Thousands join nationwide rallies against community closures
Thousands join nationwide rallies against community closures

Thousands of people in more than 30 locations rallied on 19 March to protest the forced closures of remote communities by the Western Australian government.

More than 2,000 people gathered in Perth, including some who travelled from affected communities. They heard from Aboriginal activist Marianne Headland Mackay, event organiser Karla Hart, Tammy Solonec of Amnesty International and others. The crowd marched to Parliament House, chanting, “Abbott, Barnett, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide!” Premier Colin Barnett made an appearance, angering rally-goers by asking them to “put yourself in my shoes for a minute”. As the premier addressed the crowd, protesters shouted and turned their backs, and eventually booed him off the stage.

In Melbourne, hundreds gathered at Parliament House, before marching through the CBD, stopping traffic and sitting down to hear speeches at each intersection. Two women whose families are from Kimberley towns under threat spoke about the “disgrace” of suicide rates in the Kimberley being among the highest in the world.

In Brisbane, around 600 walked through the city carrying placards, banners and flags, and listened to speeches from Indigenous activists Boe Speriam and Sam Watson.

Around 400 people joined Adelaide’s lively demonstration, which took over the road as it marched to Parliament House. Protesters included a contingent of students from the University of Adelaide, and some attendees carried placards bearing the classic union slogan, “Down tools for Aboriginal rights”.

A 40-strong crowd gathered in the small far north Queensland town of Yarrabah, in the wind and rain of Cyclone Nathan. In the tiny WA community of One Arm Point, 100 turned out holding placards that read, “NO CONSENT”, and in Roebourne, WA, 250 people (more than a quarter of the town’s population) marched, with Maritime Union of Australia flags present at the rally.

“For me this is a very, very, very proud moment”, a speaker told a crowd of 150 in Newman, WA. “This is happening right around Australia. All Aboriginal people and their supporters, not just Aboriginal people, it’s the non-Aboriginal people, they’re coming out and they’re supporting, because they can see what’s happening is wrong.”

In Bellingen, NSW, 150 marchers shut down the main street, while in Alice Springs, NT, about 50 people braved 41 degree heat to hear from local elders and leaders.

Five hundred marched in the Pilbara town of South Hedland, chanting: “Shame, Barnett, shame!”

Protests were also held in the WA towns of Tom Price, Beagle Bay, Broome, Geraldton, Halls Creek, Warmun, Fitzroy Crossing, Kalgoorlie, and in Bendigo in Victoria and Launceston in Tasmania.

The demonstrations – many called with less than a week’s notice – are a heartening response to the actions of the state and federal Liberal governments. More rallies are planned, with protests already called for Melbourne on 10 April and Perth on 23 April.

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