial inquest to hopefully inform his family why he needed to be killed.

Most certainly we have an interesting afternoon planned so all are invited to attend. We especially invite the media to come and hear the truth, the facts and the figures from those who are totally immersed in their individual and collective campaigns for social justice for all. Speakers may be available for interview also.

 The Stringer
CLIMATE of DEATH – Justice denied means more will die
by Gerry Georgatos
July 18th, 2013

“We have to get rid of racist cops. I don’t want to dwell on the past but I have grown up bitter,”
said Whadjuk Noongar Elder Ben Taylor. Mr Taylor said of colonial and post-colonial Australia,
“They have been killing our people for two hundred years.”
John Pat is dead. Cameron Mulrunji Doomadgee is dead. T.J.Hickey is dead. Dion Woods isMavis Pat - Indymedia
dead. Grantley Winmar is dead. Elder Mr Ward is dead. Peter Clarke is dead. Terrance Briscoe is
dead. There have been more than 300 Aboriginal deaths in custody since 1991 – the year of the
339 recommendations from the 1987-1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Since 1980 and to 2012 there have been nearly 3,000 deaths in custody – Aboriginal and
non-Aboriginal, one of the world’s worst death in custody rates.


  1. Rexie permalink

    Cabrogal, what do you think of Henry Reynolds, and, also of his book Why Weren’t We Told?


    • Reynolds is an OK historian by Australian standards – which unfortunately isn’t saying much.

      Australian history academia is very caught up in what we call ‘the history wars’ and pretty much divide into camps derogatorily referred to as ‘black armband’ (those who dwell on the atrocities committed against Aborigines) and ‘white blindfold’ (those who pretty much deny those atrocities ever happened). Reynolds is very much a partisan of the former camp and by defining himself in opposition to idiots like Keith Windschuttle he brings himself down to their level.

      He is nowhere near as stupid and dishonest as those he opposes but still offers a very partisan reading of the facts. In particular he is very concerned with having the colonial invasion of Australia recognised as a ‘war’ by bombarding his readers with irrelevant facts. Whether it was formally a ‘war’ or just a long running series of barbaric acts strikes me as a semantic question of very little importance. Basically it depends on what you think ‘war’ means.

      I haven’t read Why Weren’t We Told? but from the interviews he has given it sounds like just another sequel to The Other Side of the Frontier. To me the whole thing is just a bunch of academics beating up on each other and I fail to see the relevance of much of it to me or to contemporary Australia.

      I’m far more concerned with the atrocities committed against Aborigines today than with arguing body counts and definitions about what happened over a century ago. Even when Reynolds ‘wins’ an argument, modern Australians just see it as something that happened in ‘the bad old days’.

      Liked by 1 person

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