Protesters 'shut down Melbourne' to fight against closure of First Nation communities

Black Friday Rally in Melbourne, Friday 13th March 2015
Protesters at Black Friday Rally in Melbourne, Friday March 13.
(Photo: Cameron McBroom Facebook)

Chloe Booker 'The Age' 13 March 2015

Image: Jesse McNelis, Twitter

More than a thousand protesters shut down traffic in Melbourne's CBD to rally against the planned closure of remote Indigenous communities in West Australia.

The group had hoped to confront Tony Abbott at the National Gallery, where he had been rumoured to be dining on Friday night.

Mr Abbott has come under fire since he said it was a "lifestyle choice" to live in remote Indigenous communities.

He made the comments on Tuesday while backing the West Australian government's plan to close up to 150 of the communities.

After giving up on seeing Mr Abbott at about 6pm, the swarm of angry protesters walked up from the gallery to the State Library waving Aboriginal flags and chanting "shame, Abbott, shame".

About half-a-dozen tram routes were disrupted and a number of roads closed as they made their way up Swanston Street.

Organiser Meriki Onus, from group Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance, said she set up a Facebook page promoting the protest on Thursday because she was angry at the proposed closures and Mr Abbott's comments.

Image source: Facebook

"They're our most vulnerable group within Australia," she said.

"None of what they do or their lifestyle is a choice. I can imagine that they are still close to their traditional lifestyles.

"They're been doing it since the first sunrise."

Ms Onus said the group's intention was to "shut down Melbourne in response to shutting down the communities".

"It was fired up. It was a loud march," she said.

"This is only just the beginning."

Ms Onus said Indigenous groups in WA were predicting there would be 20,000 refugees if the communities were closed.

She called images posted on social media on Friday night purporting police attempting to close the newly set up Nyoongar Tent Embassy in Perth's Heirisson Island "disgusting".

Marianne Headland Mckay giving the police details of her message that she has a legal right to camp on a registered cultural heritage site.

(Image source: Scott Ludlam, WA Greens Senator Twitter)

"They're all homeless people that live there," she said.

"That council are evicting homeless women and children from that embassy. It's a refuge."

The embassy was set up a more than week ago as part of an Indigenous national sovereignty movement.

The Police slowly form layers with riot outfits on horseback in front, followed by a row of uniform police and a the k-9 dog squad 'on the ready' - all to intimidate the legal occupants of a registered First Nations cultural heritage site. Whilst this is happening the council workers and other unformed police remove the tents and meagre possessions of the homeless and displaced people and their peaceful supporters.

City of Perth chief executive Gary Stevenson said, on Wednesday, the campers would be evicted if they did not leave the island.

Weeks of protests were held on Heirisson Island in 2012 after a group of Aboriginal activists objected to the WA government's $1.3 billion native title offer to the Nyoongar people.

A Victoria Police spokesman said there were no incidents with the protesters in Melbourne.