Gold Coast, Thursday @peoplesport11
Many Australians see the Commonwealth Games as a sporting celebration, but for Aboriginal activists they symbolise invasion, dispossession and a culture shunted to the sidelines.
Hundreds of protesters have already made their presence felt at the Games’ host city, Gold Coast, where three people were arrested in scuffles just before Wednesday’s opening ceremony. Demonstrators also disrupted the baton relay and more action is planned during the tournament, which was hit by angry protests when it was held in nearby Brisbane in 1982.
This time around, the Games are taking place during a period of heightened awareness for indigenous rights following large-scale protests on Australia Day in January.
“We call this the ‘Stolenwealth Games’ because we deserve more. We deserve more and our kids deserve more than what we get,” protest leader Wayne Wharton told demonstrators Tuesday.
At the 1982 Games, about 2,000 people marched through Brisbane demanding recognition of Aboriginal land rights and an end to discriminatory government policy.
Three decades later, they say little has changed. “The whole goal of it (British settlement in Australia) was for the colonial powers to be able to suck the wealth out of our country. Now our people are the most impoverished people in the whole of Australia,” Wharton told AFP.
Aboriginal culture stretches back tens of thousands of years before the British began colonising Australia in the late 1700s. Nowadays they are the most disadvantaged Australians, with higher rates of poverty, ill-health and imprisonment than any other community. -AFP