The Block - Going, Going...

A new wall has been going up around The Block in the last few days as re-development of this important Aboriginal site grows nearer.

The land is earmarked for several 24-story towers of student housing, despite the disputed promise of 62 ‘affordable houses’ for Aboriginal families.

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Shhhhhh! - A silent Kings Cross performance

Photographs from last night’s silent theatre work, ‘Shhhhhh!’, a performance by Vashti Hughes, Annie Winter, Di Busuttil, Calamity James, Claire Anastopoulos, Felix Kulakowski and Paul Walker.

The work is in response to a ‘dulled’ city - the result of lock-out laws and a pervasive conservatism that has seen the virtual death of Sydney night-life, particularly in the once thriving Kings Cross.

‘Shhhhhh!’ was performed outside the famous Piccolo Bar, in the heart of Kings Cross.

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International Human Rights Day

Images from yesterday’s march in Sydney to mark International Human Rights Day.

Speakers from Aboriginal, Mapuche and West Papuan communities all raised similar concerns about colonialism, genocide, natural justice, due legal process, police brutality and the rule of law.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN.

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Stop Adani - Protest

Over 5,000 people, led by school students, gathered at Town Hall in central Sydney to protest against the massive Adani mine, which has been given the green light by the federal and Queensland state governments.

The Adani coal mine will be Australia’s largest and be responsible for carbon emissions equivalent to those produced by all Pacific island nations together. Pacific island nations are the countries most at risk from climate change and have spoken out against the mine.

The coal project will also extract more than a billion litres of water per year from already drought-ravaged Queensland.

Speakers at the rally, including 14-year old Jean Hinchliffe, called for the Federal government to immediately cease the construction of the giant coal mine and for the Australian Labor Party to oppose the project - a position they are yet to commit to.

Today’s rally follows an Australia-wide strike by primary and high school students last week to protest against the lack of government action on climate change.

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El Alamein Fountain - Kings Cross

Some images of the famous El Alamein Fountain in the heart of Kings Cross, Sydney, with accompanying local ibis.

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Student Strike - Big School Walk Out For Climate Action

Around 5,000 primary and high school students walked out of Sydney schools today to protest against inaction against climate change.

The striking students gathered at Martin Place in Sydney’s centre where speeches and performances were given. Speakers called for governments to radically reduce carbon emissions, stop the massive Adani Mine and implement environmentally friendly policy. The students demanded immediate action on climate change so that their future could be guaranteed.

Thousands of other students protested across the country - up to 15,000 - in capital cities and regional centres.

In response, the Resources Minister, Matt Canavan, dismissed the protest, saying, “The best thing you'll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue. Because that's what your future life will look like, up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge for your life and getting a real job.”

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Dance Rites, 2019

Images from Dance Rites, Sydney Opera House, 2019.

Dance Rites is an annual Indigenous dance competition and cultural festival, featuring dance troupes from around Australia and the world.

This year, last year’s winners, Allkumo Dancers and Kulgoodah Dancers returned as guest performers.

Professional dancers included Te Rua Mauri from Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Muggera Dancers from NSW.

Groups competing for the top prize this year were Buuja Buuja Butterfly, Djirri Djirri, Duurunu Miru, Eip Karem Beizam, Jumbaal Dreamin, Meuram Murray Island Dancers, Of Desert and Sea, Ngaran Ngaran, Nunukul Yuggera, Pakana Kanaplila, Seisia Kayin Thithuyil, Thukkabilla Vibrations, URAB Dancers and Wagana Dancers.

Also featured was Indigenous Enterprise,  which is made up of Turtle Island champion dancers from Canada treaty six on Onion Lake, Saskatchewan, as well as from the Navajo nation in Window Rock and Blue Gap, Arizona.

This year’s overall winner, 2019, was Nunukul Yuggera. Runners up were Meuram Murray Island Dancers, with Buuja Buuja Butterfly taking out the ‘Wild Card’ Dance title and Djirri Djirri receiving the Rites of Passage Award.

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Sails and Sky

The Sydney Opera House’s architectural sails against the sky.

Shot on Tri-X 35mm black and white film, Nikon F2AS.

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Hank

Portrait of Hank - formerly a rough sleeper, Martin Place, Sydney.

For more on Hank’s story, you can watch a documentary, called ‘I Am Hank’, here.

Shot on Tri-X 35mm black and white film, Nikon F2AS.

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Lawrence

Portraits of Lawrence - rough sleeper and self-described ‘metal head’. Martin Place, Sydney.

Shot on Tri-X 35mm black and white film, Nikon F2AS.

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Vittorio Turns 84

A reflective Vittorio Bianchi sits in The Piccolo Bar on his 84th birthday.

‘Vitto’ has been working at the Piccolo Bar, Sydney’s oldest existing cafe, since 1956.

Shot on 35mm Tri-X film, Nikon F2AS.

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Aunty Jenny Munro Revisits The Block

Tonight, a meeting was held at the Redfern Community Centre to discuss the future of the development of The Block. Contrary to agreement, the plans now do not seem to include low cost housing for Aboriginal families, a condition set on the project after court proceedings in 2015. Leading the meeting were Aunty Jenny Munro and daughter, Lorna Munro, who have been spearheading opposition to the development.

From 2014 to late 2015, Aunty Jenny Munro led a 15 month protest on the site by establishing the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Since its closure over 3 years ago, the site has been fenced off and left vacant as development plans proceed.

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Remembering Aboriginal Digger, Douglas Grant

Douglas Grant was an Aboriginal digger who fought on the battlefields of Bullecourt in France in World War 1.

Born in the Atherton Tablelands in far north Queensland, Poppin Jerri (his original cultural name) survived as an infant after his parents were killed in a massacre launched by miners from Cairns. Poppin Jerri was fostered out to a white family and renamed Douglas Grant. Eventually, he was taken to NSW, where he grew up, trained and excelled as a draughtsman.

In 1916, he tried to join the Australian army to fight in Europe but was barred because Aboriginal people were not allowed to serve overseas in the military. Nevertheless, after a second attempt, he managed to enlist, possibly because the extreme casualty rate amongst Australian soldiers resulted in the relaxing of drafting regulations. While in France, Grant was captured by German soldiers and served out the rest of the war as a POW. While interned, he was singled out by his captors for his ability and intellect, surprised them by reciting Shakespeare and tasked with being the camp’s liaison with the Red Cross.

After being repatriated to Australia at the end of the war, Douglas Grant worked in a small arms factory in Lithgow and eventually moved to Sydney. He began to write and advocate for Aboriginal rights, speaking out against the 1928 government sanctioned Coniston Massacre of Warlpiri people in the Northern Territory.

Grant also began agitating for better treatment for returned soldiers. In his published work, ‘The Broken Pledge’, he wrote, “What we want most, and above all, is the pledging in every deed and work, the honoring of the pledges of the Government of Australia to the returned soldier, who gave his all in the honouring of the pledges he made, when he carried the honour, integrity and fair name of Australia, unblemished and untarnished, through four years of horror, blood and unspeakable hell."

Grant became well regarded in social and cultural circles and even mixed with the likes of Henry Lawson. But he eventually fell to depression, probably suffering from post-traumatic stress, still suffering from the ravages of war, alienated from his original culture and never fully accepted in a country which still denied the existence of Aboriginal peoples under ‘terra nullius'. He was moved to the Callan Park Hospital for the Insane, as both inpatient and where he continued to apply his draughting skills. While there, he designed and built a war memorial, modelled on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and dedicated to the victims of war. The memorial still stands today. He lived out his last days in a war veterans hospital in La Parouse, passing away in 1951.

Despite his services and those of other ‘black diggers’ during World War 1, it wasn't until 16 years later, in 1967, that Aboriginal people were given the right to vote in Australia and a further 25 years in 1992 that the Mabo case succeeded in the High Court, overturning the notion of ‘terra nullius’.

In the photographs below, Wangkangurru man, Raymond Finn pays tribute to Douglas Grant at his memorial on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

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Vitto's 84th Birthday at The Piccolo Bar

Some images from the 84th birthday of Kings Cross identity Vittorio Bianchi (Vitto), who celebrated his big day at the legendary Piccolo Bar, where he has worked since 1956.

Locals gathered to watch performers including Cindy Pastel, Christa Hughes and Pete Van Strat. Photographed here are also actor and community activist, Simone Davison, Piccolo bartender extraordinaire, Claire and photojournalist Glenn Lockitch.

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Silent March - Manly

Today, a group of Aboriginal families and their supporters conducted a Silent March from Circular Quay to Manly (via ferry), down The Corso to Manly Beach and then to the office of Tony Abbott, the local federal member for Warringah and the current government appointed Aboriginal ‘envoy’.

The Silent March is a concept organised by the Indigenous Social Justice Association (Sydney) - ISJA. The aim of these marches is to parade quietly through the streets of Sydney with large placards showing the photos of Aboriginal people who have died or been killed in police custody, bringing urgent attention to the issue of Aboriginal deaths in custody.

It has been 27 years since the report from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths In Custody was handed down. Since then, only around two-thirds of the 339 recommendations have been implemented, while the incarceration of Aboriginal people has doubled.

There have recently been silent marches in Kings Cross, Campbelltown, Circular Quay and elsewhere around Sydney.

Today’s Silent March was led by the families of David Gundy, Nathan Reynolds, Mark Mason, T.J. Hickey and Eric Whittaker - who all died in police custody.

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