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The 'Nigger' Brown Stand debate

By Stephen Hagan - posted Monday, 20 October 2008

As I was packing my briefcase late on a Wednesday afternoon, after a long day at the office, I received a call from a journalist from my local newspaper asking if I would care to comment on the imminent demolition of a building.

I’m not talking about any particular building, but more specifically a structure that has impacted significantly on my life and that of my family for the past nine years.

“Stephen, I received news today that heavy machinery was now in place to start pulling down the E.S “Nigger” Brown Stand - do you care to comment?”


I wasn’t sure if that call, from out of the blue, meant the controversial stand was being pulled down that afternoon, the next day or sometime within the week.

“Mate if they put another sign up with that offensive word, or if it appears on a statue or a plaque I’ll be in and out of the courts for the next nine years fighting to have it removed as well,” was the first thing that came to mind.

I must say I felt a little ambushed by the leading question of the journalist, as I was aware the stand was going to be demolished soon to make way for a $2.15 milion redevelopment, but no one had contacted me about a timeframe for work to commence. Generally in a small town like Toowoomba with a population a tad over 100,000 people, you’d get word from someone in-the-know of developments.

As usual, I made calls to various national newspapers to inform them of the unexpected news I received so they could do their own investigations and provide an alternative commentary to my local paper on news that was sure to break the next day.

The following morning I woke early after an interrupted sleep, and made my way to my local convenience store to buy the paper and see if I should prepare myself for another round of irate letters to the editors that routinely follow news of any description on this topic.

Nothing quite shakes-up the ultra conservative rural community of Toowoomba like an attack on their iconic international rugby league representative and eminent businessman, Edward Brown, than an out-of-town black activist interloper like me wanting to besmirch his good name.


These are not descriptors I give myself, but are the words used by the broader community who constantly attack me through the media for daring to challenge the status quo of the sign erected in honour of Brown, a white Australian. He received his racially charged nickname because of his fair complexion, or because he had a penchant for using the Nigger Brown boot polish used in that era.

After reading the headlines “Nigger Brown sign to survive” I knew I was safe for the moment from the avalanche of hate mail.

Not satisfied to bear the brunt of further ridicule in the town I now called home I hastily lodged a formal application to the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) seeking recompense of $10,000 for hurt and suffering against the Chairman of the Toowoomba Sports Ground Trust, John McDonald, on the grounds that he was inciting racial hatred. 

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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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