Aboriginal communities shame colonialist Commonwealth Games

A protest at Channel Seven’s Sunrise in conjunction with its Commonwealth Games coverage.

Aboriginal activists and supporters have been protesting in Bundjalung Country, also known as the Gold Coast, exposing the whitewashing Commonwealth Games.

Continuing the legacy of actions against the Commonwealth Games in 1982, the “Freedom Camp” at Doug Jennings Park has been exposing the Games’ establishment elitism with actions almost every day. Aboriginal activists from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and north Queensland have converged on the park.

The Sovereignty Tent Embassy, established for the duration of the Commonwealth Games and organised by Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance and Brisbane Aboriginal-Sovereign Embassy, is a sight to behold. It has a huge undercover kitchen, staffed by volunteers 12–16 hours a day, four portable toilets, two portable showers and many caravans and tents.

A Statement of Reason said: “We gather to demonstrate our free sovereign conscience and our rights as a united people, in protest. For many of Australia's Aboriginal people the past two centuries of Commonwealth colonisation has involved generations of our people being forcefully subjected to undeclared war, genocidal policies and many historical crimes of injustice.

“The genocidal policies and injustices include mass displacement, dispersals, massacres, murders, rapes, slavery, dispossessions, assimilation, institutionalisation, Stolen Generations, high incarceration, suicide, mass land theft, ethnic cleansing and continued policy administration imposition.”

The statement called for a Human Rights Justice Enquiry, made up of those countries competing at the 2018 Games to form the basis of an International Truth Commission.

Activists organised actions that blocked the baton relay and there was a protest during the Opening Ceremony in which three people were arrested, including Don Dale torture victim Dylan Voller. The blockade action, which made Prince Charles late for games events, resulted in Commonwealth Games chairperson Peter Beattie stating “we are committed to their right to protest”. 

The Freedom Camp organised a cleansing march on Surfers Paradise beach, a protest against Channel 7's Sunrise program over their support for stealing Aboriginal children from their families and a walking protest blockade of trams and traffic through Southport.

Camp activist Gwenda Stanley from Gomeroi Country commented: “The protests have been positive, with a lot of media coverage. We are getting meetings with government officials so a lot of positives have come out of the protests.”

Mick Gooda of the Gangulu people in Central Queensland and former Australian Human Rights Commission's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, visited the Freedom Camp. He congratulated the protests, saying: “We are here to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Until we change the relationship between Indigenous and White Australia there will forever be a stain on this country.”

Unlike the 1982 Games protests, police have not attacked or engaged in mass arrests of activists. Indeed, in a reflection of the “soft cop” approach, every few days the Freedom Camp was visited by Aboriginal and non-Indigenous “police liaison officers”, who distributed orange balloons to children with a message “Unite Together”. Officers played soccer with Aboriginal youths and weaved wrist bands with community members.

Yet the deep-seated racism in Queensland’s police was revealed through the racial profiling of two Aboriginal Camp attendees. A young Aboriginal woman and Jamie Lee Hunter were arrested in town for spurious reasons during the camp’s first week.  

Alec Doomadgee, an actor of Waanyi, Garawa and Gangalidda descent, recorded the harassment of Jamie Lee Hunter. The police took Jamie into the police station but released him without charge.

The spirited protests and vibrant Freedom Camp came on the back of large Invasion Day rallies across the country, a widely supported Change the Date campaign and a successful battle to stop the closure of 150 Western Australian and 70 South Australian remote Aboriginal communities.

As determined protests continue and the imperialists countries dominate the medal tally, the emptiness of the “in it altogether” colonial Games becomes clearer.

The Stolenwealth Games protests mark another step in a growing Aboriginal rights battle that challenges the mining and pastoralist domination of this country, and place land rights and justice for all front and centre.

Find out more at the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance facebook page.

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