The opening night of the first conference of the Aboriginal Rights Coalition (ARC), held in Australia Hall on May 23, drew 170 activists from around Australia.
The conference, titled "Unite and Fight", aimed to unite the Aboriginal rights movement against the federal government's racist Northern Territory intervention. The opening forum included Barbara Shaw's eyewitness account from the NT, the reading of solidarity statements from WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert and others, and performances by Aboriginal dancers and musicians, some of which were inspired by the racist attack on NT communities.
Greg Eatock, a founding member of ARC and one of the conference organisers, hosted the opening. He explained that the purpose of the conference was to unite and mobilise Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people from around Australia against the government's racist policies and for Aboriginal control over Aboriginal affairs. "We have 168 people here and next year we will get 168,000 people to the streets!", he told the crowd.
Other speakers included the director of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Social Justice Unit, Darren Dick, who addressed the human rights implications of the NT intervention, and former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner Brian Butler.
The conference continued over May 24-25 at the Redfern Community Centre with an agenda that included more in-depth assessments of the intervention and the planning of protest actions against it. The next issue of Green Left Weekly will report on the rest of the conference.