Aborigines to march in peace on Anzac Day

Frontier Wars remembered in Canberra 2012

Canberra 2011 - Frontier Wars Commemoration

David Ellery Canberra Times April 11, 2012

There will not be a repeat of the rowdy Australia Day protest when Aboriginal activists walk behind the Anzac Day march in Canberra, a community leader says.

Canberra Tent Embassy founder Michael Anderson has called on Aboriginal people from across Australia to converge on the city to protest past massacres, "genocidal" mistreatment and abuse.

"Our country was taken by superior force at gunpoint," he said. "Blood has been spilt on the wattle and this war of attrition against Aboriginal people is continuing."

Despite this there are no plans to be disruptive or disrespectful.

"If we want people to respect us we've got to respect the occasion," Mr Anderson said. "I would be very disappointed if this doesn't go off peacefully."

Derek Robson, the national secretary of the RSL, said the planned protest was not appropriate and would not be welcome.

"It wasn't that many years ago that WAR [Women Against Rape] were protesting and they got chased out of town," he said.

"A few years ago myself and Air Commodore Royce Thompson - the principal RAAF chaplain - helped the Aboriginal community set up their memorial at the Australian War Memorial. That has worked absolutely brilliantly.

"On the RSL side, there is no need for Aboriginals to have a separate march - we are all of the one company and all ex-servicemen are welcome in the march."

Australia Defence Association executive director Neil James said there was no connection between Anzac Day and current indigenous issues. "The point about supposed continuing problems has nothing to do with Anzac Day commemorations," he said.

Mr Anderson disagreed.

He said Aboriginals had fought in the two world wars as well as Korea and Vietnam and more recent conflicts, but the equality they had experienced in the army ended the minute they returned to civilian life.

"This isn't just a protest, it is an alternative commemoration," he said. "Mick Thorpe, who led the march last year and will be leading it again this year, wore his grandfather's medals." Mr Anderson has called for those taking part in the protest to "gather at the lower end of Anzac Parade, Canberra, at 10am for the 11am march and carry a banner for one of the wars or massacres that have occurred".

He said the Government's "Closing the Gap" policy "through basic cards and a dictatorship about how [Aboriginal people] should conduct our lives is social engineering at its best and genocidal intent".

Mr Anderson does not expect anywhere near the number of people who were at the tent embassy anniversary on Australia Day to take part in the Anzac Day protest.

"We are subject to [a] continued war of attrition, including urban warfare.

"Our people are dying in custody for crimes white people don't usually go to jail for, minor driving offences."