I recall first reading John Pilger’s A Secret Country on a packed flight in 1991, on my way from England to take up an academic job in Townsville.
At the time, I knew little about Australia’s dark history. Indeed, I have to admit I thought of the country as a lot of Poms do: a beach-loving, sun-soaked haven as depicted by Max Dupain’s ‘Sunbaker’ on the cover of Pilger’s book.
By the time the plane began descending into Townsville, and having read the book from cover to cover, I felt as if I wanted to head back, such were Pilger’s historical insights that assailed my frazzled brain.
To read Pilger is to be pulled bolt upright. He writes with searing clarity, making plain the cruelties and injustices inflicted on Australia’s First Nations people and various other populations seeking a place.
As an independent journalist, John Pilger has, in both print and film, broken the silence on abuse of power around the world, and the human consequences of this. I seethed as I watched Pilger’s documentary, Stealing a Nation, the story of how the British forcibly expelled over 2,000 people from the Chagos Islands to make way for the US airbase at Diego Garcia.
I winced and cursed at what Pilger showed me in The War on Democracy. It explores what the Americans got up to in South America and the lasting effects for its people, including those now facing yet another US military incursion in Venezuela.
Closer to home, I watched with a sense of outrage and disbelief Pilger’s documentary Utopia, about a small Indigenous settlement in the Northern Territory.
Complicity from mainstream media
Pilger reserves his most scathing comments for other journalists, particularly those in the mainstream corporate media who are meant to be exposing the machinations of the rich and powerful, but who instead merely reinforce the status quo through a regime of silence and complicity.
Pilger has dedicated himself to breaking this silence, making plain the corrosive and violent effects of power, whether through the actions of colonising empires or in the self-serving and rapacious actions of economic and political elites at the expense of the world’s poor and marginalised.
Pilger doesn’t pull any punches; he discomforts, asks the killer questions, and deconstructs the official line.
Without the likes of John Pilger, we would know a whole lot less about how the world operates and why progressive change is needed, and urgently.
The Ngara institute is delighted and honoured that John has agreed to come and speak in one of Australia’s most progressive regions.
After a short opening address, John will take questions from the audience.
You’ll have an opportunity to hear what he has to say about current global affairs, the attacks on Venezuela, the climate emergency, the coming war with China, Julian Assange, Australia’s continued mistreatment of refugees and Indigenous people, and its kowtowing to the US.
John will spell out why we need a different, more just, peaceful and regenerative world order based on social justice and human rights.
Come and join the conversation with John Pilger on Wednesday April 10 at the Cavanbah Centre.
Tickets are available at on eventbrite.
♦ Richard Hil is convenor of the Ngara institute