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Treated like aliens in their backyard

Neil Gillespie, the father of former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie, is one of the most outspoken Aboriginals rights activist. And, he is not happy with the way things are going for the ethnic community. Amol Karhadkar reports.

india Updated: Feb 17, 2012 00:05 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar
Neil-Gillespie-has-been-fighting-for-the-rights-of-ethnic-groups-known-as-Aboriginals-in-Australia-But-he-is-not-upset-with-his-cricketer-son-Jason-for-not-being-a-part-of-this-HT-photo

Neil Gillespie, the father of former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie, is one of the most outspoken Aboriginals rights activist. And, he is not happy with the way things are going for the ethnic community.

"There is social discrimination. We, in many ways, are a racist nation, which is unfortunate. If a government is seen supporting Aboriginals, it could lose the support of the predominantly white community," says Gillespie Sr, who is proud of his Aboriginal heritage.

"That's a sad reflection of the Australian society. It's fairly intolerant to people from other nations, be it the Chinese, Indians, the Africans… people who are different. That includes the Aboriginals as well."

Long struggle
There are about 300 Aboriginal tribes here fighting for their rights for over a century. While the government refers to them as "indigenous" Australians, Gillespie stresses the need for equal treatment.

"Just because there is no written script for us, doesn't mean we are not united. Everyone from the 42 language groups across the country should be treated equally. Unfortunately, it hasn't been happening.

"At least, two per cent of the country's population is Aboriginal, but 40 per cent of the prisoners are from this ethnic community. That is due to institutionalised discrimination."

While Gillespie Sr has been fighting a political battle with the likes of former prime minister John Howard, whose nomination for the post of president of the International Cricket Council (ICC) created quite a stir, his son, Jason - the first Aboriginal Test cricketer - has not come out strongly in support of his father.

"He said, 'I have no problem with Howard'. That's fine. I am Neil Gillespie, he is Jason Gillespie," he says, referring to his criticism of Howard's ICC candidature last year, which perhaps resulted in Neil losing his job as the CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement.

No hard feelings
But Neil is quick to point out Jason's good work for the community. "Jason's been doing a lot. He will go out to communities and hold cricket clinics.

"Cricket Australia used to appoint him earlier but ever since he was dropped from the Australian side, they never engage Jason," says Neil, hinting probably at the dirty politics in cricket here.

Perhaps, Gillespie Sr's outspokenness is behind one of the biggest mysteries in international cricket - that despite emerging as the Man of the Series in Bangladesh for his 18 wickets and unbeaten 201 in 2006, Jason never played for Australia again.