This month sees the Commonwealth Games return to Australia, this time being held on the Gold Coast. Following a tradition that began at the 1982 Brisbane Games, Indigenous rights activists will use the 2018 Games as an opportunity to raise issues of discrimination, poverty and Aboriginal rights on the international stage.
From stolen land to the stolen generations, for centuries theft has been the defining feature of the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the British colonial power. As such protesters have aptly renamed this year’s event the StolenWealth Games.
Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy and Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance will establish a protest camp in the popular Broadbeach suburb of the Gold Coast.
It should come as no surprise that the camp organisers have not yet released full details regarding the camp, given the hysterical response of the mainstream media to previous protests. Particularly considering the crude attempts by some outlets to misrepresent the hyperbole of indigenous activist, Wayne Wharton, as an “Indigenous Terror Threat”.
The camp aims to be a “central hub… for demonstrations, public forums and discussions, as well as workshops for cultural sharing and resistance concerts when the sun goes down”. This camp is to be welcomed, as is the best possible turn out from a broad cross section of Australian society to protests and actions that the groups involved call.
The camp organisers describe the StolenWealth Games as an opportunity for “Aboriginal, Torres Strait islanders as well as other groups who have been oppressed… [to unite] to resist colonial activity and authority”.
Socialists believe that such unity between oppressed groups is fundamental if those in positions of power are to be effectively challenged. Indeed, only through unity can capitalism, and the oppressive systems which are its foundation, be ultimately defeated.
While it should be recognised that that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately impacted upon, many of the difficulties faced by working class Indigenous communities are also faced by non-Indigenous working class people.
This includes limited access to decent health care, education, housing and employment to name but a few. On these issues, there is common cause which unites the majority of people.
The mainstream media will try to smear the campaign as an unpatriotic distraction from nothing more than a fraternal sporting event. This must be challenged and those detractors asked; where is the fraternity when it comes to access to healthcare, unemployment and incarceration?
Where is the fraternity when aboriginal AFL players are subjected to abuse on the pitch? Or what about when panellists on the Sunrise morning TV show openly discuss racist ideas like the ‘need’ for another stolen generation!
In the same way that Australia Day is used to gloss over history and cover up the divisions between the 1% and the rest of us, the establishment will try to use the 2018 Games as a showcase of how ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’ Australia is.
But just like the thousands of people who came out to Invasion Day demonstrations in January, the StolenWealth protesters can rob them of their $2 billion PR stunt.
All those excluded from the so-called ‘modern and progressive Australia’, including Indigenous people, students, the unemployed and the low paid, can use this opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of the wealthiest few and the bankruptcy of their political representatives in both the LNP and ALP.
From the centuries-long brutality meted out against indigenous people to the modern, barbaric treatment of the refugees on Manus Island and Nauru, the Australian establishment have gotten away with their crimes scot-free. The StolenWealth Games is an opportunity to expose their role and make loud and clear the call for real change.
By Eóin Dawson