Greens charge in Batman: @BumpyF reports


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Batman Seat Profile

By Bumpy Favell

23 July 2013

I’ll write about my electorate of Batman, which covers a 66 sq km chunk of Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

The Batman electorate is named after John Batman, a white grazier and businessman who was behind possibly the one and only treaty ever signed in Australia. This ‘treaty’ was made with some of the Wurundjeri people, the Woi-wurrung language group.

Merri Creek, Rushall Footbridge - Pic by Nick Carson

Merri Creek, Rushall Footbridge – Pic by Nick Carson

On the 6th of June 1835, Batman met with a group of ngurungaetas, Wurundjeri heads of family, most likely on the banks of Merri Creek (near what is now Rushall station, Northcote) – and a document was signed. Batman claimed ownership of 600,000 acres of grazing land (most of now suburban Melbourne). He promised the Wurundjeri “40 pairs of blankets, 42 tomahawks, 130 knives, 62 pairs scissors, 40 looking glasses, 250 handkerchiefs, 18 shirts, 4 flannel jackets, 4 suits of clothes and 150 lb. of flour”.

The Wurundjeri offered Batman gifts of woven baskets full of their weaponry and two highly valuable possum skin cloaks.

Neither group spoke each other’s language, at all. Most likely, the Wurundjeri were merely allowing Batman’s group safe passage through their ancestral lands, with the exchange of gifts and ceremonial dances, or tanderrum, a sign of goodwill in accordance with Kulin Nation custom.

Nonetheless this treaty was a recognition, by Batman, of Wurundjeri ownership of the land he believed he was purchasing. Governor Bourke (who governed NSW and what is now Victoria) was incensed by Batman’s negotiation with the Aboriginal traditional owners. Bourke disallowed the treaty the same year and terra nullius was implemented. Batman insisted on the validity of his treaty until he died of syphilis four years later.

The village of Melbourne was soon established and quickly spread. The consequences for the Wurundjeri people were catastrophic. With other local Aboriginal groups, they went on to survive the most extreme hardships a people can suffer. Their epic struggle, led by Barak and Wonga is documented in Rachel Perkins ‘First Australians’ series, Episode 3.

Wurundjeri hold pride of place as the traditional owners in the electorate of Batman.

Part of the Northcote Koori Mural at the Aborigines Advancement League, St Georges Road Thornbury, by Megan Evans, Lin Onus, Mr Griggs, Ray Thomas, Millie Yarran, Ian Johnson, Elaine Trott and many other volunteers in 1983. This part of the mural features images by William Barak

Part of the Northcote Koori Mural at the Aborigines Advancement League, St Georges Road Thornbury, by Megan Evans, Lin Onus, Mr Griggs, Ray Thomas, Millie Yarran, Ian Johnson, Elaine Trott and many other volunteers in 1983. This part of the mural features images by William Barak

Batman is a wildly varying electorate, culturally and economically. It includes my suburb – multicultural Preston with its huge food market, hipster havens Northcote and Thornbury, well heeled Clifton Hill, Alphington and Fairfield, good ole Reservoir and Kingsbury, plus parts of Coburg North, Bundoora, Thomastown and Macleod. The Yarra River bounds the south, Merri Creek forms most of the western boundary and Darebin Creek forms some of the eastern boundary of Batman. Darebin, the local government council covers the majority of Batman.

Northcote High Noon Street Festival – image by Steven Wright

Northcote High Noon Street Festival – image by Steven Wright

Representatives of over 150 nationalities live in Batman and up to 40% of residents speak a language other than English at home. Batman has been a safe Labor seat for all except two terms since 1910.

The declared candidates for the 2013 election so far are:
Alex Bhathal – The Greens
David Feeney – Labor Party
Franco Guardiani – Palmer United Party
Lianna Sliwczynski – Australian Sex Party
George Souris – Liberal Party
Phillip Sutton – Save the Planet Party

The current retiring member is Martin Ferguson who resigned from the ministry after the March 2013 challenge to Julia Gillard’s leadership.

Senator David Feeney is in the Labor Right faction, one of the so-called ‘faceless men’ who helped install Julia Gillard as PM in 2010. In September 2010, Feeney was sworn in as Parliamentary Secretary for Defence and he’s currently in that position under Rudd. Feeney is married to Liberty Sanger, a principal and board member of Maurice Blackburn lawyers and ABC commentator.

Senator Feeney wins Batman preselection

The Greens candidate Alex Bhathal came a close second to Martin Ferguson in the 2010 election, with 42% of the 2 party preferred votes. The fight will definitely be on between Alex Bhathal and David Feeney, with Labor supporters of Emily’s List conceivably disappointed a female candidate was not put into this usually safe Labor seat, and other left leaning voters possibly turned off by Labor’s latest refugee policy.

Greens set sights on Batman

I will attempt to interview all the candidates over the next few weeks and also follow any who are on social media.

Only two have twitter accounts so far:
David Feeney is ‪@Feeney4Batman
Alex Bhathal is @alexbhathal


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  1. Tony Grant says

    Member of ALP and not pleased with Feeney (not my seat) the party needs less middle aged obese men…yes, a female candidate would have been appropriate. Ferguson was a total sell-out and this bloke is a carbon copy just chunkier!

  2. Great to have you telling the story @bumpyF excellent to have an intelligent and authentic voice in my neighborhood.

  3. Thanks for the article. I was very disappointed when union hack Feeney got the nomination. I’m not voting for him, and definitely not voting Liberal so that leaves The Independent, The Sex Party, PUP, The Greens, then the rest….

  4. As a Northcote resident (Italian, not Hipster) I will follow your future posts with interest. As you say it is a varied seat. The southern parts are very inner suburban like North Fitzroy and Brunswick, but as you go north it gets more and more like the average suburbia.

    And in fact I had a look at the booth voting patterns at the last election and areas such as Northcote, Clifton Hill etc. returned Green Party majorities, but in the north it was rock solid Labor.

    So as the gentrification of Batman creeps ever steadily northward it will be interesting to see how close the Greens will go this time.

    Interesting to see Phillip Sutton running for the ‘Save the Planet’ Party. I knew him when we both were in the ALP (both left obviously). But he was the type of person that the ALP needs and lost. He was instrumental in devising and pushing the Flora and Fauna legislation in the Cain Government in the 80’s. One of the most important pieces of environmental legislation ever implemented in Australia.

  5. Great introduction to Batman. It is one of a very few electorates in 2010 where the two party preferred count was between Labor and the Greens. Sad that Labor chose to parachute Feeney in to the seat. After Martin Ferguson, the Labor Party would have done much better selecting a local woman for pre-selection. It seems the Labor Party hasn’t learnt the lesson of Wills when, after Hawke, electors voted in Phil Cleary, a popular labor independent for a term.

    • Kate Auty says

      The original Batman is also on record for having summarily executed Aboriginal people who he had in his ‘custody’ in Tasmania as they were too injured to keep up. This was before he came to the mainland and dodgied up a ‘ Treaty’ and had an electorate named after him. Then his nose dropped of with VD. Kate Auty

      • Right, Batman is no hero and the ‘treaty’ is in no way a reasonable document.

      • Fascinating to hear this history about John Batman and the electorate that carries his name. And I never knew he died of syphilis (or lost his nose – thanks Kate!). He sounds more pirate than pioneer. Anyway a seat that bears his name shouldn’t be safe. I hope Alex Bhathal makes it downright hazardous for the ALP. Especially since it was held by Martin Ferguson who facilitated a massive expansion in Australia’s coal exports, making us the Saudi Arabia of coal.

  6. Thanks so much for the encouragement, that’s so cool!
    I will Definitely appreciate and follow up any more tips or info about Batman. :-)