LILLY MCKENZIE, JAKE GALLAGHER AND ROSEMARY BALL
Four Indigenous protesters met with GOLDOC chairman Peter Beattie and his wife Heather on the Marina Mirage pedestrian overpass this morning to request formal meetings with government and political representatives.
The group – including Ruby Wharton and Dylan Voller who were arrested outside the Opening Ceremony on Wednesday – were escorted to meet Mr Beattie and his wife by police negotiators.
Mr Beattie told the group he wanted to say hello and hear their issues, but stressed he is unable to do anything about many of their grievances.
The group has been calling on Prince Charles to visit and speak with them, and today Gomeroi woman from Moree, Gwenda Stanley, asked Mr Beattie to pass on a message for them.
“We’ve got a message for Prince Charles to take back to his mummy,” she said.
“We need her to come back out here, and we need her to sit with the people. We need Prince Charles to know that he is not the sovereign Commonwealth owner of this nation.
“We as the Aboriginal people are the sovereign people of this nation.
“We’re not your puppet. It’s time to pay the rent and time to pay for the war crimes.”
Peter Beattie said he was happy to pass on any documents the group has to federal and state governments, but couldn’t promise a response.
“Can I suggest we need to think of a way forward?” Mr Beattie asked and offered an email address to receive the group’s statement.
Former Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller stressed the group did not want violence.
“Also a message for the Commonwealth Games, we’re not here to cause trouble or violence, we’re here to be peaceful,” he said.
“We’re coming here to demonstrate that we’ve had enough of this.”
The meeting followed Games officials stating their support for the rights of Indigenous protesters despite Wednesday’s arrest of the three protesters.
One of Wednesday’s key protest organisers, Gold Coast (Yugambeh) Elder Aunty Pat Leavy, accused the Commonwealth of being corrupt and implored Prince Charles to meet and talk with the Aboriginal people.
Mr Beattie said the organisation takes its relationship with Indigenous people seriously and recognises their right to protest.
“We need to reach out to people, and that means being tolerant and understanding and accepting people have a right to express their view,” Mr Beattie said.
“We will not be critical over anyone wanting exercise their right to protest … we are bigger than that, we should be able to take that on the chin after the many years of hardship the Indigenous people have faced.”
Indigenous creative director for the Opening Ceremony, Wesley Enoch, said the protests were about much more than just the Commonwealth Games.
“The protest was about a call for treaty and sovereignty, and many Australians understand that this is a step we need to take,” he said.
Local Yugambeh Elder and member of the Griffith University Council of Elders, Uncle John Graham, said the issue of reconciliation needs to remain prevalent.
“We need to keep the governments aware of things that still are not fully reconciled at all, such as sovereignty which has never been ceded,” he said.
“I think it’s important that we continue that debate and move towards either small treaties, a large treaty, and also the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s sovereignty in this country”.
GC2018 have created the first Commonwealth Games Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) with the aim to recognise, respect and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait cultures.
GOLDOC Reconciliation Action Plan Manager Philip Jerrard said the RAP is just one part of the puzzle.
“Reconciliation is bigger than a RAP… I think we all have a responsibility to ensure that reconciliation is achieved,” he said.
“The importance of that is crucial… to ensure that prejudice is decreased and trust is increased, and that the nation and community move forward as one, reconciliation is a must.”