With the silhouette of a Melbourne skyscraper in the background, across the street from the oldest Trades Hall in the world and less than a hundred yards from the infamous and brutal Melbourne Gaol – whose gallows were the final destination for hundreds of folk, including the famous bushranger Ned Kelly – stands a monument to one of the working class’s greatest achievements, the iconic eight hour day monument.
Building trade unionists in Melbourne in 1856 after a long fight, won the world’s first eight hour day. The slogan was “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest”.
On Wednesday 15 August with 16 o me friends and comrades on a cold and darkening night in front of this red granite column after acknowledging that we were on the Wurrundjeri people’s land of the Kulin Nation, we put on the black tee shirts with individual white lettering that shouted out STAND UP for the BURRUP.
It was the second action I had helped tae organise. At the July Geelong Trades Hall Council meeting, after acknowledging the ancestors, traditional owners and that we were on Wathaurong people’s land we held the letters in front of our bodies telling the same message.
All over Mother Earth in their greed for profit, oil, gas, iron ore, coal and other minerals, multi- nationals and trans-national corporations are literally ransacking the earth.
At the Burrup, on the Dampier Archipelago the oldest rock art in the world, pre-ice age carvings of birds, fish, animals, extinct animals and initiation ceremonies are being threatened, some already destroyed.
Folk all over the world have stood up for the Burrup at particular sites: Stonehenge, Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids and in front of the Vatican, to name a few.
Wilfred Hicks, senior Wong-goo-tt-oo lawman, is quoted at seeing the destruction: “Looking across, it just breaks my heart to see all the rocks that’s getting doctored, pushed around by dozers, some getting crushed and used on roads and then construction works and then you know, it’s just a painful thing to go through me body every day. Our hearts bleed to see everything that’s happening.
“This sacred place is our Bible, our Education, where Initiation Ceremonies takes place.”
Woodside Petroleum’s massive Pluto gas project is the reason further desecration is planned.
I ask aa Shetland folk tae take part in a Global Action and Stand Up fir da Burrup on Sunday 23 September.
But more importantly, I ask we learn fae da struggles o Aboriginal Australians dat land is spirit and when you destroy wan (whether you ir aware or not), you in turn destroy da idder. Let’s no allow dis tae happen in wir bonnie islands.
Please STAND UP fir da Lang Kames,fir Weisdale, fir da Rain Gos (Red Throated Diver) and STAND UP fir SHETLAND!
PS. It was 110 years later in 1966 after a bitter seven week strike that British seamen, members of the National Union of Seamen (NUS), won the 40 hour week and eight hour day. Thousands of Shetlanders took part. I was Junior Ordinary Seaman (JOS) on the m/v Suffolk homeward bound from Kiwi and in Liverpool. It was my first strike and an amazing time; five other Shetlanders were in the crew including the bosun the late John Duncan.
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