Aboriginal Leaders Condemn Clashes After Police Rescue Gillard

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Fri Jan 27 01:07:21 GMT 2012

Aboriginal Leaders Condemn Clashes After Police Rescue Gillard
January 26, 2012, 7:25 PM EST
Gillard Left With One-Seat Majority as Wilkie Pulls Support
By Michael Heath

Jan. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Australian indigenous leaders condemned 
clashes between aboriginal protesters and riot police that forced 
officers to rescue Prime Minister Julia Gillard and opposition leader 
Tony Abbott in the nation's capital.

More than 100 indigenous protesters banged on the windows of a 
Canberra restaurant where Gillard and Abbott attended a function 
yesterday for Australia Day, a holiday marking the arrival of white 
settlers in the country. The prime minister and opposition leader 
were rushed out of the building by security officers and spirited 
away in government cars to cries of "racist" and "shame" from the protesters.

The demonstrators were responding to comments by Abbott earlier in 
the day when he was questioned whether it was time to move an 
aboriginal protest camp, known as the Tent Embassy, that has been 
running for 40 years in front of the nation's former parliament. 
Aborigines remain the poorest and most disadvantaged group in 
Australian society more than 200 years after Europeans settled in 1788.

"It was a disgraceful situation -- I was shocked when I saw the 
scenes," Warren Mundine, an Aboriginal leader and former president of 
the governing Labor Party, said today in an interview broadcast on 
Sky News. "They blew up a statement that Tony Abbott made that was 
very harmless."

Abbott told reporters yesterday that the nation's indigenous 
population could be "very proud of the respect in which they are held 
by every Australian."

"I think it probably is time to move on," Abbott added.

Riot Officers

Mundine said the opposition leader's comments didn't justify what 
happened later at the Canberra restaurant, where riot officers were 
forced to form a cordon to stop protesters from banging on the windows.

Television footage inside the venue showed Gillard's security detail 
warning that the glass could break at any time and recommending the 
prime minister leave the scene. Gillard then asked that Abbott also 
be escorted out.

Aboriginal people populated Australia at least 50,000 years before 
Europeans settled. There are about 400,000 indigenous Australians, 
who make up 2 percent of the population. Australia Day marks the date 
in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of the first fleet of 
convict ships from Britain, landed in Sydney Cove, the site of the 
modern-day city. Many Aborigines and their supporters refer to the 
date as Invasion Day.

First Apology

Gillard's predecessor, Kevin Rudd offered the nation's first apology 
to Aborigines taken from their families for assimilation with the 
white community, saying the policy was a "blemished chapter" in the 
nation's history.

 From 1910 to 1970, up to one-third of indigenous children were 
removed from their families and communities and placed in 
institutions, church missions or the homes of white Australians, 
according to a government-commissioned report published in 1997. The 
inquiry found many children lost their cultures, languages, heritage 
and lands, and recommended reparation be made.

Indigenous leader Mick Gooda also condemned the behavior yesterday, 
saying the reaction to Abbott's remarks was "over the top and I don't 
think it paints us in a very good light across Australia."

"What we saw yesterday was images of violent confrontation that we 
don't need," Gooda, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social 
justice commissioner, told Sky News.
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