Aboriginal rights - Protests greet Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II was greeted with protests as well as pomp when she arrived in the southern Australian city of Melbourne on Wednesday to open the Commonwealth Games.india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 14:54 IST
Queen Elizabeth II was greeted with protests as well as pomp when she arrived in the southern Australian city of Melbourne on Wednesday to open the Commonwealth Games.
About 200 demonstrators backing claims by Aborigines that British colonisers stole the land that became Australia from its original inhabitants more than two centuries ago, were among about 500 people who gathered outside the site where the monarch was to have an official lunch.
“Make sure you tell the queen she’s standing on our land and we want it back,” an Aboriginal protester shouted into a megaphone as the official motorcade approached.
The demonstrators, who stayed behind barricades set up about 15 metres (50 feet) from the venue entrance, also jeered Australian Prime Minister John Howard as he arrived to host the lunch, shouting, “Always was, always would be, Aboriginal land.” Hundreds of police, including officers mounted on horses wearing helmets with riot visors, stood guard.
The lunch was being held in the building where the first sitting of Australia’s federal Parliament was held in 1901, an event that heralded the end of Britain’s direct colonial rule.
Protest organiser Robbie Thorpe urged the queen to sign a treaty with aboriginal Australians and said if she didn’t the demonstrators would march to Government House where the queen will stay while in Melbourne. Hundreds of well-wishers also gathered as the queen arrived, wearing a mint green hat with white bow and a patterned skirt and top with mint green and dark green floral pattern.
One supporter held aloft a huge portrait of the queen.
She stopped briefly to accept bouquets of flowers from children, including two who were picked from the crowd of protesters at the last minute by police. One bore an Aboriginal flag painted on her face as she handed the queen a eucalyptus bouquet.