In 1969 Elvis Presley had great success with a song titled
"In the Ghetto". The reference to the Ghetto was
a classic reference to chronically underprivileged communities and,
in particular, an African American Ghetto in Chicago.
This song, over a few minutes, tells the tragic tale:
"A poor little baby child was born in the Ghetto and
that child is another hungry mouth to feed in the
This song was telling a story but it was also a clarion cry for
help and, in many ways, a protest. Elvis sang:
"People, don't you understand the child needs a
He will grow to be an angry young man some day.
Take a look at you and me are you too blind to see, do we
simply turn our heads."
Your Union, in its own right and as a member of the peak
industrial organisations to which it is affiliated, does not simply
"turn its head".
Your Union, takes positions on matters involving social justice,
equity and access to justice and that is not simply limited to the
rights of employees.
In terms of the issues Elvis is bringing to our attention, we
here in Australia need to be mindful of what Elvis is speaking of,
namely access to justice.
We face a significant challenge to support our fellow
Australians who are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders. That
challenge is the grossly disproportionate incarceration rights of
male and female indigenous people. They are not getting access to
justice. Statistics suggest that whilst the Aboriginal people
represent only 3% of the total population, more than 28% of the
Australian prison population are Aboriginal.
The statistics are not improving, they are getting worse.
Whilst there are some variations on a State by State basis,
there is no State where the percentage of Aboriginals as part of
the total prison population is aligned with the percentage of
Aboriginals and the white population.
Elvis sang about what can happen when people look the other
"... a hungry little boy with a runny nose plays in the
street as a cold wind blows in the Ghetto
And his hunger burns."
The boy turns into a man and "learns how to steal" and
"he learns how to fight". All this happening in the
Lives can be ruined by lack of support, lost hope and exclusion,
this is key aspect of a denial of access to justice. This now young
man "... buys a gun, steals a car, tries to run but he
don't get far".
Pink too in her song "Dear Mr President" released in
2006 was also singing about social injustice and access to justice.
Pink was directing her song to President George W Bush and in part
she sang of "What do you feel when you see all the
homeless on the street? Who do you pray for at night before you go
to sleep?" Further she sang "How do you dream
when a mother has no chance to say goodbye? How can you say no
child is left behind? We're not dumb and we're not blind,
they're all sitting in your cells while you pave the road to
Your Union takes an interest in social justice issues and we all
need to ensure that we do not look the other way.
"And his momma cries."
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