Bjelke Blues Launch and Upcoming Events

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Bjelke Blues is now officially launched and out in the world! One minute I was making cheese platters, the next we had a full house of excited punters and it was time to start introducing my contributors to read from their pieces.

We had wonderful stories, starting with proud Murri woman, Angelina Hurley who told us about what it was like growing up black in Brisbane during those years, escaping the police, her cousin up a tree in the wasteland that is now South Bank Parklands.angelina-bb-launch-best.jpeg

Nicky Peelgrane read from her hilarious piece ‘Sleeping with Joh’ about growing up in a National party householdNicky with front row of crowd BBL

Renowned UQ agitator, Dan O’Neill, spoke about the Springbok tour and UQ’s part in encouraging activism. And read a bit from Joh’s own autobiography – Don’t You Worry About That!

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Artist Jeanelle Hurst spoke about a police mate who saved her from being arrested only to be hounded from the force and persecuted for years.jeanelle-speech-bb-launch.jpeg

Warren Ward made us laugh and then shake our heads with his story about being a ‘casual inserter’. warrens-speech-bb-launch.jpeg

Paul Richards filled us in on the true horror of the legal situation for Aboriginal and Islander people during those dreadful years.paul Richards speech BBL

Anne Jones talked about the rise of punk as a reaction to Joh’s repressive tactics.

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Then the wonderful Nick Earls read us his story about his encounter with Russ Hinze at the races.

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Esteemed historian Raymond Evans officially launched the collection with a great speech, bringing the importance of history like this into the here and now.

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‘As young people in that era we marched in the buoyant hope of creating a better world. Young people today are marching again into the face of heavy-handed policing and hostile public opinion, in the desperate hope of saving it,’ he said.

‘We were completely right back then. We were 100% on the right side of history —and we still are right when we stand up and say: “NO TO ADANI! NO, NO TO ADANI!”—as the high school students today chant —just as we once so gamely chanted: “NO, NO TO JOH”’

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An electric buzz ran through the room as people shared their march, raid and bust stories. We laughed and shook our heads in dismay. Then I gathered all the contributing writers who were able to make it to the launch onto the stage for a photo. So many of us, we could hardly all fit into the shot!

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Before I knew it, the lights were all back on and it was pack up time. Books were sold, old friends were reunited and a good night was had by all. The publisher at AndAlso Books , Matthew Wengert, and I were exhausted but very happy and would like to thank all the contributors and everyone who came along to help us launch Bjelke Blues.

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We had our first radio interview last week on Murri Radio 98.9 with Boe Spearim on his Let’s Talk Program.

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Listen in to the podcast with radio host, screenwriter and academic Angelina Hurley, One of the founders of the Aboriginal and Islander Legal service Paul Richards, and me. It’s a lively conversation!

Join the conversation by coming along to one of our UPCOMING EVENTS

Brisbane Writers Festival Panel – Sunday 8 September 2 pm BOOK TICKETS 

AVID Reader Bookstore – Panel of Readers – Tuesday 24 September 6 pm RSVP

and Books@Stones presents– Bjelke Blues Discussion Panel on Wednesday October 16 at Lady Marmalade in Stones Corner. More details as they come to hand. I can tell you that ex Go-Between John Willsteed will be joining us for that one!

Bjelke Blues has come at just the right time as we again gear up to fight for what we believe in, with many old activists preparing to join the school kids at their march for the environment on Friday the 20th of September in Brisbane.

It’s time – and just quietly – a lot of fun 🙂

Get your copy of Bjelke Blues at your nearest independent bookstore or HERE direct from AndAlso Books.

Independent bookstores so far stocking Bjelke Blues

Avid Reader, West End

Books @ Stones, Stones Corner

Mary Ryan’s, New Farm

Folio Books, Brisbane CBD

Riverbend Books, Bulimba

State Library of Queensland —Library Shop

Brisbane Writers Festival (5–8 September 2019)

Queensland Museum —Museum Shop

Readings, Hawthorn (Melbourne)

Mary Ryan’s (Milton)

Museum of Brisbane Shop

QAGOMA Shop

Better Read Than Dead Newtown (Sydney)

If your local store hasn’t got a copy send them to AndAlso Books!

Thanks so much for your support of this important collection of stories from the not so distant past.

Lots of love

Edwina xxx

BJELKE BLUES

 

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My new book Bjelke Blues  – Stories of Repression and Resistance in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s QLD 1968 – 1987 (ANDALSO BOOKS 2019) is about to be released. 45 stories essays and memoirs collected and edited by – guess who? Wonderful stories by wonderful writers including a foreword by Matt Condon, stories by Nick Earls and Miles Franklin winner Melissa Lucashenko, historian Raymond Evans, comedian Mandy Nolan, Indigenous activists Sam Watson and Bob Weatherall, UQ agitator Dan O’Neill, musician John Willsteed and many, many more.

Joh Bjelke-Petersen – a hill-billy peanut farmer whose formal education finished when he was 12 – ruled my home state of Queensland from 1968 to 1987. For me and for all of my generation that meant that for us growing up he was some sort of weird king – the ruler of the ‘country’ of Queensland he called his own. Several times he tried to secede Queensland from Australia to make it his own kingdom. He would have loved that.

For almost 20 years he stayed in power, despite receiving only 20% or so of the vote through a notorious gerrymander. He drew electoral boundaries around left-leaning areas in wiggly jigsaw-patterns around the state. Funding went first to areas that voted for his party, then to the other members of his right-wing coalition, leaving next to nothing for Left wing Labor electorates. He used the police force as his own personal army giving them unprecedented powers to enter properties under the infamous Health Act. Bjelke used taxpayers’ money to fund his personal vendettas through the law courts. He once sued every member of the opposition party for defamation. Heard enough yet?

And through all of this obvious corruption – I won’t go into the rape of the environment, jobs for mates, and the police and government corruption that eventually brought about his downfall – through all of this, he appeared on television every night with his peanut-shaped head and blotchy skin, smiling crookedly, bewildering and amusing journalists with his own special brand of obfuscating banter. Remind you of anyone in power now? ‘Don’t you worry about that!’

Every night, just like Trump, Joh provided sound grabs that the media loved, and infuriated others. Still today though, many older people maintain a fondness for Joh, and believe he knew nothing about all the corruption and wrongdoing, the bribes. This is despite Joh narrowly escaping jail time on a technicality for his part in the corrupt activities of his government. Well-meaning people like my mother, who say, ‘Oh but darling he did a lot of good things too.’

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I first started to doubt the God King of Queensland in my early teens when he referred to a female journalist as “girly”. How I hated that word! Then he told her not “to worry her pretty little head about that.” My blood boiled. In Australia’s other states and in other countries too, Joh was seen as a laughable buffoon, a joke. But life under Joh was no laughing matter.

In my mid-teens as a baby punk, life under Joh was downright dangerous. In the early 80s, Brisbane city streets were completely empty after six at night – eerily empty. A ghost town. The only cars were police wagons that cruised the city blocks slowly like fat lazy sharks waiting to be fed. Waiting for someone who didn’t fit their idea of normal to step out of a bus – blacks, punks, hippies, greenies, queers, women. We all copped it. It was part of an average night out to be pulled over and interrogated just for looking different. You didn’t have to do anything wrong. They didn’t need an excuse. They were Joh’s personal army and their power was never questioned.

 

We learnt to never carry ID, to give false names and most of all not to be cheeky. It was hard though – Joh’s police were mostly so very stupid that most of the time they didn’t realise you were taunting them. But if they twigged – watch out! Queensland police were famous for late night bashings, especially of black people and gays. They’d take gay men up to Mt Coo-tha, bash them senseless then leave them for dead. They took young black people on long drives out to the edge of the city and left them there to find their own way home. They raided punk venues and gay clubs; batons raised. Hated hippies with a passion. Police bashings were so common they went unreported most of the time. Besides, who were we going to report them to – the police?

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Drug busts became a weapon in Joh’s hands – a way of terrifying and controlling young people and the ‘intellectual Nancies’ he hated. The workers, the strikers, the students. Whoever he didn’t like. Under the Health Act your house could be raided at any time, turned upside down (read my story about getting busted here) and drugs planted. Drug offences carried heavy penalties for miniscule amounts, including jail – in Boggo Rd one of Australia’s most notorious prisons at the time.

Joh’s violent tactics against outsiders created a mass exodus to the south with some of our best and brightest intellects and creators leaving, never to return. Escaping Joh and his police thugs.

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It was a dangerous time to be young and different, but a whole lot of good came out of those years too. Our fight against a common enemy united many disparate groups that aren’t so united now and weren’t then elsewhere either. ‘Women, Workers, Blacks Unite!’ was one of the old street march chants. Queers and punks and artists and hippies and students too. Anyone who didn’t fit Joh’s fascist ideal of Christian youth was a target. Just being a university student was enough to brand you a troublemaker and a deserved victim of police raids. We all had files with our names on them. We were watched. Notes were taken. They knew where we lived. But still, even when it became illegal to gather in groups larger than three, we gathered to protest.

The University of Queensland was a centre for opposition to Joh’s repressive policies and through the leadership of people like Dan O Neill and Sam Watson (both contributors to Bjelke Blues) generations of young Queenslanders were politicised and radicalised. We all learnt what it was like to be branded “other” and joined forces with our “other” brothers and sisters. As Sam Watson says in his essay ‘An Equal and Opposite Force’ in Bjelke Blues:

Joh was a tyrant, and he was a criminal. He personified all that we were fighting against. But I’ll at least acknowledge, in that old basic physics formulae about every force being balanced by an equal or countering force, that perhaps if we had have come up against a lighter, less extreme political opponent, we may not have developed into the sort of freedom fighters we have become.

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Through his oppression, Joh created formidable opponents.

Forced underground, our art, theatre and music became radical, unique, and ended up influencing the world. We marched together side by side, punks and hippies, black and white, women and men, straight and gay, unionists, labourers and students, ladies in hats and gloves, priests and university lecturers. We marched side by side even after Joh banned marches and arrested protestors in their hundreds. We stuck together. “The people united will never be defeated!”

Joh gave us a common enemy that bonded us more than any benevolent supporter could have done. He created a close-knit family of outsiders and politicised us all. We certainly knew we were alive as we linked arms and faced off against the sea of blue shirts coming at us in waves, batons raised.

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And today as Trump echoes and amplifies many of Joh’s worst traits there are lessons to be learnt here.

The people united will never be defeated!

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For more information of what it was like living in Queensland during the Bjelke-Petersen regime read the book!

Available in all good independent bookstores after August 23. Request it from your local store if they don’t have it. Available for pre-order here

Bjelke Blues  – Stories of Repression and Resistance in Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s QLD 1968 – 1987

Come along to the launch on August 23 at Kurilpa Hall West End 6 pm start. RSVP to attend.

Or

Join us at our special panel event at the Brisbane Writers Festival, Sunday September 8, 2 pm

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If you can’t make those, don’t worry we have another night full of speakers and fun at the wonderful Avid Reader Bookstore in West End on September 24, 6pm start.

If you’d like to learn more about the downfall of Joh’s government and the police and government corruption that was finally exposed, I highly recommend Matt Condon’s marvellous trilogy Three Crooked Kings, 2013, Jacks and Jokers, 2014,All Fall Down, 2015 and his latest about the criminal underbelly that thrived under Joh The Night Dragon, 2019

Matt wrote the foreword for Bjelke Blues and knows more about the dark hidden history of the Joh era than anyone.

Hope to see you at one of our events. A launch in Sydney is also on the cards.

Do come and say hello!

Edwina xx

 

BUSTED – SHORT STORY

 

BUSTED in the bad old days!

As the deadline for Bjelke Blues – the anthology I’m editing for AndAlso Books  –approaches,  here’s a story of mine about that time, “Busted”. It was first published in Griffith REVIEW 21 Hidden QLD and has recently been published online on the Artist Run Initiatives REMIX website

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“Busted” is a story about the bad old days in QLD when election boundaries were rigged, corruption was rife, marches were banned, and police had way too much power.

READ BUSTED HERE

And if you have a story about being on the wrong side of the political fence during the Bjelke Petersen regime I’d love to hear from you.

Deadline is February 25 so you’ll have to hurry.

Let me know what you think of my story 🙂

Hope you enjoy it.

Lots of love,

Edwina xx

 

 

BJELKE BLUES

Bjelke bananaanti joh marchThe man inside the banana needs no introduction to those of us who grew up in Queensland, the sunshine state of Australia, during the Joh era.

He is Joh Bjelke Petersen,  the premier of QLD from 1968 to 1987, which meant that he was in power for almost all of my formative years. He was also the leader of what has been exposed as one of the most corrupt and brutal governments in Australian history. Joh was famous for his country-style witticisms “Look like a crow, fly with the crows, don’t complain if you get shot!” and for his fierce anti-union sentiments and appalling attitudes towards women “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that!”

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Under his rule Queensland became a police state where surveillance, harassment, beatings and outright brutality were every day occurences. As a teenager I was often stopped and questioned by police in the city as soon as I got off the bus, just for looking different. The Special Branch had files on just abut everybody, particularly if your hair was too long or too short, or God forbid – you went to university or belonged to a union.

Some good came out of living under this repressive regime though. Disparate alternative groups united against a common foe. Incredible creativity flourished as artists, musicians, actors, dancers and writers used their talents to expose the corruption and violence. We all lived in fear though and many people fled the state, scared for their livelihoods, and sometimes their lives.

Now however, all these years later, it’s safe enough to tell our stories.

For a long time I’ve been wanting to bring together a collection of stories from this era, detailing the reality of living in Queensland during the Joh years. I’m thrilled to announce that AndAlso Books, a small independent Brisbane publisher, is just as excited by the project as I am and publication is slated for September 2019.

We’re calling for submissions from anyone who lived in Queensland during the 70s and 80s and has a good Joh story to tell. If that’s you, please leave me a message and I’ll send you more information.

Pieces can be as short as 300 words or as long as 3000. Anecdotes, memoirs or fictionalised accounts are all welcome. Pitch ideas by 15 Jan 2019, with full drafts due by 25 February 2019.

Great stories are already pouring in. It’s as if I’ve unplugged a dam that was just waiting to burst. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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WRITING ABOUT FAMILY

Here’s a great blog post on Jane Friedman’s site by US writer, Benjamin Vogt about digging deep to find the richness of your family stories.

In it he talks about how recent research is discovering how the emotional lives of our ancestors, the life events that shaped them and their psychological traits, can be passed on from generation to generation.

This is exactly the reason I am writing “Dear Madman”, a story that springs from the tragic murder of my grandmother’s sister as a child in rural South East Queensland. I researched not only my own family history, but also that of the man who killed her, discovering that there are indeed many sides to every story and most importantly – that if we wish to protect our children from the imprint of such trauma we need to understand and forgive the perpetrators of crimes, not for their sake but for ours.

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Laidley Corn Day

I learned that, more than the horrific crime itself, it was my family’s inability to forgive the madman and God for allowing such a thing to happen, that had the most impact on future generations. On me. When I learned that my Great Aunt had never again entered a church after the death of her sister, I understood that feeling deep in my being. However, I’ve learned enough now to know that distrust and anger at Life only hurts ourselves. The madman found his own way to forgiveness and a kind of peace, my ancestors unforgiveness imprisoned them forever.

And so, back to work on it!