Aborigines accuse Queen of genocide
The writ would accuse her of genocide if the she fails to launch treaty negotiations while in Melbourne to open the Commonwealth Games.india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 18:56 IST
Australian Aborigines have threatened to serve a writ on Queen Elizabeth II accusing her of genocide if the monarch fails to launch treaty negotiations while in Melbourne to open the Commonwealth Games.
Indigenous protestors have set up a campsite in a central Melbourne park just a few hundred metres (yards) away from Government House, where the Queen will be lodging while in Australia's second city to open the sporting extravaganza.
They want the Queen to sign a treaty acknowledging the injustices perpetrated on Aborigines since Britain's "invasion" of Australia in 1788.
Aboriginal elder Robbie Thorpe said the group of about 100 protestors had kindled a sacred flame in their site, dubbed "Camp Sovereignty", around which the treaty negotiations would take place.
Thorpe said if the Queen did not accept the invitation then the group, which is staging a mock event called the "Stolenwealth Games" would attempt to serve a writ accusing her of involvement in genocide and launching legal action under international law.
"The attempted and actual genocide of Aboriginal people in Australia has not extinguished our sovereign rights in our own country," Thorpe said.
"We've had a lot of injustices perpetrated on us but we're a forgiving people and we want to settle this through negotiation, not legal action -- we've got no desire to see the Queen in the international courts alongside Saddam Hussein.
"The way to settle this is around that," he said, pointing to the sacred fire. "We want to invite the Queen around for a sit down, a talk and a cup of tea -- this is a time for healing and we want to start the process."
Australia's 400,000 Aborigines account for two per cent of the country's 20 million-strong population, with indigenous populations facing high unemployment, low education levels and a life expectancy about 20 years lower than those of mainstream Australians.
A study released by Oxfam Australia this week found the health of Aboriginal Australians was well behind that of indigenous people in other developed Commonwealth nations.
The report said Aborigines' living standards were closer those experienced in poor nations such as Bangladesh and Zambia, than those recorded in comparable populations such as New Zealand's Maori and Canada's indigenes.
"While most Australians are living longer than ever before, one in every three indigenous Australian males can expect to die before they reach the age of 55," it found.
Camp Sovereignty spokeswoman Rayna Fahey said the Commonwealth Games were a useful way to highlight the plight of Aborigines.
"The response from the public has been terrific," she said. "Everyone's been very supportive and we've had a lot of international interest -- people find it hard to believe that the situation in Australia is still this bad."
Authorities in Victoria state have passed special legislation banning camping in the city centre for the duration of the Games in a move activists say is aimed at stopping the Aboriginal protest.
However, police have so far taken no action against the camp, with Fahey saying officers participated in an indigenous welcoming ceremony on Sunday and they were expected to maintain their low-key attitude.
The protest group plans to hold a march through central Melbourne on Wednesday, the day the Queen opens the Games at a lavish ceremony in the renovated Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
First Published: Mar 13, 2006 16:50 IST