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Opinion Pieces - Bikies had no answer as blind justice took over (2009)

Disability Disability Rights

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Bikies had no answer as blind justice took over

Author: Graeme Innes AM, Human Rights Commissioner

Publication: The Daily Telegraph (Friday, 23 January 2009)


FOR BABY boomers who have kids, part of summer holiday long drives is the time for telling exaggerated stories of derring-do from one's youth. One such story popped into my head as we drove past the dog sitting on the tucker box at Gundagai on our way home from the Snowy Mountains several weeks ago.

And I couldn't resist re-telling it to the Johnny Mercer refrain of ``accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative''.

Part of my youth was spent as an activist in the disability field, travelling around the country to various meetings and conferences devoted to the cause of establishing a national disability movement. On one of these occasions I was travelling back to Sydney from Wagga Wagga in a car full of my mates and their various mobility aids -- a couple of wheelchairs, a walking stick and my own white cane.

We decided -- as you do -- to stop for a hamburger at the tucker box. (Insert at this point loud, tuneless renditions of The Dog Sat On The Tucker Box and the protesting voice of an 11-year-old in the back of the car).

We'd just settled in with our hamburgers and milkshakes when a group of bikies arrived. And their idea of fun was to terrorise the young woman who was managing the hamburger joint.

Now in those days I was a fighter for equality on the front line -- not using the more conservative legal tools that I use today. And I was offended by the crass and sexist behaviour these people were demonstrating. But what could I do -- one bloke with an aluminium white cane, whose pecs needed a lot more work, up against half a dozen tattooed grizzlies with chains at the ready.

So, I came up with a cunning plan.

I found out that they had parked their machines on either side of our car. Borrowing the car keys from my mate in the wheelchair, I proceeded to walk to the car, white cane prominently on display, and in full view of the marauding horde.

I tapped my way to the driver's door, got in, started the engine and revved it a couple of times.

Balancing the opportunity to have some fun at the expense of the female hamburger operative against the potential terminal damage to their prized modes of transport from my driving, their retreat was prompt and absolute.

I've never known a group of motorbikes to leave more burned rubber in any car park of any hamburger joint.

Which just goes to show that brains can sometimes outwit brawn and disability can have some advantages.

At least, that's the way I told the story to my kids.

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