Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Downsizing numbers can't silence Indigenous protests

  • 01 February 2016

On the day of the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne, I was abused on a tram for wearing a pro-Aboriginal rights t-shirt.

I was waiting for the stop when this Aboriginal man approached me for a dollar. I noticed the Aboriginal football guernsey he was wearing, and commented. He in turn complimented the White Australia/Black History t-shirt I had on.

The tram pulled up and as I boarded, he yelled goodbye to me. I turned around to look for a seat, and this bloke up the front who had witnessed the end of the exchange took one look at my t-shirt and said 'F**k that, you're not f**ken sitting near me'. 

I wasn't even shocked. Indeed, I think I even expected it. It is not the first time I have been abused as an Indigenous activist on Australia Day.

And as it turned out, his bigotry was not enough to put a dampener on what was one of the best protests I have ever been to. I spent the entire day surrounded by energetic members of the Indigenous community and our countless allies, chanting for change.

What did shock me were the media reports on this rally. When I found out that the densely packed, energetic, noisy crowd consisted of only 150 people, I was surprised, to say the least.

This is according to coverage by The Australian, anyway. I could have sworn it was much larger.

Indeed, the crowd continued to grow as it wound its way through the streets to the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets. Not only did the protesters fill this intersection, they spilled into the side streets. As someone who has occupied this intersection several times during the large Stop the Forced Closures rallies, I and other seasoned protesters estimated the crowd at around 3-5000.

Other media sources didn't do much better than The Australian. The Age, Herald Sun and ABC all reported 'hundreds'. Indeed, the only news source which came close to mentioning the true size of the Melbourne rally was New Zealand site stuff.co.nz which stated 'thousands'.

If this were just confined to the reports on the Melbourne rally, I could probably write it off as limited reporting and editorial staff operating remotely on a public holiday. (And even then, why not update online articles when more information comes to light?)  This however wasn't the case.

In Sydney, numbers reported ranged from 'several hundred' to 'more than a thousand', despite there being about 5000 protesters in attendance.