The Official Organ of LaborNET
click here to view the latest edition of Workers Online
The Official Organ of LaborNET
Free home delivery
Issue No. 133 26 April 2002  

The Struggle Continues
While the romantic image of May Day may be one of international struggle to establish a workers paradise, the reality is far more pragmatic and practical.


Interview: If The Commission Pleases
President Lance Wright marks the NSW Industrial Relations Commission's centenary with an exclusive interview with Workers Online.

History: Protest and Celebrate
Neale Towart scours the globe to discover the spirit of May Day online � the celebration of the eight-hour day.

Unions: A Novel Approach
A union office has been transformed into a library thanks to efforts to provide books for children in detention centres, reports Jim Marr.

Industrial: Hare Tony, Hare Tony
Close your eyes and the Mad Monk sounds like a Hare Krishna, but increasingly the world is tuning out from his mantra about IR reform, writes Noel Hester.

International: Never Forget Jenin
Trade unionist Sari Kassis argues the word 'Jenin' now defines Palestinian demands for justice.

Politics: Left Right Out In France
The results of the first round vote for the French presidency have led to mass protests and calls for national unity, Paul Howes reports.

Health: Delivering A Public Health Revolution
Zoe Reynolds travelled to Cuba to discover how Australians are backing a ground-breaking child health project.

Review: The Secret Life of U(nion)s
Tara de Boehmler stumbles upon a juicy trade union sub-plot in the popular GenX TV drama.

Poetry: May Day, May Day
Rapper Swarmy G is one of the finalists in our workers anthem comp with this ode to May Day.


 Shonky Bosses Get Contract Brush

 Kirby Bouquet for Equal Pay

 Deep Pocket Syndrome Stalks IRC

 Court Decision Threatens Thousands Of Jobs

 Safety Summit to Set Accident Targets

 Detention Centre Vets Song Lyrics

 Fat Sheep Dip Into Workers Pockets

 Government Con Drives SA Vehicle Blue

 Dead Worker�s Family Calls for Safety Crime Laws

 Netball Mum Bounces Back

 Aussie Agency Backs War Crimes Call

 Thumbs-up For Union Immigration Role

 May Day Rundown

 DOCS Worker Assaulted In Courthouse

 Queensland Unions Move on Youth Exploitation

 Activist Notebook


The Soapbox
A Humane Under-Belly
Presenting the annual Kingsley Laffer Lecture, Justice Michael Kirby argues that international human rights underpin Australian industrial law.

The Locker Room
The Hidden Culture of Indigenous Football
Brian McCoy argues that indigenous footballers do not just bring thier skills to the game, they bring their culture as well.

Of Shares and Options
It was a week when Rio Tinto faced its shareholders, Ford faced a backlash and a bid to cap US executive salaries failed.

Week in Review
The ANZAC Spirit?
Jim Marr wonders what the ANZACs would have said about our current treatment of the homeless and needy.

 French Connection
 Gold Star Student
 Time for a General Strike?
About Workers Online
Latest Issue
Print Latest Issue
Previous Issues
Advanced Search

other LaborNET sites

Labor Council of NSW
Vic Trades Hall Council
IT Workers Alliance
Unions on LaborNET
Evatt Foundation

Labor for Refugees



A Novel Approach

A union office has been transformed into a library thanks to efforts to provide books for children in detention centres, reports Jim Marr.


If CFMEU organiser Duncan McLaren was so inclined he could shoot through and set up a second hand bookshop that would put some competitors to shame. Thankfully, he's not, and kids in Australia's appalling detention centres will get some recognition of their humanity.

McLaren is colonising offices around the union's Lidcombe headquarters as books for refugee children flood in from all parts of NSW.

He's got all kinds - from Little Golden Books and Dr Seuss, through dictionaries and encyclopedias, to high school maths and science texts.

The best estimate is 10,000 and more are arriving daily.

McLaren, passionate about Australia's treatment of refugees, picked up the book baton from Sister Mary Keely of Bellingen-based Rural Australians for Refugees, about a month ago

He liked her idea and thought "hey, this is something practical I can do to counter the Government's policy of dehumanising these people.

"I mean, no matter what you think about detention centres, surely nobody thinks these kids have done anything wrong, that they, at least, deserve a chance.

"So I sent out the call."

Hitting the Email

McLaren, taking time out from EBA enquires, hit the email trail but had no idea that one particular correspondence would elicit such an overwhelming response.

An approach to the Teachers Federation brought an encouraging return so he tried an organisation called the Primary Principals Association of NSW and hit paydirt.

Carton apon carton of good quality, English-language books flooded in from as far away as Dubbo and Wagga Wagga. There were 10 cartons from a Marrickville Primary library clearout, alone.

And not just books. There are cartons of obsolete ruled pads as well as good quality toys and videos.

It's left him with mixed feelings.

"I've learned one thing," he admits, "be careful what you ask for because you might just get it."

The CFMEU is supportive but the logistical problems of collecting, sorting and distributing the books are all his.

Cost Burden

Offices in Newcastle, Wollongong, Central Sydney and Lidcome are proving effective collection points but he still hasn't been able to send organisers to Wagga Wagga or Dubbo.

And, while Villawood won't be a problem, the cost of getting the goods to Port Hedland, Woomera and Curtin is shaping as a headache.

State secretary Andrew Ferguson has penned off a note to the Transport Workers Union asking for suggestions.

Over the next couple of weekends McLaren will lock himself away in the union office and go through all the donations, trying to work out what goes where.

He's promising "as much coffee as you can drink" to anyone who will go in and help with the exercise.

We're All refugees

Overwhelmingly though, he's elated by the response. "I just think it's great, that despite all the propoganda, Australians are willing to do something for these kids," he says.

"Personally, I'm Australian-born of Scottish extraction and my great-grandfather came here from Glasgow out of poverty.

"Most Australians are here because their ancestors were refugees of one sort of another. I can't believe we have a Government that will villify the latest group of refugees simply to hold onto power.

"They have been successful, so far, because they have been able to dehumanise these people, not least by sticking them out in the desert.

"I think providing kids with books and toys is one small way we can counter that. I mean, parents give their kids books to develop their humanity and, hopefully, we can build on that in the detention centres."


McLaren came face to face with the dehumanisation process when he answered an appeal from the Bellingen group for Australians to become penpals with people in the detention centres.

When the organisation asked for a list of detainees so it could match them with interested Aussies, DIMA sent back identifications in Alpha Numeric code, not a name to be seen.

Accordingly, McLaren addressed his first letter to EME 74 at Port Hedland.

"I just thought - this is shit," he said, "but that's the way it had to be done."

EME 74 turned out to be a man called Amir Bashtin and the pair have since exchanged several letters.

Tales from the inside convinced him books would be a practical way of bringing some normalcy to the children of these people.

Basically, camp sources say, the job's done. He's got his hands on more than enough for their purposes.

Unfazed, the CFMEU is organising for the overflow to be shipped to East Timor where shortages of books and writing materials are a serious problem for the fledgling state.

"I don't need any more. Basically, I'm inundated," McLaren says "but don't worry none of them will go to waste. Schools in East Timor can use as much as we can get."

Just as well really because it's right about then that the receptionist rings from downstairs - could he come down and pick up another two cartons of books that have just landed on her desk?


*    Contact Duncan with more books!

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 133 contents

email workers to a friend latest breaking news from labornet

Search All Issues | Latest Issue | Previous Issues | Print Latest Issue

© 1999-2002 Workers Online
Workers Online is a resource for the Labour movement
provided by the Labor Council of NSW
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005

Powered by APT Solutions
Labor Council of NSW Workers Online