Gerry Georgatos is a life-long human rights and social justice campaigner, and a multi-award winning investigative journalist. In 2011, he left a management background and the tertiary sector, relocating from city living to country town life but soon found himself working exclusively as a journalist and writer and in demand. After years as a university researcher in racism and in the ways forward he found himself called upon to contribute as a journalist for the National Indigenous Times, where his sustained coverage of stories led to positive outcomes and in 2012 he won four national awards. His breakthrough stories on the Native Title Act and the Yindjibarndi launched one inquiry (by The National Native Title Tribunal) and changed the political landscape. His social justice campaigns include his ongoing work with the homeless, his anti-drugs campaigns, fighting racism and discrimination, and his freedom of speech campaigns.
Gerry has completed two Masters in trying to understand racism and the ways forward. He has fought a number of campaigns, often at great personal toll, in trying to eliminate racism, including from universities – he was once told by a university official, “What do these blacks want? An education? Send them back to the bush where they belong!”
Gerry PhD research is on Australia’s Custodial Systems and in Australian Deaths in Custody and has extensively studied racism, its veils and layers, but he also extended his doctoral research to premature deaths, unnatural deaths and suicides – his work in suicides has led to a greater public awareness of the extensiveness of suicides among Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples – children, youth and adults – and because of his work in this area the Federal Government recently included this tragedy among our Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples as part of their mandate.
Gerry is interviewed on The WIRE – http://www.thewire.org.au/storyDetail.aspx?ID=10972#1
A telling interview with Gerry on Tiga Bayle’s Let’s Talk program on 98.9FM – http://www.989fm.com.au/podcasts/lets-talk/gerry-georgatos-15/
Indonesian children in Australian Adult Prisons – During one of Gerry’s visits to an Australian adult prison to talk to prisoners about future education and employment opportunities he came across a number of Indonesians who appeared to him under age. Soon after while visiting an Immigration Detention Centre he met an Indonesian boy who told him he was 15. A month later on a visit to the same prison where he believed he had come across under age prisoners he came across the Indonesian boy. Then began a near two year campaign to release Indonesian children who had been wrongly imprisoned in Australian adult prisons. His campaign would include parliamentarians, Foreign Affairs ministries (Australia and Indonesia), the Australian Human Rights Commission, lawyers and journalists Australia wide. His behind the scenes work to free these children was pivotal.
Most of these children have been released, however Gerry believes a national inquiry should take place to review all Indonesian prisoners, to ensure no further ‘age disputes’ languish.
Gerry has also had a long involvement with Wheelchairs for Kids – a one of a kind organisation manufacturing rough terrain children’s wheelchairs – more than 26,000 wheelchairs have been donated so far to children in 68 countries.
8 December 2013 – Certificate of Appreciation awarded for longstanding humanitarian and philanthropic deeds with Wheelchairs for Kids http://lateralloveaustralia.com/2013/12/08/congratulations-lateral-love-ambassador-gerry-georgatos/
Gerry’s academic life shifted from other streams to human rights education and social justice law and he is a human rights practitioner and educator who believes in unfolding human rights and social justice as both a vocabulary and way of life – Gerry believes that the means and the end are identical and that they cannot be separated and that for instance peace and non-violence are the way to peace and non-violence.
His career long human rights and social justice campaigning have come with many myriad bright outcomes. His social justice campaigns include his ongoing work with the homeless, the destitute, his anti-drugs campaigns, fighting racism and discrimination, and his freedom of speech campaigns.
In 2008 he was recognised by the State of Western Australia – The Department of Communities and Services with three nominations for the organisation he founded – Students Without Borders. Winning two of three categories included the individual person category – Outstanding Individual – for introducing the Australia-first of compulsory Aboriginal studies as a component of all undergraduate students at the university Gerry was a Board member of and who also sat on the university’s peak academic planning body. He was also recognised for founding Students Without Borders and for his work with the homeless and various communities across the State.
His weekly contributions to the National Indigenous Times have been enjoyed by readers nationwide and he was quite a following. His sustained coverage of stories has led to positive outcomes and in 2012 won three national awards for his investigative journalism. He is also well known for his outspokenness on various injustices, and has a particular expertise in unveiling the layers of racism. He has also joined the National Indigenous Radio Service as a correspondent. He is also part of the near year old The Stringer – http://thestringer.com.au/ – a fast paced daily online news service that has generated an incredible following nationally and internationally. In his first two years as a journalist he has won six national awards – including Multicultural Journalist of the Year (2013), Best Investigative Journalism (2012 and 2013), Best Indigenous Coverage (2012 and 2013) and Best Feature Writing (2012).
Gerry Georgatos is the eldest of six children of Greek immigrant parents. He was born in Homebush, NSW in 1962. He left Sydney in the early 1980s and travelled extensively for more than a decade. Some of his early life can be found in this 2012 interview he gave to journalist Penni Pappas of the national Greek Australian newspaper, Neos Kosmos (newspaper). – http://neoskosmos.com/news/en/the-milk-of-human-kindness – “’Do in life what is right and when people ask of your deeds and words, be able to account for them on the spot,’ was the sound advice given to Greek Australian journalist/writer, PhD law researcher and convener Human Rights Alliance by his parents. In fact, the philosophy was passed down to all six children – of which Gerry Georgatos is the eldest – by his migrant working class parents. The whole time we speak Georgatos speaks fondly of his parents – Napoleon, 83, and Angela, 75 – who instilled in him the courage and compassion to fight for what he believes.”
Students Without Borders
In 2004 while Gerry Georgatos was at Murdoch University he founded Students Without Borders, and which during the next 6 years would go on to become the largest student volunteer program in the nation with more than one hundred programs – some with global social reach. It started with a computer recycling program which he began from his Murdoch home right nearby the university where we worked as the Guild General Manager. The computer recycling was relocated to a room on the Murdoch campus and under his direction became the flagship program of Students Without Borders. The computer recycling program, known as 8Ball became the largest recycler of computers in Australia – with 55,000 computers donated to mostly Western Australians and community groups in the six years, and with thousands of computers shipped overseas – donated – to schools which had never seen a computer before, including Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Senegal and India. His outstanding community work with Students Without Borders was recognised by the WA State Government in 2008. Students Without Borders was the only multiple finalist in the 8 categories of the WA Community and Service Industry awards, winning two of the three categories it was nominated for and Gerry Georgatos winning the category for Outstanding Individual Contribution.
More can be found at http://jwoollard.com/media/outstanding-community-work-rewarded
Wheelchairs for Children
In 2007, Gerry Georgatos as the head of Students Without Borders and as the General Manager of the Murdoch University Guild was approached by a Curtin University International Relations student, who has since graduated and has returned to his country of origin, Iraq, to help his people, Riyadh Al-Hakimi. Mr Al-Hakimi has begun Students Without Borders chapters at Iraqi universities and works for the Iraqi Government. Mr Hakimi asked Gerry Georgatos to assist with wheelchairs to Iraq, where depleted uranium (Gulf Wars), landmines and bombs have left many children incapacitated. There are no wheelchair manufacturers in Iraq, the nation has been devastated by war. Gerry said ‘yes’ and to this day continues fund raising for shipments of wheelchairs to Iraqi children. Wheelchairs for Kids -http://www.wheelchairsforkids.org/ – donates the wheelchairs. The first shipment of 340 pre-assembled wheelchairs, in 2007 to Iraq, required the assistance of the ADF, because of the UN sanctions against Iraq. The ADF flew them by Hercules to Kuwait where Mr Al-Hakimi and the Red Crescent met them and then an escort delivered them to the Iraqi towns of Najaf, Samara and Ramadi where they were disbursed through the hospitals.
· On December 4 2012, Gerry Georgatos with the invaluable assistance of Lebanese born NSW parliamentarian Shaoquett Moselmane raised $30,000 in Sydney for the transport of five containers of wheelchairs to the children of Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Pakistan.
· Wheelchairs for Kids, a Rotary based organisation, has 150 volunteer retirees and in the 13 years since their establishment in 1999 they have donated more than 26,000 children’s wheelchairs to 68 countries.
More can be found at http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-14/charity-provides-wheelchairs-for-kids-in-need/4573704
Donations to Wheelchairs for Kids can be made via Wheelchairs for Kids Foundation: ANZ BSB: 016261 – ACC: 267255563
Murdoch University Guild
Gerry Georgatos was a Murdoch University Guild President, however also one of its Education Vice Presidents and a PEMS (Part time and Mature age student) representative. He went on to become the Murdoch Guild General Manager and stepped down from the role end of 2009 after a 3 and ½ year stretch. He took over the general management of the Guild with Voluntary Student Unionism looming and the Guild a key ongoing concern – it faced the prospect of insolvency. In his first year in managing the Guild and its enterprises he turned it around from a key ongoing concern to viability, and with a year to date variance of nearly $1 million, while saving most jobs. As a staunch unionist he produced position translations and independent classifications to ensure that the Guild staff were better paid and working conditions were improved. He was a very political Guild General Manager, quite outspoken at Murdoch University and in Perth’s tertiary sector in pursuit of the common good. One of his feats at Murdoch University was his commitment to the development of sport at the University’s three campuses, and this led to an unprecedented rise in sport participation and sporting achievements by the university at social, faculty and varsity levels. Under his leadership record numbers of students attended the Australian Intervarsity Games.
Gerry Georgatos was a member of the University’s Academic Council in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009. On April 16, 2008 he lobbied Academic Council for the introduction of compulsory Aboriginal Studies to all undergraduate students – preferring a tailor made unit – however succeeded only with his fifth and final recommendation of compulsory Aboriginal Studies as a component of the undergraduate students’ Introduction Unit to university, known as the Foundation Unit.
More can be found at http://emunews.murdoch.edu.au/archive/2008/politics10.htm
He was a University Senator in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Gerry Georgatos challenged the University’s Vice Chancellery on a number of issues and similarly challenged the University Senate. During his last year of service on the University Senate he was censured twice by his fellow Senators, and became the only University Senator in the university’s then 33 year history to be censured. The Vice Chancellery no longer has on board any of its then Deputy Vice Chancellors nor its then Vice Chancellor. Some of the disputes between Gerry Georgatos and the Vice Chancellery would often finish up in local, State and National newspapers, including The Australian. However Gerry Georgatos is best reflected by the social justice programs which he crafted at Murdoch University in order to increase student retention. He created successful computer literacy programs, mature age student support programs, international student support programs, students tutoring students programs, all these gaining accreditation at an academic level, and he also created long standing programs for under privileged and impoverished students including soup kitchens and free breakfasts and lunches.
More can be found at http://povertynewsblog.blogspot.com.au/2007/03/soup-first-course-for-poor-students.html
What do these blacks want? This story was published in The National Indigenous Times and on citizen media – Indymedia Australia – and includes one of a number of battles Gerry Georgatos fought in order to eliminate what he perceived as racism.
More can be found at http://www.nit.com.au/opinion/345-what-do-these-blacks-want-an-education-send-them-back-to-the-bush-where-they-belong.html
· Gerry Georgatos has two Masters and both include research and findings on what he describes as the “veils and layers of racism.” His PhD research also delves into racism.
Indonesian children in Australian Adult Prisons
During one of Gerry Georgatos’ visits to an Australian adult prison to talk to prisoners about future education and employment opportunities he came across a number of Indonesians who appeared to him under age. Soon after while visiting an Immigration Detention Centre he befriended an Indonesian boy who told him he was 15. A month later on a visit to the same prison where he believed he had come across under age prisoners he came across the young Indonesian boy. Then began a near two year campaign to release Indonesian children who had been wrongly imprisoned in Australian adult prisons. His campaign would include parliamentarians, Foreign Affairs ministries (Australia and Indonesia), the Australian Human Rights Commission, lawyers and journalists Australia wide. His behind the scenes work to free these children was pivotal and though many know of what he did he has rarely been heralded for his tenacious and strategic campaign and as the penultimate architect of their release – which included cultivating whistle-blowers from within the prison system and working secretly with officials ‘inside’.
· Most of the children have been released, however to this day Gerry Georgatos believes a national inquiry should take place to review all Indonesian prisoners, to ensure no ‘age disputes’ languish.
More can be found at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/breaking-news/wa-minister-terry-redman-putting-cows-before-kids-in-people-smuggling-case/story-fn3dxity-1226078471423
Deaths in Custody
Gerry Georgatos is a long time researcher in Australian deaths in custody and he has argued that prisons as they stand are not ideal and rehabilitative and that they fail the common good. He argues that the future is the American prison system if forgiveness and redemption are not inclusive within the criminal justice system. The USA incarcerates one per cent of its total population, the world’s worst rate of incarceration. His research includes findings that Australia has one of the world’s worst prison suicide rates, that post release those who leave the prison experience are worse for it rather than better, and he has called for an inquiry into the rising rates of ‘natural cause’ deaths in Australian prisons. His research includes concern for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal prisoners. He describes Northern Territory prisons as “third-world”. His volume of statistics includes the finding that Aboriginal people are five times as likely to be incarcerated as were South Africa’s Indigenous peoples during the last years of Apartheid, and that in Western Australia this rises to nine times.
More can be found at http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/04/15/deaths-in-custody-20yrs-after-a-royal-commission-why-are-fatalities-rising/
There are a trove of articles and research papers on deaths in custody by Gerry at http://thestringer.com.au/
Gerry Georgatos is a leading voice on the civil fight on racism.
More can be found at http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1519216/Long-way-to-go-on-deaths-in-custody-experts
Once again there are a trove of articles and research on racism by Gerry at http://thestringer.com.au/
Awards and Achievements
· Elantra Environmental Award 2006
· WA Community and Services Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution 2008 – sponsored by the WA Government
· National Multicultural Media Award for Best Investigative Journalism 2012 – sponsored by the Government of NSW
· National Mullticultural Media Award for Best Feature Writing 2012 – sponsored by the Government of NSW
· National Multicultural Media Award for Best Coverage of Indigenous Affairs 2012 – sponsored by the Government of NSW
· National Multicultural and Indigenous Media Award for Best Investigative Journalism 2013 – sponsored by the Government of NSW
· National Multicultural and Indigenous Media Award for Best Coverage of Indigenous Affairs 2013 – sponsored by the Government of NSW
· National Multicultural Journalist of the Year 2013 – sponsored by the Government of NSW
· BA in Philosophy
· BA in Media
· BA in Aboriginal Studies
· Grad Dip in Human Rights
· Masters in Human Rights Education
· Masters in Social Justice Advocacy
· PhD research in Australian Custodial Systems and Australian Deaths in Custody
Journalism – The National Indigenous Times
Gerry Georgatos currently writes for various news media which included two years with the Rural Press (Fairfax). Gerry freelances to various citizen media sites such as Indymedia Australia -https://www.indymedia.org.au/ – however he predominately writes for the National Indigenous Times -http://www.nit.com.au/- which he joined by invitation from the then newspaper’s editor,Stephen Hagan, in September 2011. He also produces correspondence for The National Indigenous Radio Service and is one of the lead writers for The Stringer.
· Shades of Grey, and black and white – 1994
· Climate of Death; justice delayed means more deaths – 2013