Woodridge family leaves violence behind
A Woodridge family at the centre of violent street clashes moves out "to start a new life" but their neighbours say "it wasn't meant to be ending like this".PT1M33S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2csx1 620 349 January 16, 2013
Peace talks between feuding Aboriginal and Pacific Islander families at Logan south of Brisbane have ended with jokes, laughter and hand shakes all round.
After days of violent confrontations in suburban Woodridge, the two families - the Briggs and the Palaus - finally agreed to stop the violence after attending police-brokered peace talks on Tuesday night.
Indigenous community leader Paul Butterworth shakes the hand of Samoan Wesleyan Methodist Church pastor Moe Fonoti. Photo: Marissa Calligeros
The Aboriginal family is moving after six years.
Meanwhile politicians, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, are looking for ways to quell suburban violence and break down cultural barriers.
Father-of-four Tim Briggs struggled to hold back tears as he spoke to media on Douglas Street.
Tim Briggs and his yougest daughter Tagan, 18, prepare to leave their Woodridge home. Photo: Marissa Calligeros
‘‘It’s over,’’ Mr Briggs said.
He and his wife Bronwyn, 20-year-old daughter Latitia and sons Joesiah and Peter, aged 19 and 22 respectively, are moving to the Gold Coast on Wednesday.
His youngest daughter Tagan, 18, will return to Townsville to live with her grandmother.
A removal truck at a house on Douglas Street, in Logan. Photo: Marissa Calligeros
As the family packed their belongings, Mr Briggs appealed for peace among Logan’s younger generation.
‘‘Us Aboriginal people and my Pacific Islander brothers, we need to come together in unity,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve got to put yesterday behind us.
Police work to keep the rival groups apart earlier in the week. Photo: Seven News
‘‘We’ve got to move on. This is over. They want to live in peace, we want to live in peace."
The Briggs family had already applied to the Department of Housing to move from Woodridge. Its application was expedited after the weekend’s violent clashes.
On Wednesday morning, a sombre mood settled over Douglas Street as the Briggs family prepared to leave the neighbourhood where many of their relatives and friends live.
Indigenous community leader Paul Butterworth said it was unfortunate tensions boiled over before cultural differences could be put aside.
‘‘But it’s a stepping stone,’’ he said.
Samoan Wesleyan Methodist Church pastor Moe Fonoti said further talks were needed to unite the teenagers and young adults of Logan.
‘‘We need to talk to these kids,’’ Mr Fonoti said.
Reconciliation will likely happen on the rugby league field, Mr Butterworth said.
‘‘We’re going to have barbecues and games of football bringing this community together.’’
The Aboriginal and Tongan families, who live less than one kilometre apart, were once friends.
Their sons played touch football together at the local park. But a neighbourhood dispute over the vandalising of cars became a flashpoint for the simmering racial tensions between Aboriginal and Pacific Islanders in the satellite city south of Brisbane.
Anger boiled over in the early hours of Sunday morning when two separate car loads of Aboriginal and Pacific Islander men exchanged heated words at a set of traffic lights.
A confrontation followed at a local supermarket and then at Douglas Street, where it is understood a car owned by a member of the Palau family was damaged.
A group of islander men retaliated, smashing in the windows of three cars at the home of the Briggs family.
Rocks were hurled through the windows of the house as the Briggs family hid in a back room, and days of tensions followed.
Just hours after police held a press conference on Monday afternoon tensions flared again when up to 50 youths clashed, ripping palings off a fence to use as makeshift weapons.
Police managed to split the two groups and encourage a handshake between two men from each side about 7pm. But the truce was uneasy.
On Tuesday members of the families were involved in brief stand-offs. An Aboriginal man and a Pacific Islander man were arrested in the evening for obstructing police.
Police officers now plan to stay in the area until they are sure calm has returned.
Meanwhile, Logan Mayor Pam Parker hopes a two-day forum next month will resolve decades-old issues she believes are contributing to social problems in the city.
"We need to be looking at a wholistic approach. We have extremely high unemployment in Woodridge and it’s been inter-generational," Cr Parker said.
"That’s something we’d want to be looking at. We’ve got to use it as an opportunity to address issues that have been around for some 20-odd years ... through commitments at the state and federal level."
In the wake of the Woodridge violence and a fatal shooting in Sydney’s southwest, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has flagged a new national approach to deal with violence in suburban Australia.
Ms Gillard has asked Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare to investigate ways to address the violence and to explore the limits of the federal government’s legal and constitutional responsibilities.
- with AAP