Cunnamulla, Queensland, Australia
|Education||Marist College Ashgrove|
|Known for||writing, Aboriginal rights activism|
In 1999 Stephen Hagan commenced legal action over the naming of the E S "Nigger" Brown Stand rugby oval stand in Toowoomba, Queensland. This led to a battle that lasted for ten years, travelling through the Australian legal system to the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It was finally resolved in 2008 when the Sports Minister Judy Spence gained agreement from the Toowoomba Sports Ground Trust not to use the "offensive word" in any future tributes after the demolition of the grandstand as part of upgrades to the grounds.
Stephen Hagan was born in 1959 in Cunnamulla in South West Queensland, Australia. His father, Jim Hagan, belonged to the Kullili people of the region, while his mother was from the nearby Kooma. Hagan spent his first seven years living on a camp on the outskirts of the town, before moving into a new house nearby – an experience that helped shape his perceptions of the socio-economic inequalities between the aboriginal population and white Australians.
Success in high school led to an opportunity to attend boarding school at Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane. From there he undertook training to become a teacher, but he reports that he became disillusioned with the system after being required to teach with "racist" texts. As a result he left teaching to work with a number of Indigenous organisations, and it was through them that he met and worked under Charles Perkins. From there he moved into the Department of Foreign Affairs, gaining a diplomatic post to Colombo in Sri Lanka.
Upon returning to Australia he worked in both the public and private sectors, the latter including venturing into cultural tourism. More recently he lectured at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba while undertaking a doctorate. In July 2010, Hagan became editor of the National Indigenous Times.
E. S. "Nigger" Brown Stand
In 1999, Stephen Hagan visited the Clive Berghofer Stadium in Toowoomba, Queensland, and noticed a large sign declaring the name of the E. S. "Nigger" Brown Stand, which had been named after the 1920s rugby player Edwin Stanley Brown – also known as "Nigger" Brown, in reference to a brand of boot polish available at the time as he was slick on the Rugby League field. This prompted a ten-year campaign to have the stand renamed to remove the offending nickname.
Hagan v Australia (2003) was a complaint heard before the Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD). Hagan, the complainant, objected to the naming of the "E.S. 'Nigger' Brown Stand" at a sports ground in Toowoomba. Before bringing the action before the Committee, Hagan had unsuccessfully pursued the case before the High Court and the Federal Court of Australia, both of which rejected his claim. The CERD found that there was no express contravention of article 4 of the CERD. However, the committee considered that such a breach was occurring.
Hagan made a successful appeal to the United Nations, but this ruling was not recognised by the Queensland State Government. Eventually, after ten years, the stand was demolished and the issue was resolved, with Toowoomba Sports Ground Inc agreeing not to use the term in the future.
As the dispute went through the courts Hagan was brought close to bankruptcy and received threats – including letters claiming to be from the Ku Klux Klan. As a result of these threats and for the sake of his family, Hagan decided to move house.
Stephen Hagan is married to Rhonda Hagan; they have two children.
Awards and achievements
- 2005: 2005 Deadly Awards – Outstanding Achievement in Literature: Stephen Hagan: The N Word: One Man's Stand
- 2006: 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year
- 2007: ATOM Award and Inside Film Awards – 2007 nominations – The SBS IF Award for Best Short Documentary: Nigger Lovers, directed by Rhonda Hagan, produced by Daryl Sparkes and Stephen Hagan
- Hagan, Stephen (2005). The N Word: One Man’s Stand. Magabala Books. ISBN 978-1-875641-98-7. OCLC 60651773.
- Hagan, Stephen (2006). Australia's Blackest Sporting Moments: The Top 100. Ngalga Warralu Publishing Pty Ltd. ISBN 9781921212000.
- "Indigenous activist Stephen Hagan". The Law Report. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- "Stephen Hagan". ABC Online Indigenous: Your Voice. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- O’Shea, Ben (ed) (14 January 2009). "Big wind over a little word". The West Australian (Osborne Park, Western Australia). Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- Chilcott, Tanya (28 September 2008). "Toowoomba to drop 'Nigger' name from sports ground". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 6 April 2010.
- "Stephen Hagan". Stephen Hagan (Personal website). Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- "USQ academic heads National Indigenous Times" by Jo-Ann Sparrow, University of Southern Queensland (14 July 2010)
- Miles, Janelle (24 April 2003). "UN rules on 'Nigger' name". The Advertiser (Adelaide, South Australia). p. 28.
- Morley, Peter (1 December 2002). "'Nigger' row over, UN told". The Sunday Mail (Brisbane, Australia). p. 36.
- "Summer Series 9: "Stephen Hagan"". Message Stick. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 29 January 2006. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- Hagan, Rhonda. "Nigger Lovers". Creative Spirits. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- Campbell, Jim (26 September 2008). "Stephen Hagan seeks $10,000 for hurt, suffering". The Toowoomba Chronicle. Retrieved 25 November 2009.
- Nigger Lovers, Rhonda Hagan, Australia 2007, 27 min
- The Law Report – Indigenous activist Stephen Hagan
- Book review: The N Word by Stephen Hagan by Aden Ridgeway