Stateline Victoria


Black GST plan a protest camp at Commonwealth Games

Broadcast: 24/02/2006

Reporter: Kathy Bowlen

KATHY BOWLEN, PRESENTER: Robbie Thorpe, are you planning to disrupt the Games?

ROBBIE THORPE, BLACK GST: Not much disrupt, but take full advantage of the international spotlight - the media that's going to be amassing there . They're the objectives of our group.

KATHY BOWLEN: Along the lines of the protests at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane?

ROBBIE THORPE: Very similar. Maybe not as much marching as we done up there because we can see the amount of security that's lined up against us here. But we will definitely be making some sort of an impact on these Games and ensuring that the rest of the world understands the issues that we're bringing forward over here.

KATHY BOWLEN: One of your organisers told me that you will be marching on the MCG, trying to disrupt the opening ceremony.

ROBBIE THORPE: Well, that's possible. We're not going to pre-empt anything - when we get to our site in Melbourne, it's going to be up to the people to decide what they are going to be doing at the Games itself. That's the way Aboriginal people operate. We're not a body until we actually sit down as a group.

KATHY BOWLEN: How many people are you expecting?

ROBBIE THORPE: From the indications that we have, we're expecting a hell of a lot of people to come here.

KATHY BOWLEN: 1,000? 5,000?

ROBBIE THORPE: I reckon it will probably be at least 10,000 Aboriginal people, alone, travelling down here. We see this as, like, the end of the game in terms of trying to get some justice for Aboriginal people. Time is running out for us. If you look at the statistical information on Aboriginal people, you can't deny it's not genocide going on here in this country.

KATHY BOWLEN: Genocide is what the 'G' stands for in Black GST. You're also talking about sovereignty and treaty. Do you expect the Government to sit down and talk with you if you are disruptive? Doesn't it work against your cause?

ROBBIE THORPE: Our claim of sovereignty, sort of, puts a question about the legitimacy of this Government. Where do they get their legal jurisdiction from if we're claiming to be the sovereign of this land? Where are they standing? It's an argument over whose land it is and whose law it is. That's an unresolved question of sovereignty.

KATHY BOWLEN: It's a Commonwealth Games and the Queen is going to be there. What's your view of the Queen?

ROBBIE THORPE: The Queen, as far as I'm concerned, is personally responsible for the crimes against humanity that we've suffered, particularly in the last 50 years of her reign. She's reigned whilst the genocide convention, the United Nations' genocide convention's been in place in the rest of the world but not Australia, and she's the responsible sovereign of this place, so she's got to take some blame for what's happened here in this country.

KATHY BOWLEN: There's been some discussion about where the Aboriginal camp will be set up. You haven't got a location agreed with the State Government yet. Where will you set up camp?

ROBBIE THORPE: What we intend to do is, we're going amass at Barmer on the Murray River, probably maybe a week or two out from the Games, and then we're going to march into Melbourne and find a location. So it's in the Government's interest to help us find a site here. That was the idea that we put forward in the first place. It was in the interests of both groups to have it contained. If it doesn't get contained, it will be a free for all. But we're coming.

KATHY BOWLEN: The King's Domain has been suggested. Are you going to set up there? Is that your preferred location?

ROBBIE THORPE: That's not a bad site, actually. Alexandra Gardens, Botanic Gardens, they are all beautiful Aboriginal places. Wherever it turns out, that's what we're going to take.

KATHY BOWLEN: Do you run the risk of putting the community offside by doing this?

ROBBIE THORPE: Which community? The Indigenous community or the non-Aboriginal --

KATHY BOWLEN: The wider Australian community

ROBBIE THORPE: I don't think so. I think they need to understand these issues. Australia's been kept ignorant about the real issues in this country and there's a denialism going on and we need to break through here because we're human beings and we want our human rights recognised.

KATHY BOWLEN: Robbie Thorpe, we're out of time. Thank you.


KATHY BOWLEN: And both the Commonwealth Games Minister, Justin Madden, and Indigenous Affairs Minister, Gavin Jennings, were unavailable to speak to Stateline.