December 2013 - January 2014

Encounters

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Gary Foley & Joe Strummer

By 1982, ten years since his leading role in pitching the Tent Embassy, Gary Foley had flung himself into the fight for Aboriginal self-determination everywhere from the National Black Theatre in Sydney’s Redfern to the Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne. He’d played opposite Bill Hunter in the film Backroads, established the first Aboriginal information centre in London and kept a team of ASIO snoops busy protecting the country from a Black Power takeover.

One afternoon in February, he was sitting at home in Redfern when “some Pommie bloke rings up and says he’s Joe Strummer from The Clash”. The band were on a ten-date national tour. London Calling, their 1979 distress call from Thatcher’s Britain, had raised them above the post-punk fray, and 1980’s Sandinista! had nailed Strummer’s politicised lyrics to their mast. They weren’t just a kick-arse band: they were a statement.

Strummer invited Foley to the band’s suitably unflash hotel to get the lowdown on Australian politics. The pair hit it off immediately, and Strummer ended up asking Foley to share his thoughts on stage during that night’s gig at the Capitol Theatre. Although dubious that Clash fans were his natural audience, Foley agreed. The Commonwealth Games were coming up in Brisbane, land rights protests were planned, and he thought he might “incite some of these young punks” to join in.

Foley had learnt the arts of the firebrand from John Webster. The charismatic soap-box orator’s weekly expositions were drawing large crowds to the Domain when the young Gumbaynggirr apprentice draftsman with a developing political consciousness arrived in Sydney from Nambucca Heads in 1967. Know what you’re talking about, Webster instructed Foley, use humour, get angry but not with your audience. It was a lesson Foley practised for a decade, “from little old ladies in Brisbane to stadiums in Germany”.

That night, with the band laying the pulse from ‘Armagideon Time’ behind him, Foley gave the punters some extra value for their dollar. His message to the crowd was simple: join us.

The activist joined the band for the next six shows, two weeks of rock’n’roll mayhem, spreading the word across the country.

That September, there were so many demonstrators against the Commonwealth Games that Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen declared a state of emergency. The Clash, meanwhile, were starting to fall apart just as ‘Rock the Casbah’ broke open the door to the United States.

Joe Strummer is now in secular heaven with Woody Guthrie. Dr Gary Foley, PhD, remains a tireless educator and a legend of the underground. Just don’t call him uncle, you young punk.

Shane Maloney and Chris Grosz

Shane Maloney is a writer and the author of the award-winning Murray Whelan series of crime novels. His 'Encounters', illustrated by Chris Grosz, have been published in a collection, Australian Encounters.

Chris Grosz is a book illustrator, painter and political cartoonist. He has illustrated newspapers and magazines such as the Age, the Bulletin and Time.

December 2013 - January 2014

From the front page

Image of prime minister Gough Whitlam addressing reporters outside Parliament after his dismissal by governor-general John Kerr on November 11, 1975.

Palace fetters

An elected Australian government could still be dismissed by the Queen

David Gulpilil at the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 2016.

The many faces of David Gulpilil

Gulpilil’s surrealist performances reveal our collective unconscious

Still from ‘Contempt’

The death of cool: Michel Piccoli, 1925–2020

Re-watching the films of the most successful screen actor of the 20th century

Image of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

Cluster struck

A second wave of COVID-19 cases is dragging the country down


In This Issue

Jonathan Teplitzky’s ‘The Railway Man’

Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman on the Burma Railway

We don’t want to believe in climate change

Fire, climate and denial

Ocean Drive, Miami. © Virginia Duran

Back to Miami

A dip into childhood

Bill Garner’s ‘Born in a Tent’

NewSouth Books; $39.99


More in Arts & Letters

Still from ‘Contempt’

The death of cool: Michel Piccoli, 1925–2020

Re-watching the films of the most successful screen actor of the 20th century

Image of Ziggy Ramo

The heat of a moment: Ziggy Ramo’s ‘Black Thoughts’

A debut hip-hop album that calls for a reckoning with Indigenous sovereignty and invites the listener to respond

Photograph of Malcolm Turnbull

Surrounded by pygmies: Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘A Bigger Picture’

The former PM’s memoir fails to reckon with his fatal belief that all Australians shared his vision

Still from ‘The Assistant’

Her too: ‘The Assistant’

Melbourne-born, New York–based filmmaker Kitty Green’s powerfully underplayed portrait of Hollywood’s abusive culture


More in Encounters

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Rupert Murdoch & Kamahl

Mark Oliphant & J Robert Oppenheimer

John Monash & King George V

John Howard & Uri Geller


Read on

David Gulpilil at the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival on June 8, 2016.

The many faces of David Gulpilil

Gulpilil’s surrealist performances reveal our collective unconscious

Motorists waiting near a police checkpoint in Albury, ahead of the NSW-Victoria border closure on July 8, 2020.

On edge

Closing the borders is an exercise in futility

Image of Olivia Laing’s book ‘Funny Weather’

Small, imperilled utopias: ‘Funny Weather’

Olivia Laing’s book takes hope as an organising principle, asking what art can do in a crisis

Image of Labor’s Kristy McBain and Anthony Albanese

A win’s a win

The Eden-Monaro result shows that Morrison’s popularity has not substantially changed voting patterns – and Labor has still not cut through


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