International anger swelling at plans to evict Australian Aborigines from ancestral lands

Near the landmark Flinders Street railway Station in central Melbourne

Thousands of people converged on the centre of Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, on 1 May to protest against government plans to forcibly close remote Aboriginal communities. The global TV broadcaster Al Jazeera noted that it was the largest of dozens of rallies held around Australia and globally on the day. “The Western Australia state government announced last November that it planned to shutter up to 150 remote Aboriginal outback communities, saying it could no longer service their needs properly,” Doha-based Al Jazeera reported. “The announcement drew the ire of Aboriginal and human rights advocates, who say the government should be strengthening communities, not shutting them down. “Prime Minister Tony Abbott further inflamed tensions in March when he said that it was a ‘lifestyle choice’ for Aboriginals to live in remote outback communities and that taxpayers should not be forced to pay for these ‘choices’."


The Guardian reported online that tens of thousands attended reportedly peaceful rallies across Australia and New Zealand. The largest in Melbourne and Sydney severely disrupted Friday peak hour traffic. The Melbourne rally blocked a major intersection and the landmark Flinders Street railway station. The almost 2,000 venting their anger in Sydney, Australia’s largest city, caused extensive traffic delays near Central Station at peak hour.


It was one of 100 rallies around Australia to draw attention to the plight of Aboriginal people who face eviction from their homes in remote areas.

The Melbourne daily Herald Sun, owned by media czar Rupert Murdock, maligned the Melbourne protesters as a “Selfish Rabble”.

Between 500 and 1000 attended a rally in Perth, the West Australian capital, as well as thousands more across Sydney, Canberra, Darwin, Adelaide, Alice Springs, and 1,000 in four New Zealand cities. National Indigenous TV estimated that there were anti-closure protests in some 70 communities around the world, including in Berlin. Opponents are being encouraged to post to the official hash tag #sosblakaustralia to build further awareness online.

The government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV noted that protest calls began in the remote community of Wangkatjungka in the Kimberleys on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert with a permanent population of approximately 200 people. Layangali Bieundurry and her brother Nelson Bieundurry told the programme:


“We knew that all our family were on Facebook, so what we did, we just set the page up and started sending out messages throughout Facebook and that is how most of our family knew,” Ms Bieunderry said.

“And then other communities started to jump on Facebook and started realising what the government [was] going to do to us in the remote communities.”

National Indigenous TV sent a reporter to Wangkatjunka who heard from traditional owners that they will not leave their community”. Also in Wangkatjunka was the spokesperson on Aboriginal affairs of the Opposition Greens party, Rachel Siewert.


In Alice Springs local Aboriginal radio broadcast speeches at a rally by senior Elder, Rosalie Kunoth Monks,  and Trisha Morton Thomas. 

In Mildura, a regional city in northwestern Victoria, where about 100 demonstrators marched, Aboriginal elder Aunty Janine told the Sunraysia Daily: "It might start off in a little place in WA, but it impacts every one of us. If they’re moving us off our country, what more are they going to do?"

Hundreds of people rallied in Wollongong, a seaside city of 200,000
82 kilometres south of Sydney, where Mr Michael Willis, of SOS Blakaustralia, said community closures would lead to a loss of Aboriginal culture and identity.


“If they displace the 150 communities, that's 20,000 Aboriginal people that are going to go into towns that don't have those support networks."  Nawoola Newry from Kununurra in Western Australia said she's overwhelmed by the level of support the campaign has received.

"We have many towns in New Zealand on board. Many towns in America including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Houston, Honolulu. We also have Berlin, Germany, France, London, Hong Kong. So this has gone global and the world is watching. What is done to Aboriginal people on our land is not just," Ms Newry said.

"Our biggest concern is cultural genocide. Further displacement of our people and ultimately, a lack of services. We need to send a strong and clear message to the government that this is our land and we will not stand for this."

Known in past decades for its heavy manufacturing base, Wollongong is now renowned for its magnificent natural environment. Formerly reliant on heavy industry the city’s key sectors now include information technology, business services and finance, education and research, logistics, health and aged care and tourism. Its council says on its website that Wollongong enjoys a rich sense of community and cultural heritage.

Rallies were
also held in regional centres including Geraldton in WA's Mid West, and in small communities such as Warmun, Beagle Bay, Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek. Yamatji Marlpa Aboriginal Corporation's Simon Hawkins said people were frustrated that the state government had not talked to Aboriginal people, five months after announcing the potential closures.


"They shouldn't be treated as second-class citizens by virtue of the fact that 'I'm going to close your community and remove you out of your home'," he said. "It's very un-Australian to do that."

"These forced closures are indisputably an act of genocide that will have grave consequences for the people forced, under duress, to leave country,"
Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance told the Green Left Weekly, which had a large collection of photos from protests far and wide.

On Friday more than 1,000 protesters marched through major cities in New Zealand to protest against the planned community closures. The protests in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton, Napier and Dunedin, were organised to coincide with the major one in Melbourne.


On Maori Television, Hone Harawira, leader of New Zealand’s Mana Movement (formerly called the Mana Party) and a former Member of Parliament, called the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, a “racist bastard….for supporting racist policies against a people who are not in a position to fight back". Harawira joined one of the NZ protest rallies.

The 2nd Day Of Action – the first was on 19 March and there were others on 10 April  - followed months of preparations and mounting anger over the proposed closures.



WGAR News is published by the Working Group for Aboriginal Rights (Australia), subscription is free. To subscribe, email and include the words "subscribe WGAR News" in the message header.


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