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Sports

‘Stolenwealth’ Games protests highlight Aborigines' plight

media A protester outside the Carrara Stadium, before the opening ceremony of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games AFP

As many Australians settle down for a sporting bonanza this weekend, Aboriginal activists say they will continue to protest the event which represents invasion, colonisation and the loss of their land.

Aboriginal culture took centre stage during the opening ceremony of the Games, with traditional dancing, a smoke ceremony and didgeridoo player.

But, for the hundreds of Aboriginal activists making their presence felt in Gold Coast, the celebration of native culture was whitewashing a dark chapter of Australian history.

A chapter whose effects are still being felt today, they argue.

Peaceful demonstrators disrupted part of the opening ceremony – at one point halting the relay of the Queen’s baton, a symbol of Elizabeth II’s role as head of the Commonwelth and Head of State of many member nations.

Call for truth commission

"We are calling on the Commonwealth heads of every nation that has come here to demand [Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull to initiate a truth commission," Australian media quoted on one of the protesters as saying.

When the British established colonies in Australia in the late 18th century they declared it "terra nullius", empty land owned by no one.

There were an estimated one million Aboriginal people on the island at the time.

Today Aboriginal people make up just three percent of the 24 million population and are the most disadvantaged ethnic group in Australia by most measures, from health, to employment and rates of imprisonment.

Not all Australians agree with the Aborigines' complaints

The right-wing, anti-immigration politician Pauline Hanson said the opening ceremony was "absolutely disgusting" and did not reflect Australian society.

"I've got nothing against the Aboriginal people but I'm sick and tired of being made to feel as if I'm a second-class citizen in my own country,” she told Australia’s Sky News.

Surfer’s Paradise lost

On Saturday a group of about 150 Aboriginal protesters took to the beach in Gold Coast.

The group of men, women and children was escorted by police and Games officials. No incidents were reported and no arrests were made.

The organisers said they were pleased with their demonstration which lasted about an hour.

In a statement the group said colonialised Commonwealth nations were meeting on stolen Aboriginal lands for the Games.

They were protesting, as they did at the 1982 Brisbane Games, against colonial rule, the forced oppression of Aborigines and the suppression of their ancestral rights, they explained.

The group says it will continue to protest throughout the Games which end on 15 April.

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