The Life and Suicide of Rob Riley
Publisher: Dreamtime Audio Books
Date: June 2017
Duration: 0 hours 27 minutes
Out of respect for the Riley Family, I've been asked not to name anyone in this audio book out of respect for Indigenous Australian culture as several people in this story have passed away telling their stories about the late Rob Riley.
There are interviews and speeches from various people around Australia painting a picture about the life of Rob Riley both personal and professional. Rob was a high profile Indigenous Australian who fought for many social justice issues over 30 years. In 1996 at the age of only 42 Rob took his own life hanging himself in a motel in the city of Perth in Australia. He made one mistake of being charged with a driving offense and the community came down hard on him. Towards the end of this story a point is made that the community was too hard on Rob and we sometimes don't look at the overall character what someone does for our community.
Rob Riley stopped the legal service developing into a bureaucracy that couldn't be managed and less accountable to the community. He was involved in the fight and protection of sacred sites in the Kimberly region of Australia where he met with Land Councils to stop the oil riggers mining oil on Traditional Land of Indigenous Australians.
He was Chairman of the NAC the National Aboriginal Congress in the 1980's which was like an Aboriginal government that helped with governance issues. It was also a powerful political lobby group on Land Rights in Australia. Rob was a part of establishing ATSIC the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. He played a key role in the ATSIC's preamble debating the issue night after night late at night, so that dispossession of Indigenous Australia could be enshrined in legislation but the Senate knocked it out. A price was paid by Rob Riley as he was attacked by Australian politicians under parliamentary privilege.
Rob opposed the juvenile justice laws in the state of Western Australia stating that they were outdated and against human rights. He was also played a key role in the royal commission into deaths in custody where he visited various prisons.
He was a negotiator with the federal government with the Mabo High Court case where Native Title legislation gave Indigenous people the rights to try and get traditional lands returned.
Rob was charged with a driving offense and contacted the assistant commissioner of police to apologise to the two constables for what he put them through.
We hear the Eulogy from his daughters and reveal how his role as a leader in the community was detrimental to his health and family. Rob was given a nick name as the frill neck lizard of Australia where he stood his ground trying to change a world of entrenched and difficult odds.
Many people have said that Rob Riley was a great man in Australia, but as someone states at his funeral, ' it's a pity you couldn't have told him that he was a great man. '