The importance of community activism

Author: Vikki McLeod

My political activism was forged as a student at University of Queensland under the shadow of the Bjelke-Petersen Government and the “Police State”.

The police raids on our student houses were common, and they were for no other reason than we were educated and that made us trouble.

“You Col McLeod’s daughter?” “Yes” I said in response to the policeman’s question regarding my father who had resigned as a detective in protest against police corruption decades earlier. “Not this one lads” as they moved on to raid the next student house.

The restriction of our liberties, harassment from the police, the government’s abuse of power and corruption – documented by the investigative journalist Phil Dickie, the Fitzgerald enquiry and more recently by Matthew Condon – created a generation of activists.

We weren’t just students either, we were all ages and we all had a common question “When can you no-longer trust your government and at what stage do you do something about it?”

We didn’t have a sense that we needed to pick up a gun, unlike my step father who fought Nazism in WW2 in both the French Resistance and the Dutch Forces. But we did pick up a spray can to write a political slogan on a blank wall and we did take to the streets.

And there were plenty of street marches, it was collegiate, attended by students, retirees, professionals, unions, the indigenous and wannabe politicians such as Peter Beattie, Anna Bligh and Annastacia Palaszczuk long before they became Queensland premiers.

The Bjelke-Petersen government then made street marches illegal, resulting in mass arrests and noisy nights in the lockup where we made a racket, singing and chanting our catch cry “Organise, Educate, Agitate”.

Democracy relies on diverse and informed public debate, an active civil society, a free press, protest rights, transparent and fair processes, it relies on the checks and balances provided by courts, parliament and other institutions.

The NT Governance Summit is aimed at raising awareness of how our government and public administration works; informing debate on issues of accountability, transparency, justice, fair process and good governance; and why committing to these principles would lead to a better outcome for all Territorians.

The organisers of the NT Governance Summit are Territorians, retired politicians, legal practitioners, academics and community activists such as myself – we are passionate about achieving the Northern Territory’s potential through a commitment to accountability, transparency, principles of justice, good governance and fair process.

Please join us on the 23 and 24 Feb, Level 5, CDU Waterfront Campus.

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