Protesters set to harness Games exposure
The Commonwealth Games — which will begin on the Gold Coast on April 4 — will be a chance to take the struggles of Australia’s Indigenous people to the world, Aboriginal activist Wayne Wharton said.
Up to 5000 demonstrators from across Australia are expected to take part in marches, demonstrations and forums for Indigenous rights in the 11 days of the games, which will see 6600 athletes and hundreds of thousands of spectators descend on Queensland.
A protest camp will be set up on the Gold Coast’s Spit.
“People have got to see a struggle for what it is, especially now that Australia has got a seat on the UN Human Rights Council,” Mr Wharton said.
“They’ve got to be held to account for the treatment of our people and why they haven’t addressed the question.”
Mr Wharton’s Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy and the Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance are two of the groups involved in the protests.
They have dubbed the games the ‘Stolenwealth Games’.
Mr Wharton said the groups had been cooperating with police and organisers ahead of the demonstrations, which he expected to be peaceful.
“It’s 10 days to get our story out,” he said. “The mainstream media in this country do everything possible to water down anything to do with Aboriginal affairs and make sure it’s not covered.
“It’s 10 days of opportunity.”
The 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane was also marked by protests by First Nations people demanding land rights and protesting the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland.
A spokesperson for Queensland Police attached to the Commonwealth Games said police respected the rights of people to protest lawfully and peacefully in the state.
“The QPS Commonwealth Games Engagement Team have developed relationships with various interest groups over the past 18 months and acknowledge their rights and have worked to address any concerns,” the spokesperson said.
“These relationships continue to mature as we get closer to the Games.
“Should unlawful and/or disruptive activities occur during a protest which pose a risk to the enjoyment, safety or dignity of those attending GC2018 … the QPS will respond appropriately.”
Meanwhile, rugby league legend Johnathan Thurston will be one of the baton bearers when the Queen’s Baton reaches Townsville in a fortnight.
“Townsville is my home and to have it play an integral part in the lead-up to these Commonwealth Games is truly special,” Mr Thurston said.