AM ABC Radio - Aboriginal campsite row gets hotter

AM - Tuesday, 11 April , 2006  08:24:00

Reporter: Josie Taylor

TONY EASTLEY: A row is brewing in Victoria over whether an Aboriginal campsite should be allowed to remain in Melbourne's King's Domain parklands.

The Victorian Government and the City Council say the time for talking is over and the site, known as Camp Sovereignty, must go.

But the people at the camp aren't backing down, and they plan to take their case today to the Supreme Court.

AM's Josie Taylor visited the camp overnight.

(sound of didgeridoo)

JOSIE TAYLOR: In the early evening, the mood at "Camp Sovereignty" is upbeat.

With the air thick from the smoke of two fires, hundreds of campers and their supporters sing songs and make speeches about defiance.

(sound of man singing: "talk about a revolution")

Camp Sovereignty began as a protest against Melbourne's Commonwealth Games, but the campers want to remain permanently in the leafy parkland, and have so far ignored a council notice for them to vacate the area.

Twenty-five-year-old Alan Palanu has been at the camp since it was set up last month.

ALAN PALANU: This camp has opened a lot of white Australians and Indigenous Australians, and Australians altogether in general, opened our eyes that how much we really love our country and how much we really what we'll do to get the point across and to hopefully get back.

JOSIE TAYLOR: Last night the group walked to the Melbourne Town Hall for a meeting with the Lord Mayor and Indigenous Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings.

Camp Sovereignty spokesman Gary Murray.

GARY MURRAY: This'll be a meeting of goodwill, and we should be acting in good faith about trying to negotiate the issues and the resolutions of those issues. So hopefully that's what's going to happen.

(sound of protesters chanting: "Always was and always will be Aboriginal land")

JOSIE TAYLOR: But instead, the group, carrying guitars and flags, were blocked from entering the meeting.

They continued their protest in the council foyer.

(sound of protesters chanting: "Always was and always will be Aboriginal land")

Camp Sovereignty Spokesman Robbie Thorpe.

ROBBIE THORPE: You know, we delivered some flour, sugar, tea and some blankets.


ROBBIE THORPE: Because that's the that's what they paid for the country this state, in the first place the one-off payment that got 600,000 square hectares of land, including the area of Melbourne. So we've repaid that debt, but we got our land back.

JOSIE TAYLOR: They wouldn't come out and talk to you?

ROBBIE THORPE: Yeah, we've sent our legal representative in there and one of our Camp Sovereignty people, so

JOSIE TAYLOR: And what happens now?

ROBBIE THORPE: This meeting that's going on now, we'll work out what the outcome of this is, what they're thinking, and next time we meet it will be at Camp Sovereignty. We're not moving away from Camp Sovereignty. People want to do business with us from now on they've got to come down there.

JOSIE TAYLOR: Indigenous Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings had promised to attend the meeting, but did not.

The Minister declined to speak to AM, but his spokesman said the time for talking was over, and the City Council had to now move into an "enforcement process".

But that could be some time away. The activists have been granted a 30-day emergency heritage declaration and are applying for an injunction against the council notice in the Supreme Court.

TONY EASTLEY: Josie Taylor reporting.