‘Peel St’ was a place name we heard a lot during the massive mobilization of police in the lead up to the G20 in Brisbane. In the 10 days after the Summit’s conclusion, 3 people were fatally shot by Queensland police – in Tewantin, in Kippa Ring, and at Nakina St (Southport).
I have made a memorial to the three people who were killed by police as part of my documentation of the G20. The memorial is a pillow cover. My memorial includes a memorial to Robert Peel. In the form of the place names used to identify the shootings, my memorial acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Australia, who continue to experience and mourn deaths precipitated by law enforcement in Queensland.
I don’t know the people who were killed, or their families, or their friends. I don’t know even the names of two of the people who were killed. I don’t know the circumstances of the shootings. I don’t know the shooters either. While I don’t know the details, Peel St provides a context for understanding these events.
As Home Secretary, Robert Peel re-organised policing in London, and is attributed with establishing the Metropoliton Police Force. According to the Open University, “He wanted a single, unified force under central control that could be used to maintain order without having to call for the aid of the army. Soldiers were trained to use lethal weapons. A police institution could be trained to restore order without guns and sabres.”
Bond University criminologist and former police inspector Terry Goldsworthy is quoted in the Guardian as saying “there had been “a push from the highest level for police to be armed” after an escalation in perceived threats from domestic terrorism attacks, the G20 meeting in Brisbane and a crackdown on bikies.”
According to Tom Petrie’s Early Reminiscences of Early Queensland, a ‘kippa’, in the Turrabul language, is a young man. My coarse pillow cover is a memorial to all of the young Aboriginal men and women who are dangerously exposed to law enforcement in Queensland.
The Noosa Museum, has raised many questions by stating that ‘Tewantin is an Anglicised version of the Aboriginal name for the area, dauwadhum, meaning place of dead logs.’ With over 200 ‘Aboriginal’ languages to choose from, I wonder if it is a word of the Traditional Owners of that place, or a word from another people and another place. I wonder if it was a word describing the impact of European timber-getters cutting down trees. I wonder if this word is an affirmation of a food source (cobrah), which was detested by the Europeans. (The cobrah is a worm, which grows in logs, rotting under the water surface) The process of memorialising people, memories, events, etc in the form of place names, and then neglecting to maintain the meaning of the memorial is a normal part of urban life in Australia. This may be the cause of a strong sense of disconnectedness to place and to the past.
There is a Nakina St in Albany, W.A. If Nakina St, Southport is a reference to this name in Western Australia, then it is a reference to a Noongar man, who may have also been known as Mollin or Yallapoli. The brief accounts of Nakina and his brother Mollin, that I have seen, suggest they, too were associated with shootings, ‘clashes’ and attempts to restore order without guns or spears.
I have chosen today to present this memorial, because the results of the Queensland election are in the process of being finalized. Some of the architects of Queensland’s policing in 2014 have been removed from their positions of power, without guns and without sabres.