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Social Issues

My first venture into social justice: Australians for Reconciliation


My first venture into social justice was an eye opener, and I spent six weeks in gaol for my efforts.

After having worked in Goulburn Prison for three years, as a prison officer, I became concerned at the disproportionate number of Indigenous people in gaol compared to the mainstream population.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up about 17% of the prison population in NSW, but only about 2.5% of the wider community (at that time).

Most were there for minor things, matters which wouldn’t have landed most of us more than a small fine.

So in early 1998 I approached Flora Macdonald, the ACT Coordinator of Australians for Reconciliation, and offered to set up a local Reconciliation group in Goulburn, my home town and where I was living at the time.

Flora accepted, and we received considerable support in the local community, including from the regional newspaper, The Goulburn Post.

The Goulburn Post even agreed to run a weekly column about the issue, which I commenced writing in July 1998.

Our first meeting attracted over 90 people, including local police, corrective services, farmers, media and community groups. I also represented the Australian Red Cross at the meeting (I was area coordinator of the local Red Cross Calling at the time).

The next day I was arrested (I can’t recall what for), the first of 14 arrests that were to ensue over the next 18 months. It is interesting to note that every arrest involved the same police sergeant who had expressed concern at the inaugural meeting of the group, and wanted it shut down.

Several other leaders of the group also reported being approached by police and threatened with arrest, with reference being made to the group and suggesting it be shut down.

Regardless of this, we soldiered on, and support increased. We even had a lot of farmers joined up, who had initially been concerned that Aboriginals were trying to take their land, but later came to accept this was not the case.

For the first 13 arrests, I was found not guilty. On the 14th, in late 1999, I was remanded in custody pending trial.

I spent six weeks in gaol, the same gaol I had previously worked in, and found great support amongst both Indigenous and non-Indigenous prisoners for setting up a reconciliation group inside the prison. Even some prison officers expressed interest. This seemed to somewhat concern prison authorities.

After six weeks, I was convicted of the offence and fined the princely sum of $30, with no gaol time, and a two year good behaviour bond, which also prevented me from living in Goulburn. Effectively, the police sergeant had succeeded in shutting down the group.

Or so he thought. The group went on to build and expand, and I believe it is still running today.

This was my initiation into social justice campaigning. It was very clear that there are powerful groups who claim to support the marginalised, yet actively work against them. I would be interested in hearing other people’s experiences about this.

I have found this a lot in the last 25 years of campaigning, and even today, with my online social justice campaigning, I am finding the same thing.

Anyway, immediately after leaving Goulburn, I went to work as Director of Studies for TAFE at a high school on an Aboriginal community in Central Queensland, where we had great success, but that’s a story for another day.

Craig Hill is a Brisbane-based Social Justice Campaigner, Writer, Teacher and Business Consultant. He has campaigned for social justice in Australia, promoted human rights in China and worked with the homeless in Honolulu. He holds a Graduate Certificate in Education and a degree in Management.

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I am excited to announce that I intend to run as an independent candidate for Bonner at the 2025 federal election.

I know it’s a long way out, but I feel that I should start now, and put the years ahead into working out policies and strategies, and making sure I am ready for it.

Having spent 25 years campaigning for social justice, it is clear that governments formed from either of the major parties simply don’t listen to the community. The only way to get heard, it seems, is to get into parliament.

In particular, I will be learning from people on social media and in the community what the people of Bonner and the Australian public want from a representative in parliament.

My focus will still be on social justice, but there are many other areas where I have had work experience that I believe I can contribute to in parliament.

These include education, health, foreign affairs, the environment, climate change, the economy, taxation reform, social security reform, immigration, political accountabilty and sustainability, among many other things.

I don’t intend to be a candidate who runs on just one or two platforms. The work of a parliamentarian should benefit all people across Australia in all aspects of social and political life.

And of course, as a disabled person, I will still be fighting for a better deal for the aged, disabled and marginalised.

Any assistance you can give, whether financial, assisting with policies or campaigning, will be greatly appreciated.

I am excited to announce that I intend to run as an independent candidate for Bonner at the 2025 federal election.

I know it’s a long way out, but I feel that I should start now, and put the years ahead into working out policies and strategies, and making sure I am ready for it.

Having spent 25 years campaigning for social justice, it is clear that governments formed from either of the major parties simply don’t listen to the community. The only way to get heard, it seems, is to get into parliament.

In particular, I will be learning from people on social media and in the community what the people of Bonner and the Australian public want from a representative in parliament.

My focus will still be on social justice, but there are many other areas where I have had work experience that I believe I can contribute to in parliament.

These include education, health, foreign affairs, the environment, climate change, the economy, taxation reform, social security reform, immigration, political accountabilty and sustainability, among many other things.

I don’t intend to be a candidate who runs on just one or two platforms. The work of a parliamentarian should benefit all people across Australia in all aspects of social and political life.

And of course, as a disabled person, I will still be fighting for a better deal for the aged, disabled and marginalised.

Any assistance you can give, whether financial, assisting with policies or campaigning, will be greatly appreciated.

I am excited to announce that I intend to run as an independent candidate for Bonner at the 2025 federal election.

I know it’s a long way out, but I feel that I should start now, and put the years ahead into working out policies and strategies, and making sure I am ready for it.

Having spent 25 years campaigning for social justice, it is clear that governments formed from either of the major parties simply don’t listen to the community. The only way to get heard, it seems, is to get into parliament.

In particular, I will be learning from people on social media and in the community what the people of Bonner and the Australian public want from a representative in parliament.

My focus will still be on social justice, but there are many other areas where I have had work experience that I believe I can contribute to in parliament.

These include education, health, foreign affairs, the environment, climate change, the economy, taxation reform, social security reform, immigration, political accountabilty and sustainability, among many other things.

I don’t intend to be a candidate who runs on just one or two platforms. The work of a parliamentarian should benefit all people across Australia in all aspects of social and political life.

And of course, as a disabled person, I will still be fighting for a better deal for the aged, disabled and marginalised.

Any assistance you can give, whether financial, assisting with policies or campaigning, will be greatly appreciated.

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About Craig Hill

Social Justice Campaigner, Writer, Teacher and Business Consultant. Lived in China and USA. Dealing with disability. My articles have been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and many other international publications. Please consider donating, to support our social justice campaign, by clicking on the "Donations Page" button in the top menu.

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  1. Pingback: My jump from prison officer to social justice campaigner | Craig Hill Consultancy Services - January 24, 2023

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