John Singleton, “The real story behind WA’s ‘race riots’,”
The Bulletin, October 9, 1979, pp. 22-24.

Anywhere you go in Western Australia these days, people can’t wait to tell you about the race riots up north.

The stories are all pretty coloured, although “pretty” isn’t the right word (and neither is “coloured” I suppose); but they are substantiated by a whole lot of newspaper reports, which I naturally make a point of reading.

Most of the trouble is written about a place called Fitzroy Crossing, which is stuck up in the top left-hand corner of Australia.

It’s a pretty important town, as you can imagine, with 30-odd whites and 500 to 800 Aborigines, depending on who you talk to, and at what time.

When I get there, I am not too sure what to expect.

Especially because some of the toughest men I know in the whole country won’t even go to the Fitzroy rodeo, because they reckon it’s a town just waiting for a riot to happen.

And they stress they’re not kidding either, which I am quite happy to believe.

Especially when I get there.

For a start, you have to have a mental picture of Fitzroy Crossing.

The centre of the town, and also all there is to the town, is the pub: The Crossing Inn.

It’s a good looking old pub, in an Aussie bush sort of way.

Intelligently, there aren’t any enclosures. Just a centre bar surrounded by verandahs.

When the drinking is finished, the grog gets locked up and the floor gets hosed and everything is ready for the next day.

What’s wrong with that?

All around the pub is miles and miles of flats.

If you’ve ever been to a big game at the Sydney Cricket Ground, you know what it looks like before they clean it up. Nothing but empty cans and worse, as far as your bleary eyes can see.

Well, the flats around the pub at Fitzroy are exactly like that: except no one, as far as I could find out, ever cleans it up.

And there are also trees for the Aborigines to camp under when they’re taking a break from the pub.

And that isn’t being cruel, or even exaggerated a tiny bit; in fact, it happens to be less than even the truth; but as much as I’m game to say otherwise you’ll get all angry and miss the whole point of the exercise.

The rest of the town is made up of a post office five kilometres to the left of the pub, and police, ambulance and hospital three kilometres on the other side. A real genius town plan.

But let’s race back to these race riots.

You have to remember that 30 white people in a town isn’t a lot. And when there is trouble, no one likes it much. No one wants to talk about it much.

If you have want to find anything, you have to sort of hang around and listen and ask and listen some more, and eventually you might get the drift, which is as close as you’re ever going to get and which is as follows:

Until a couple of years ago, Fitzroy is a pretty bad place to be.

Everybody is getting drunk. There is fighting and some other amusements.

And not too many of the local native inhabitants seem all that inclined to work.

So this causes a bit more arguing and a bit more fighting and then one of the station managers gets really dirty about the Aborigines living on his station getting unemployment benefits, especially when he can’t get anyone to work.

So he dobs big mobs in, which doesn’t make those concerned jump up and down with happiness, but they do jump up and down nevertheless.

Then, some of the white hands from the station come into town and decide the Aborigines would be better off if they were white, so they run around throwing self-raising flour over their black brothers.

Naturally, the Aborigines don’t think the flour business all that funny; and when the white station hand are going back to their station, they get stopped in their Toyotas by 14 very angry Aborigines and a massacre occurs.

Except it isn’t the three whites who cop the caning, but the 14 natives.

Well, this is just about the last straw as far as the do-gooders are concerned and the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Community Welfare and everyone else on the still trendy Aboriginal bandwagon decide that this time they are going to take the whites to court and they are going to pay. Boy are they going to pay.

But in any court it is pretty hard for 14 fit men to lay assault charges against only three, no matter who is black or who is white.

And so, as you would expect, the case gets tossed out and that, you would think, is the end of that. But it isn’t.

Because then the Aboriginal Legal Service people etc, ask the West Australian police commissioner, Mr Leitch, to get rid of the local sergeant, Malcolm Cole.

This case, they say, is definite proof that he is a dead-set racist and a bad bastard to boot.

And for good measure the public servants throw in another 20 Aboriginal complaints.

So in June this year two of Western Australia’s top cops go up to Fitzroy Crossing to take a first-hand (never second-hand) look at the complaints in uniformed person.

They can’t find anything to complain about, but probably to save a fuss they recommend that Cole be transferred “for his own safety.”

Whether or not they are influenced by the fact that the aforesaid sergeant’s wife has been attacked and threatened with death by a friendly local witchdoctor is unknown.

What is known is that Cole is none too concerned about his own safety (if you saw his head full of cauliflower ears and jackhammer arms, you wouldn’t be all that concerned if you were him either), but the entire white population and most of the Aboriginal population are very concerned for their safety if Cole does go.

In fact, they are so concerned they call a special meeting and urgently ask the commissioner to come and see for himself what the problem isn’t.

Well, to cut a short story long, the commissioner fronts himself and in person calls a meeting to which everyone is invited, including all the public service Aboriginal hangers-on and the Aborigines themselves and especially their elders and even the whites.

Commissioner Leitch tells me he is pretty surprised that everyone turns up except the Aboriginal Legal Service servant and the Community Welfare servant who are behind the move to get Cole out in the first place.

But anyway everyone else does front and the commissioner finds that both blacks and whites can say nothing but good about the cop in question (which is probably a world record) and so Cole is allowed to stay in his job — which is not the kind of job there is any queue for in any event.

So that’s the story when I get there, as close as I can find out which is pretty close.

I find out most of what the go is by hanging around the pub for a couple of days while no one knows who I am or what I am doing and I am able to see what really goes on, without any bulltoss.

The first shock I get in the pub itself is that there are two bars separated by iron piping.

No shock so far, but the bar nearest the road is full of Aborigines.

The Aborigines drink almost exclusively beer which is served in plastic cups! Shock!

In the other bar are the whites who also drink almost exclusively beer but in glasses made of glass.

There aren’t any signs, and there isn’t any difference in the price of drinks.

And then you notice a couple of well-dressed, well-behaved Aborigines drinking on the glass side.

And a couple of whites drinking on the plastic cup side.

So one way or another you get the drift, which is pretty simple: anyone can really drink anywhere they like.

But the town’s trouble-makers and glass throwers either drink in the plastic cup bar or they don’t drink at all.

Everyone knows the rule.

No one is hassled by it and, even though I know it all sounds a bit rough, you have to remember the joint is even rougher.

It’s just like having a public bar and a saloon bar; except at Fitzroy there is the getting-drunk bar and the having-the-one bar. It’s entirely up to you. Black or white.

The next interesting thing is the way the cops handle the “business.”

They arrive every hour or so. No fuss. No sirens. Just wander in and around:

A white seedy cook from one of the stations has been biffing his Aboriginal wife on the jaw every time she calls him white trash, which is a bit too often for her own health if you ask me.

The cop tells him to treat her with respect, keep his home arguments for home and in fact to go home until he sobers up.

A young, very pretty, Aboriginal woman who unfortunately cannot stand up is asked where her baby is. She has left it out on the flat under a tree.

The Aboriginal police aide (every outback cop in Western Australia has one with him to help bridge the communication gap) knows her personally and asks one of her relatives to carry her back to her baby.

Two young Aborigines who have been having a half-hearted running fight all night are told to “bush it,” which means:

Like, if you want to fight, go and beat hell out of one another in the bush, not in the pub or outside it.

But they don’t want to fight if no one is looking, so they start again outside the pub and get to have bed and breakfast courtesy of Her Majesty.

Everyone else is in good spirits. There’s no threats. No enmity. Everyone calls the police by their first name and vice versa.

In fact, the whole scene is more like the way sheriffs used to act in those old westerns. You know, in those old Tom Mix and Hopalong Cassidy days.

And believe me, Fitzroy is every bit as wild as those old wild-west towns and that’s on a quiet day.

Mind you, the week I am there is also the biggest week of the year at Fitzroy Crossing.

The annual race week is on and every white and every Aboriginal gathers to the fray.

Actually, a week at Fitzroy races is exactly the same as a week at the pub except that the drinking is interrupted every hour or so by two or three horses trying their best to walk around a dirt track.

Sometimes 10 or 12 people actually leave the bar to watch and the sole, solitary bookmaker was even seen to lay a bet; although I cannot vouch for this myself.

It is probably the last genuine Aussie bush race meeting in the whole Aussie bush. Bloody fantastic.

And the action gets wilder and the horses get tireder every day.

And the police get busier every day, but not one person is arrested without getting a real good “bush it” warning first.

In fact, it is the most sensible behaviour I have ever seen by Australian police and I am singularly impressed, which for me, and especially for police, is very impressed indeed.

And if you think the police know their way around, you ought to meet the magistrates.

Stan Webb is one, Bob Skuthorpe another.

I have met Bob before. He fixes saddles around the stations.

Bob also calls the races in a way that makes even a two-horse race a matter of great confusion as to which horse is winning, or indeed which horse is coming second. Or both, or either, or neither.

In fact, it is my opinion that Bob Skuthorpe is the worst race caller in the history of race calling.

He is also a top bloke.

He also doesn’t have many teeth.

Like, he’s having a chuck out of his Toyota one night and his bloody teeth fall out and the bloody Toyota runs over them, which Bob thinks is hilarious and which probably is.

The next day (Saturday) Bob and Stan Webb are sitting in judgment of everyone who has been arrested at the races on Friday: They want to hear the cases on Saturday morning so they can do the right think and let everyone out for the last day of race week.

Why don’t I come along?

I do.

I mean you have to get the message that Bob and Stan are real knockabouts.

They know all the locals, whites and Aboriginals, by their first names because they grew up with them.

They drink with their mates, they work with their mates. They just happen to play magistrate when some of their mates get out of line.

The court sits half an hour late because the Aboriginal Legal Aid servant doesn’t front (like it is a Saturday after all).

The Community Welfare servants have been given permission to represent the Aboriginals in court when Legal Aid isn’t available, but they have given this up as a bad job some time ago.

So on the show goes.

The cases are heard at the rate of about one a minute.

Justice is done. Justice is seen to be done.

So what is all the “race riot” fuss about, really.

I know the Aborigines are drunk most of the time when they’re in town, but as close as I can make out it’s just like if you or me win the lottery.

We take the day off work and go and get plastered, don’t we?

Well, it’s the same with the Aborigines except they win the welfare lottery every day, so they celebrate every day. And take the day off work every day. It is logical.

And unlike you and me, they don’t want or need a flash house or car or colour TV.

They just want to sit down in the sun, have the one and enjoy themselves.

They don’t want to be like us at all. In fact, many of us whites (eg hippies) are actually living all over the sunshine spots of north Australia just like the Aborigines live, only with grass instead of beer.

But the do-gooders who believe that the best thing they can do for the Aborigine is have them emulate our own white European lives are guilty of gross arrogance.

In fact, every time I look at one of those bearded university-trained southern do-gooders, I wonder if they will ever realise that they can never solve the Aboriginal problem because they are the problem.

[Note from For more by the same author on the same topic, see here.]

(in order of appearance on
  1. Governments Consume Wealth — They Don't Create It
  2. Singo and Howard Propose Privatising Bondi Beach
  3. Singo and Howard Speak Out Against the Crackpot Realism of the CIS and IPA
  4. Singo and Howard on Compromise
  5. Singo and Howard on Monopolies
  6. Singo and Howard Support Sydney Harbour Bridge Restructure
  7. Singo and Howard on Striking at the Root, and the Failure of Howard, the CIS and the IPA
  8. Singo and Howard Explain Why Australia is Not a Capitalist Country
  9. Singo and Howard Call Democracy Tyrannical
  10. Singo and Howard on Drugs!
  11. Simpleton sells his poll philosophy
  12. Singo and Howard Decry Australia Day
  13. Singo and Howard Endorse the Workers Party
  14. Singo and Howard Oppose the Liberal Party
  15. Singo and Howard Admit that Liberals Advocate and Commit Crime
  16. Up the Workers! Bob Howard's 1979 Workers Party Reflection in Playboy
  17. John Whiting's Inaugural Workers Party Presidential Address
  18. John Singleton and Bob Howard 1975 Monday Conference TV Interview on the Workers Party
  19. Singo and Howard on Aborigines
  20. Singo and Howard on Conservatism
  21. Singo and Howard on the Labor Party
  22. Singo, Howard and Hancock Want to Secede
  23. John Singleton changes his name
  24. Lang Hancock's Foreword to Rip Van Australia
  25. New party will not tolerate bludgers: Radical party against welfare state
  26. Singo and Howard introduce Rip Van Australia
  27. Singo and Howard on Knee-Jerks
  28. Singo and Howard on Tax Hunts (Lobbying)
  29. Singo and Howard on Rights
  30. Singo and Howard on Crime
  31. Singo and Howard on Justice
  32. Singo and Howard on Unemployment
  33. John Singleton on 1972 cigarette legislation
  34. Singo and Howard: Gambling Should Neither Be Illegal Nor Taxed
  35. Holed up, hold-up and holdout
  36. The libertarian alternative vs the socialist status quo
  37. Workers Party Platform
  38. Singo and Howard Join Forces to Dismantle Welfare State
  39. Singo and Howard on Business
  40. Singo and Howard on Discrimination
  41. Singo and Howard on the Greens
  42. Singo and Howard on Xenophobia
  43. Singo and Howard on Murdoch, Packer and Monopolistic Media
  44. Singo and Howard Explain that Pure Capitalism Solves Pollution
  45. Singo and Howard Defend Miners Against Government
  46. Singo and Howard on Bureaucracy
  47. Singo and Howard on Corporate Capitalism
  48. The last words of Charles Russell
  49. Ted Noffs' Preface to Rip Van Australia
  50. Right-wing anarchists revamping libertarian ideology
  51. Giving a chukka to the Workers Party
  52. Govt "villain" in eyes of new party
  53. "A beautiful time to be starting a new party": Rand fans believe in every man for himself
  54. Introducing the new Workers' Party
  55. Paul Rackemann 1980 Progress Party Election Speech
  56. Lang Hancock 1978 George Negus Interview
  57. Voices of frustration
  58. Policies of Workers Party
  59. Party Promises to Abolish Tax
  60. AAA Tow Truck Co.
  61. Singo and Howard on Context
  62. Singo and Howard Blame Roosevelt for Pearl Harbour
  63. Singo and Howard on Apathy
  64. Workers Party is "not just a funny flash in the pan"
  65. Singo and Howard on Decency
  66. John Singleton in 1971 on the 2010 Federal Election
  67. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John Pty. Ltd. Advertising Agents
  68. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  69. The writing of the Workers Party platform and the differences between the 1975 Australian and American libertarian movements
  70. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  71. Bob Howard interviewed by Merilyn Giesekam on the Workers Party
  72. A Farewell to Armchair Critics
  73. Sukrit Sabhlok interviews Mark Tier
  74. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  75. David Russell Workers Party Policy Speech on Brisbane TV
  76. Bludgers need not apply
  77. New party formed "to slash controls"
  78. The Workers Party
  79. Malcolm Turnbull says "the Workers party is a force to be reckoned with"
  80. The great consumer protection trick
  81. The "Workers" speak out
  82. How the whores pretend to be nuns
  83. The Workers Party is a Political Party
  84. Shit State Subsidised Socialist Schooling Should Cease Says Singo
  85. My Journey to Anarchy:
    From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
  86. Workers Party Reunion Intro
  87. Singo and Howard on Freedom from Government and Other Criminals
  88. Singo and Howard on Young People
  89. Singo and Howard Expose how Government Healthcare Controls Legislate Doctors into Slavery
  90. Singo and Howard Engage with Homosexuality
  91. Singo and Howard Demand Repeal of Libel and Slander Laws
  92. Singo and Howard on Consumer Protection
  93. Singo and Howard on Consistency
  94. Workers Party is born as foe of government
  95. Political branch formed
  96. Government seen by new party as evil
  97. Singo and Howard on Non-Interference
  98. Singo and Howard on Women's Lib
  99. Singo and Howard on Licences
  100. Singo and Howard on Gun Control
  101. Singo and Howard on Human Nature
  102. Singo and Howard on Voting
  103. Singo and Howard on
    Inherited Wealth
  104. Singo and Howard on Education
  105. Singo and Howard on Qualifications
  106. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  107. Singo and Howard Hate Politicians
  108. Undeserved handouts make Australia the lucky country
  109. A happy story about Aborigines
  110. John Singleton on Political Advertising
  111. Richard Hall, Mike Stanton and Judith James on the Workers Party
  112. Singo Incites Civil Disobedience
  113. How John Singleton Would Make Tony Abbott Prime Minister
  114. The Discipline of Necessity
  115. John Singleton on the first election the Workers Party contested
  116. Libertarians: Radicals on the right
  117. The Bulletin on Maxwell Newton as Workers Party national spokesman on economics and politics
  118. Singo and Howard: Australia Should Pull Out of the Olympics
  119. Singo and Howard Like Foreign Investment
  120. Mark Tier corrects Nation Review on the Workers Party
  121. The impossible dream
  122. Why can't I get away with it?
  123. The bold and boring Lib/Lab shuffle
  124. Time for progress
  125. The loonie right implodes
  126. Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
  127. John Singleton on refusing to do business with criminals and economic illiterates
  128. Censorship should be banned
  129. "Listen, mate, a socialist is a bum"
  130. John Singleton on Advertising
  131. John Singleton on why he did the Hawke re-election campaign
  132. Sinclair Hill calls for dropping a neutron bomb on Canberra
  133. Bob Howard in Reason 1974-77
  134. John Singleton defends ockerism
  135. Singo and Howard talk Civil Disobedience
  136. The Census Con
  137. Singo and Howard Oppose Australian Participation in the Vietnam War
  138. Did John Singleton oppose the mining industry and privatising healthcare in 1990?
  139. Bob Carr in 1981 on John Singleton's political bent
  140. John Singleton-Ita Buttrose interview (1977)
  141. John Singleton on elections: "a Massive One-Day Sale!"
  142. John Hyde's Progress Party praise
  143. King Leonard of Hutt River Declares Defensive Just War Against Australia the Aggressor
  144. Singo says Lang Hancock violated Australia's 11th commandment: Thou Shalt Not Succeed
  145. Singleton: the White Knight of Ockerdom
  146. John Singleton bites into Sinclair Hill's beef
  147. Save Parramatta Road
  148. 1979 news item on new TV show John Singleton With a Lot of Help From His Friends
  149. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  150. Singo and Howard on Unions
  151. Singo and Howard Smash the State
  152. Singo and Howard on the big issue of Daylight Saving
  153. Come back Bob - It was all in fun!
  154. A few "chukkas" in the Senate for polo ace?
  155. Country Rejuvenation - Towards a Better Future
  156. Singo and Howard on Profits, Super Profits and Natural Disasters
  157. John Singleton's 1977 pitch that he be on a committee of one to run the Sydney 1988 Olympics for profit
  158. Thoughts on Land Ownership
  159. 1975 Max Newton-Ash Long interview on the Workers Party
  160. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  161. The great Labor Party platform: first or last, everybody wins a prize
  162. The politics of marketing - laugh now, pay later
  163. Singo and Howard call Australia fascist and worse
  164. The mouse will roar
  165. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  166. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  167. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  168. Hancock's playing very hard to get
  169. Harry M. Miller and The Australian disgrace themselves
  170. Ocker ad genius takes punt on art
  171. John Singleton 1976 ocker Monday Conference Max Harris debate
  172. John Singleton mocks university students on civil liberties and freedom of choice in 1971
  173. Murray Rothbard championed on Australian television in 1974 (pre-Workers Party!) by Maureen Nathan
  174. John Singleton profile in 1977 Australian MEN Vogue
  175. I think that I shall never see a telegraph pole as lovely as a tree
  176. Ralph Nader vs John Singleton on Consumer Protection
  177. John Singleton's first two "Think" columns in Newspaper News, 1969
  178. Singo and Howard on Ballet
  179. Product innovation comes first
  180. Protect who from a 'mindless' wife?
  181. A party is born
  182. Tiny Workers' Party gives us a hint
  183. John Singleton on the ad industry, consumerism and innovation
  184. Workers Party Economic Policy Statement, December 1975
  185. Lang Hancock on the Workers Party, secession and States Rights
  186. John Singleton and Howard on Government Largesse
  187. Counterculture must exclude government handouts
  188. John Singleton's 1974 Federal Liberal Election Campaign Ads
  189. John Singleton believes in the Workers Party
  190. Write-up of John Singleton's 1978 speech to the Australian Liberal Students Association
  191. Singo in 1987: "Joh doesn't go far enough ... I want absolute deregulation of the economy"
  192. Maxwell Newton chapter of Clyde Packer's No Return Ticket (1984)
  193. Singo and Howard on Totalitarian Socialism and Voluntary Socialism
  194. Rip Van Australia on Ripoff Vandals Taxing Australia
  195. Singo and Howard beg for tolerance
  196. John Singleton's 1985 advertising comeback
  197. Singo and Howard Demand End to Public Transport
  198. John Singleton and Howard on Fred Nile, Festival of Light, FamilyVoice Australia and the Christian Lobby
  199. Capitalism: Survival of the Fittest
  200. Return Australia Post to Sender
  201. Singo and Howard on Public Utilities
  202. John Singleton and Howard say monarchy should be funded by monarchists alone
  203. John Singleton on cigarette advertising
  204. Singo in 1972 on newspapers' demise
  205. John Singleton farewells Bryce Courtenay
  206. John Singleton on Australian political advertising in 1972
  207. Gortlam rides again
  208. Announcement that Lang Hancock will be guest of honour at the Workers Party launch
  209. John Singleton on trading stamps, idiot housewives and government
  210. 1975 John Singleton-Sir Robert Askin Quadrant Interview
  211. Singo asks two prickly questions
  213. Why John Singleton can't keep a straight face
  214. Why John Singleton Defends Smokers Rights
  215. Tony Dear on Paul Krutulis, the Workers Party and murder
  216. An Ode to Busybodies
  217. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  218. How many tits in a tangle?
  219. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
  220. John Singleton wants the Post Office sold and anti-discrimination legislation scrapped
  221. A speech from the Titanic
  222. A crime must have a victim
  223. John Singleton vs Australia Post
  224. Minimum wages the killer
  225. Has Fraser got his priorities all wrong?
  226. John Singleton says "the royal family should be flogged off to the U.S."
  227. John Singleton vs Don Chipp and the Australian Democrats
  228. John Singleton vs Don Lane
  229. John Singleton. Horseracing. Why?
  230. John Singleton's 1986 reflection on the Workers Party
  231. Bob Howard in 1978 on libertarianism in Australia
  232. John Singleton on the stupidity of anti-discrimination laws
  233. Thou shalt know the facts ... before thou shoot off thou mouth
  234. Charity: An Aesop Fable
  235. Bob Howard announces the Workers Party in freeEnterprise
  236. New improved moon
  237. Announcing people ... YES, people!
  238. Creativity in advertising must be pointed dead on target
  239. John Singleton on barriers to, and opportunities for, effective communication
  240. Wayne Garland on John Singleton on Advertising
  241. John Singleton schools ad course
  242. John Singleton: advertising awards
  243. Mr Singleton Goes to Canberra for Australian Playboy
  244. John Singleton on his TV career for Australian Playboy
  245. John Singleton sacked for telling the truth about Medicare
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