Australia: Protesters won’t leave park until demands met
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Australia: Protesters won’t leave park until demands met

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John Ahni Schertow
May 10, 2006
 

ABORIGINAL protesters will refuse to leave the Kings Domain at midnight tonight unless the State Government meets their demands.

The so-called sacred fire and Camp Sovereignty have attracted controversy since they were established during the Commonwealth Games.

The Supreme Court ordered the camp to be dissolved last month, but an indigenous heritage inspector put a 30-day emergency protection order over the fire, which is next to a burial site in the park.

Campaigner Gary Murray said the group wanted better security for the burial site. “The site has been desecrated,” he said yesterday. “There were five huge eucalypt totem poles. Where are they now? The council can’t tell us.”

The council said the totem poles were never meant to be permanent.

Campaigners regularly cleared up the site because it was littered with syringes, bottles and other rubbish, Mr Murray said. “We want a permanent fence around the memorial stone.”

The burial site was created in 1985 after Melbourne Museum handed back the skeletal remains of 38 people to Victorian Aboriginal communities.

The burial was marked by a public ceremony and the permanent memorial stone was installed.

Black GST spokesman Robbie Thorpe said he expected a large gathering of support today and there would be a screening of films about indigenous issues.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Gavin Jennings is expected to order Melbourne City Council local laws officers to extinguish the fire at midnight when the protection order expires.

Spokesman Martin Curtis said the fire would be doused. “The minister has still not seen … any evidence that would support extending the deadline or protecting the fire,” he said.

The fire would be extinguished and the embers removed, a Melbourne City Council spokeswoman said. “Council contractors will then begin work to reinstate the parkland to its original condition,” she said.

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