Campaign grows against 'Brown's inquisition'

Issue 

By Carla Gorton ADELAIDE — The state Liberal government's Hindmarsh Island Bridge Royal Commission, more accurately described as "Brown's Inquisition", has cost SA taxpayers more than $1.8 million. Recently the commission, now more exposed as a racist political stunt by the government, subpoenaed Sandra Saunders from the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement. However, Saunders has refused to provide ALRM documents and files, many of which are subject to lawyer/client confidentiality. The campaign to close down the commission has escalated in the past week. Ngarrindjeri women and their supporters erected a tent city in Victoria Square on October 13. The following day around 100 people marched to Parliament House. Protesters where refused access to the public gallery as they did not have a "booking". Eventually 10 people were allowed to enter the Legislative Council, with the remainder in the Assembly. During question time fake dollar notes representing the inquiry's wasted millions were dropped from the public gallery. Representatives from the Aboriginal community, the Democrats and the ALP who addressed the 500-strong crowd outside Parliament House, all called for an end to the inquisition. Two messages of support were read to the rally. The first, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Michael Dodson and the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Sue Walpole, read in part: "The commission ... is based on the racist idea that the culture and secret business of indigenous peoples ... should take second place to the economic and political interests of non-indigenous Australia." They also state that the royal commission is sexist because it "implicitly denies women a role as custodians of land, as managers of country with power and standing in the community. "It denies the role of women as spiritual leaders with access to secret information. The commission paints women as liars, as witches who have fabricated secrets and shrouded the truth in mystery. It suggests that women are not credible witnesses and that they are obstructionist." The statement condemns the state government's lack of commitment to protect the rights of indigenous Australians and salutes the Ngarrindjeri women's ongoing fight to protect their culture, land and identity. The second message from ACTU president Jennie George criticised the Brown government for abusing its powers under the Aboriginal Heritage Act by allowing the commission to insist on the disclosure of confidential cultural and religious material. The crowd marched to the tent city, via the Commission offices, where street-theatre was performed in front of a row of police. A leaflet calling on lawyers to speak out against the commission was also distributed. The Ngarrindjeri women and their supporters plan to continue their protests until the inquisition ends. You can support them by voicing your concerns in a letter (state that it is a formal submission to the commission) to: The Secretary, Hindmarsh Island Bridge Royal Commission, GPO Box 156, Adelaide 5001. Further public actions are being coordinated by the Kumarangk Coalition which can be contacted via the Centre for Urban Ecology, 83 Halifax St, Adelaide.

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