An open LETTER to young Paddy Gibson, Sydney academic and saviour of blackfellas.


Sir – An open letter to young Paddy Gibson, Sydney academic and saviour of blackfellas.
Well once again you’ve sneaked into our country young Paddy to tell us all, black and white, what we should be doing about the most difficult and sensitive issues that we all face. You’ve come from the great southern metropolis to pass on your wisdom to all of us poor benighted white rednecks and dumb bush blackfellas in this backwoods town of ours far from the intellectual delights of Sydney Town where they don’t really have any problems at all.
I’m assuming that you think of yourself as essentially Irish since you call yourself Pádraig after the blessed saint who drove the snakes from the Old Sod, though your surname is Norman derived Sassenach. But that’s Ok young Paddy because we white English speaking Australians are all mixed up aren’t we and we all come from somewhere else. I usually go by the name Dave Price but you can call me Dáithi Mac Rís or Taffy ap Rhys if you want to acknowledge my cultural heritages and I’d appreciate that since 200 years is not a long time. This is especially so for my wife’s mob. My wife is not mixed up at all, like you and me, young Paddy. She’s Warlpiri but she is also related closely by marriage to members of all the major language groups of Central Australia. Her parents were about the age of our grandsons when they first saw whitefellas. She was born under a tree with her aunt as the only attendant and midwife for her Mum. She usually goes by the name Bess but this is spelt Piiji in Warlpiri and you’d have to learn a bit more to know how to pronounce it. She is also known as Nyirringali after he great aunt and of course her skin name is Nungarrayi which makes her a sister to your good friend Barbara Shaw. She can also be known as Yunkaranyi Jukurrpa after the place in Anmatyerr country that her child spirit came from. If we attended all of the funerals we should under Aboriginal law we’d be going to about 30 a year on average and we wouldn’t be able to earn a living or care for our dependents. But none of this interests you, does it young Paddy, for you know better than all of us what is good for us.
But despite all I describe my wife has managed to get herself elected to the NT Parliament. So did several others from backgrounds similar to her own. They have brought a new government to the Territory. They are from the bush, not from the city, like the ones you have learnt your politics from, those who weren’t elected by anybody and aren’t democratically inclined. They don’t think like you. But of course you’re not interested in any of this are you Paddy. You don’t believe in democracy or civil society. In Irish terms you’re more in the tradition of the Real IRA or the UDF whereas my wife would think more like Veronica Guerin or even Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. I can tell from what I see of you on the internet that you are positively proud of acting like and being treated like a criminal. The world is sick with angry young men Paddy. And you are quite happy to egregiously insult my wife and myself because we disagree with your undergraduate politics. You have done so often, as have your colleagues within the cloistered realms of the metropolitan academy. We can forgive all of this because it seems to us you are young and idealistic as we all once were and you don’t seem all that bright. But we do struggle to forgive your arrogance and your unwillingness to learn from your elders.
My wife managed an 18.5% swing in an electorate that is 73% Aboriginal. Four of her colleagues are Aboriginal. Three of those are from the bush and speak an Aboriginal language as a first language. You don’t seem to trust them to have their people’s interests at heart and you seem to be telling us that you know better than they what is good for their people. As an elder of your own people, one who has spent a lifetime working with Aboriginal people, sustaining a marriage with a Warlpiri woman and raising a talented and proud Aboriginal daughter, I would give you some advice. Take the time to learn about life, don’t believe all they tell you in the academy, desist from gratuitously insulting your betters and keep you nose out of other people’s business until you know what you’re talking about.
Dave (Dáithi Mac Rís) Price Jangala
Alice Springs


  1. Have a look at the people Paddy associates with and you can see why he holds the views he holds. They tend to see racism around every corner and believe that any attempt to help Aboriginal people achieve the same standard of living as he and his mates is assimilation.

  2. So panji, why are Paddy Gibson’s opinions and actions any less valid than those of that self proclaimed saviour of blackfellas Jenny Macklin?
    Just try it … replace “young Paddy” with “Jenny Macklin” in the above open letter. See?

  3. @Frank Baarda Paddy likes to attack and follow conspiracy theories. Macklin does not be a proclaimed saviour.

  4. Frank,
    It’s pretty simple really. Jenny Macklin is a member of a government elected by the people of Australia through a process we call democracy. She takes part in a process of law making that is transparent and subject to the direct scrutiny of the media and the voters. She sat with the most disenfranchised in remote communities and asked for their views and took them into consideration when she made her decisions. If we, including the 30+% of voters in the NT who are Aboriginal, don’t like those decisions we can vote her and her party out of office. I don’t recall young Paddy nor any of his arrogant young radical mates asking the rest of us what we thought of their views. They like to avoid scrutiny and abuse those who disagree with them. I have been the butt of such abuse.

  5. I can agree with Dave (Dáithi Mac Rís) Price Jangala that, my grandmother Nungarrayi Bess Price and the other three Aboriginal CLP ministers have our people’s interests at heart. I can firmly believe that but that doesn’t mean that all the Aboriginal mob in their electorates agree with their political stance and as an Anmatjere woman who shares many of the blood and marriage ties as Nungarrayi, I know who I am also.
    But I and many members of my family (as in the traditional Anmatjere context of kinship) disagree with the government in many instances where our people are concerned. Are we not entitled to our opinions either? I might not agree with some of Young Paddy Gibson’s (Jungarrayi) opinions or methods either but I do appreciate his opposition to the intervention and now the stronger futures legislation. Keep up the good work Paddy. If it were not the for young white men and women like you who supported and placed their lives on the line during the freedom rides and Aboriginal political movement of the 1960s, neither myself or any Aboriginal person would have the right to vote today, let alone sit in a ministerial position in any Australian parliament.

  6. No one has made fun of my name since I was 12 years old. Thanks for the wander down memory lane.
    I do not “egregiously insult” you or your wife “often”. There was the infamous twitter incident some time ago now for which Larissa has apologised.
    We will continue to disagree stridently on a range of issues but please do not misrepresent my approach to this debate.

  7. Paddy, I hadn’t read your stuff until it was “reviewed” here but having done so I’d urge you to keep researching and writing. What you say is representative of a voice that should be heard, not that I particularly endorse it. What you write is, of course, also a commentary on you, but don’t be intimidated by the focus on that. It’s a two-way street and the open letter is far more interesting as a commentary on its author.

  8. I wasn’t making fun of your name Paddy, I was using it to point out that we whitefellas also have a culture, at least one, we have our heritages and we draw our inspiration from them as I do from yours and mine. I am often laughed at because I sometimes insist on using the Celtic varieties of my own name. I still do it anyway. And at the risk of sounding patronising I would have been standing beside you waving placards and shouting through megaphones if you’d been doing what you do when I first came here in the 70’s, bright eyed, bushy tailed and as arrogant as yourself. But this country has a way of making you grow up. But then some like Frank and Ralph never get past your stage. When I was an officer of the APS I found it pretty hard to get past Ralph to communicate directly to my clients in the community he worked in. He knew best. I wanted to hear from them.
    And Trisha, I also completely and respectfully agree with you. You have a right to be heard in the way you choose. Aboriginal people in the NT are beginning to use the mainstream political process to get their voices heard and not everybody wants to do that. In the last election we had three Aboriginal candidates standing for three different parties in the one electorate, no whitefellas to be seen. At last Australia sees that like all other humans everywhere don’t all think the same. Paddy’s mob want us to think they do. The last election here was an incredible historical first nationally yet it was unacknowledged. Those candidates on Paddy’s side of the fence, who rely on young southern whitefellas and white gate keepers to back them up didn’t do too well in that election. In some of those electorates Aboriginal people make up around 80% of the voters. Don’t you think that means something?
    I was deeply disturbed when I heard at an anti-Intervention rally in 2008 a prominent NT Aboriginal politician publicly thank the rag tag crowd of middle class white kids from Melbourne, I like to call them the “dread locked red guards” gathered at his feet. They had flocked to our town to tell us that the Intervention was all about grabbing land for uranium mining. He told them that he and his group relied on them and couldn’t do what they were doing without them. We have been told over and over again about the wisdom of Aboriginal elders, about the strength of Aboriginal law by people like him. Yet he showed no faith in his own elders and culture. All of his faith and hope for the future lay with a bunch of spoilt city kids who campaigned against the intervention in between saving the whales and keeping uranium in the ground. Good solid research now shows us that something like 77% of people in remote communities and town camps believe that some aspect of the Intervention have been beneficial for them, that number includes many of my own loved ones who regularly express these views to me. No wonder his own people didn’t elect this bloke to parliament when they had the chance.
    When Mantitjara Wilson told us in tears back in 2006 of the abuse of children in her own community and begged for help, one of the most moving things I’ve seen on my TV screen, there was no outcry from the likes of young Paddy, no pledges of support from human rights activists. In fact there were those community big men and their radical friends who worked hard to undermine her authority. When the NPY Women’s Council regularly tells us of the appalling plight of women and kids on their communities still they are studiously ignored by lefty radicals because this particular issue doesn’t fit their agenda. When a teenage girl from Arnhem Land was threatened with a shotgun and raped by her promised husband to be told by a white male magistrate that “she knew what to expect as a promised wife” and that the rapist “didn’t understand that what he did was against the law,” again deafening silence from the human and indigenous rights lobby. When a woman was mauled to death by dogs on town camps controlled by an Aboriginal organisation – again silence. When my own granddaughter bled to death on another town camp after being stabbed by her ex husband because the ambulance has to wait for a police escort since every time they go into that camp to save a life they are attacked by drunks, again no interest at all from the southern radicals or the local gate keepers. I could go on all day. We are almost constantly grieving, but I think that you understand.
    The Freedom Rides were a long time ago, I can remember, I was around in NSW at the time. I came to the NT as an arrogant, young, southern radical. Now I know that only Aboriginal people will solve their own problems but they have to be given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives to do that. The Aboriginal members of this government share that view. Paddy and his allies go out of their way to deny a voice to those who dissent from their views. I have personally seen this happen over and over again. I wish you and your family well. We have suffered tragedy over and over again. I understand your grief and your right to run your campaign the way you think is best. We want to do it differently, we want the old people to be heard, we want to the women and the kids to be heard, yes even the kids, those who are being denied a decent education, life style and freedom to express themselves by those who tell us that their “culture” and “language” are more important than their right to life itself. I now have no faith in young radicals like Paddy or crusty old gate keepers like Frank and Ralph or even the likes of crusty old ex-radicals like me, to solve the problems of my wife’s people. I have faith in them to do it themselves.
    “Jurru Marntarla,” this is the Warlpiri name given to me by my wife’s deceased aunt many years ago. I’m very proud of it, I earned it. It translates best as ‘Wooden Head’. You can make as much fun as you like of it Paddy, most people do.

  9. re: An open LETTER to young Paddy Gibson, Sydney academic and saviour of blackfellas. Posted: October 8 2012 @ 6:46 am
    Anyone who has been living the NT for a while, as has your correspondent Dave Price, knows that all politics is local and very personal.
    In order to get things done, it comes down to not what you know but whom you know.
    For some reason, young Paddy Gibson has got right under the skin of one Dave Price. I think this goes a little deeper than just a case of the outsider, Paddy, not asking old Pricey what he, Dave Price, thought of the views of Paddy and his mates.
    I would urge all players to learn from the last few days of that Federal three ringed circus that is the other Australian Territory.
    In Canberra, sadly and perhaps inevitably, the personal has triumphed, (in the short term), over policy. Jones is one of the big losers; Turnbull one of the winners.
    To be sure, use the personal nature of the NT to network and achieve. We can all learn from Alan Jones. If one is as thin-skinned as that man, then one’s political self destruction is a sure thing indeed.
    David Chewings aka THE lone dingo.

  10. Dave seems like one of those who believes that the extent of valid democratic participation is on voting day. Now, I believe that most people who voted for the CLP’s bush candidates did so because they saw it as the best way to punish the Labor Party, who had seriously disappointed us all. To then suggest that voters have had their little democracy, and should shrink from any debate until the next election, is plain wrong. I’m glad [there are] people like Paddy who recognise democracy as an ongoing process that only has a chance if we remain continually engaged in its development.
    Yes, Bess and friends were democratically elected, and congratulations to them. Since then, it seems that the government they have been elected to has been dampening promises of appropriately equipping homelands to run their own affairs, but has ramped the priority of a perverse policy to reintroduce alcohol on communities. While not quite a backflip, surely this imbalance is at odds with Ms Price’s former position, direction and ambition for her people? I raise this dissonance not to attack Bess: I blame her leaders, and trust she’ll try to make the best of it. But I believe this failure of representative democracy demonstrates precisely why we need everyone to continue to engage with the ongoing practice – including and particularly individuals like Paddy, and even you, Dave, if you so choose to.

  11. If the government where to mismanage the town camps as Tangentyere has there would be an outcry from the hurman rights groups from out of Australia. We tried to warn both the Alice Springs town council and Tangentyere council about the feral dogs in the camps. We were told they where a part of Aboriginal culture.

  12. You know someone has lost a debate when they make fun of someone else’s name from the outset.
    Hence why I didn’t get more than a par or so into this rant. That and the fact Price played the “you’re not a local so what would you know” card, as though you need to be born in Alice Springs to understand what racism and bad policy looks like.
    Territorians have been playing that one for years – it’s just a thin-skinned attempt to defend the reality that they are the great beneficiaries of Australian apartheid, and have the greatest interest in it continuing.
    Keep punching on Paddy, you know you’re winning when they roll out stuff like this 🙂


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