20 Questions with Vincent Forrester | Australian Greens

20 Questions with Vincent Forrester

Vincent has been an activist for Aboriginal Australians for most of his life. While growing up in Angas Downs in the 1960s, Vincent grew angry with what he saw as a lack of human rights for indigenous people.  Now he is an active member of the Greens and has taken some time to answer our 20 Questions.

By Vincent Forrester
Friday, October 20, 2017

1. What do you remember about your first election?  

My first voting experience was the election when Gough Whitlam got in. It’s Time. They were talking about rights for us, our rights, recognising our rights. There was all the Vietnam War stuff and the moratoriums leading up to it. 1972. The whole of Australia was excited. Here was a man with vision for the way the country should go.  When Gough got in, Charlie Perkins came up here to Central Australia. He was playing a big role in my life at that time and we started things like the Aboriginal legal service and Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (now a medical service). At the time my job was to help build a medical service and provide 200L drums of water to these people who were living in car bodies and sheets of iron. No running water, nothing. No toilets, nothing. This was the time people were thrown off stations because station owners had to pay them a decent wage for work rather than enslave them. They ended up coming to towns like Alice Springs and living on the fringes. Carting the bodies back to the communities for burial was another job.  I had to bring the really old people, who couldn’t read write or talk English, into meetings to talk about land rights, human rights, treaty and whatever. Gough was giving us the money because us mob was asking and advising him.  At the next election, Charlie stood as an independent for the senate. This was when the NT first got self-government in 1978. He didn’t get in. People weren’t registered to vote. This was still just after the referendum of 1967.

2. Endangered Australian animal who's captured your heart?

The bilby (rabbit-eared bandicoot), my daughter’s totem, and the mala (rufous hare wallaby) because it’s Tjukurpa for Uluru.

3. What’s your precious place and why? 

A place called Lila, which means sweet water.  It’s in the hills of King’s Canyon (NT) where there’s lots of water pools and is the place animals come to for a drink. They are protected from hunting there. It’s an amphitheatre of sandstone cliff faces, 150 feet tall, with paintings that tell the story of the area. It has the creation story of three thieves, Wayuta, the brushtail possum, Kuniya, the woma python and Itjaritjari, the marsupial mole. They stole all the tucker from Uluru. Tjintir-tjintirpa, the willy-wagtail, pursues them because these three won’t share their food with everybody.

4. Favourite Greens policy?

Their environmental policies.

5. Best part of your work with the Greens?

Being able to meet other like-minded people, progressive policies and the development of that, i.e. the Indigenous policies being developed now.

6. What keeps you going?

The social and environmental injustices we face every day.

7. Favourite political song? 

The Internationale

8. Who inspires you? Why?

Charlie Perkins because I’m a Charlie’s angel.

9. Comfort food?

Kangaroo tail and echidna.

10. What would you spend $20 billion on? 

A good holiday and Aboriginal bilingual education and Indigenous self-government.

11. Secret vice?

I’ve got lots of them.

12. Best coffee/drink in town? 

Coffee at the Watertank.

13. Three apps you can’t live without?

Sorry, I am not technological.

14. What did you want to be when you grew up?

A stockman and I became one for a while.

15. Morning run or night time swim?

Morning walk. Too scared of crocodiles, sharks and Wanampi, the rainbow snake, who takes swimmers from water holes. I’m a desert man.

16. What’s your greatest hope for the future?

Saving the planet and putting in sensible policies.

17. Magic wand to solve one world problem — what would it be?

No more climate change because we only have one world. Where are we going to go if we stuff this one up. Mother earth is mother earth.

18. What advice would you give a new volunteer?

Stay true to social and environmental justice and know the communities.

19. You can travel through time – where do you go?

I would have liked to be in Botany Bay when Captain Cook and Joseph Banks arrived and know what I know now.

20. If you weren’t doing this for a living, what would you be doing?

I’m not doing it for a living. I am in the long yard with the baldy-bay. (ED: reference to a Slim Dusty song)