John’s mother remembers him at the age of 5 trying to drag her into the Gympie Police Station arguing that they should go in and “help the man the naughty policeman had been hitting”. He has always chosen to side with the underdog. The first demonstration he attended, in 1962, at the age of 19 was staged to try and stop the deportation of Willy Wong, a Chinese national who had worked for 8 years in Australia but did not have a residency permit. He became leader of Student Action at the University of Queensland and campaigned against the death penalty and the vagrancy laws. Also at this time he worked with Oodgeroo Noonuccal in Indigenous struggles and visited Indigenous communities on Cape York in 1963. He was battered unconscious by a copper at an Indigenous demonstration in the early 1970s.
In Darwin, he helped set up the Coalition of Low Income Earners (COLIE) and the Darwin Unemployed Workers Union. His paid and unpaid activities brought him into contact with many people who were homeless and he has campaigned in their interests in Darwin, Canberra and Brisbane. His involvement with the Northern Territory Council of Civil Liberties led to charges being laid over a dispute with the Police Commissioner about the editing of a TV tape he had provided to the Commissioner showing police torturing an Aboriginal youth unconscious on the main street of Darwin. He was convicted of hindering police in the ACT.
He has been opposed to the incorporation of West Papua into Indonesia since 1961, the Vietnam War, the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan and our military involvement in many other places. He was charged in 1975 with attempting to get supplies to Fretlin Resistance fighters in East Timor after the Indonesian invasion.
Copyright © 2023 John Tomlinson