Yesterday the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy hosted speakers to report back on the Freedom Summit that was held late last year and to encourage people to join the protest planned for Canberra on Invasion Day, the 26th January. Mr Jackson from Indigenous Social Justice Association is the MC and gives his thoughts between the speakers.
The first speaker was Aunty Jenny Munro. Listen.
Jeff McMullen talks about genocidal plans to close homeland communities. He makes the point that camps and communities on the edge of rural centres are already overcrowded and underfunded without the extra numbers. He talks about the devastating consequences of white government policy for Aboriginal Australians, such as the continuing stolen children and and over-policing. Listen.
In the first part of his talk Paddy Gibson talked about the response that Utopia had received. He also spoke about some of the situation for Aboriginal people right now, as portrayed in Utopia.
In the second part of his talk Paddy gave a brief outline of the history of Aboriginal struggle.
In the third part Paddy spoke about the corporatisation of welfare, and how this relates to Prime Minister Abbott's cuts in spending on successful Indigenous programs.
In the first part of her talk Celeste Liddle critiques John Pilger's film Utopia from the perspective of an Indigenous Australian personally affected by these policies.
In the second part she talks about representation of Aboriginal viewpoints in the mainstream media.
These talks remain the property of 3CR.
This past Tuesday Wharton, Spearim and Chitts appeared at the Brisbane Magistrate's court regarding this incident. Representing themselves they argued that the police had acted unlawfully in removing them, as the Embassy is not in Musgrave Park, but on land that is under a Deed of Grant in Trust, and the Embassy had appropriate permission to be there. The defendants were particularly concerned with amending the bail conditions that prevent them from returning to the Embassy.
Their case has been postphoned until this Friday the 11th of January. They ask people to meet on Friday 8:30am outside Brisbane Magistrates Court, corner of George and Turbot Streets for support and to witness the proceedings.
I spoke to Wayne Wharton.
Here is a version that is edited for radio.
Ruby Wharton explains the situation.
Protestors marched through the city explaining the offenses to watching crowds of Christmas shoppers.
At the office of Lord Mayor Quirk some people went inside and some stayed on the street. Callum Clayton-Dixon read the charges out.
Details of person:
Lord Mayor Graham Quirk and his accomplices
Details of charge[s]:
1. Desecration of a sacred site
2. Perversion of the truth
3. Collusion with attempt of fraud
4. Causing trauma
5. Persecution on the basis of race
6. Forced remov[al] of First Nations people from a sacred site
7. Incarceration on the grounds of religious practices
8. Unauthorised entry into Aboriginal land
9. Restriction of religious practices on the basis of race
10. Breach of agreement with the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy
After some negotiation the Lord Mayor's chief of staff, Chris Anstey, came down and accepted the warrant.
Afterwards, I spoke to Uncle Judulu Neal from Yarrabah about the events of the day.
Within the original founders of the Embassy there was disagreement about whether the Tent Embassy should continue in its current form, or whether it should be re-established as an office on the site. In negotiations it had been agreed by all parties that the sacred fire would keep burning.
The following views predominantly favour the opinion of those who would have preferred not to have the site cleared, and for negotiations to continue. An advocate for clearing the site, Adrian Burragubba, did turn up for the meeting, but left early without speaking. I interviewed him later, but then he decided that he would not like the interview to be broadcast.
Uncle Paul Spearim gives a speech in support of the Embassy.
Nat Lewis tells her story and explains why the Embassy is important to her.
Members of the Embassy who opposed having it cleared were hoping for further negotiations in about a week, as one of the central figures could not make the meeting due to sorry business.
Members who were for clearing the site saw it as the beginning of opening a new Embassy in an office nearby, although they have not yet secured an office for the purpose.
You can read more about the clear-out here. This article states:
"Central to the agreement was Cr Quirk࣯mmitment the sacred fire at the centre of the site would be untouched by the teams of uniformed officers charged with the clean-up."
Yesterday, when I got to the site in Musgrave Park at around 5pm the sacred fire looked liked this:
Word quickly spread and about fifty people turned up to protect the Embassy and keep the fire burning. While the physical structures had been removed the spirit of the Embassy was still alive.
A trailer load of wood arrived at about 9pm and soon the fire was burning strong.
At around 10pm police arrived with their numbers eventually reaching approximately 60. About 10 council workers also arrived, and a fire engine and fire crew.
Natalie Lewis explained to the people standing around the fire what was going on.
Rick from the Brisbane City Council's rapid response group came to negotiate.
Uncle Judulu Neal from Yarrabah gave a statement.
Activists Wayne 'Coco' Wharton and Hamish Chitts entreated firefighters to consult their union before undertaking an illegal and immoral action, but they were ignored.
Negotiations continued with police and the representatives of the Brisbane City Council.
Uncle Judulu asked the police to remove the council representatives, as they have no jurisdiction over the area of the Embassy either under white Australian or Murri law.
At about 12:30am police moved in and dragged away those who were defending the fire. 4 people including Wayne 'Coco' Wharton, Hamish Chitts, Boe Spearim and a passing traveller named Landen were arrested. Coco, Boe and Hamish were charged with contravening a police direction or requirement and they face court on the 8th January. Conditions of their bail include that they are forbidden from returning to the site until the 9th of January.
Here is a version of the story edited for radio or podcasting.
Here it is.
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