AMIDST the hurley-burley of a protest against a visiting Canadian urging Australia to stronger action against refugee boats, Aboriginal activist Caroline Kirk noticed a tide turning in her own world.
The Koori Ngemba woman says she’s noticed a thawing of relations with the police who helped keep the peace between her United Against Bigotry and Racism colleagues and alt-right group True Blue Crew outside the screening of journalist Lauren Southern’s documentary about violence on South Africa farms.
A year ago Ms Kirk was in cuffs at the politically-charged protests against the Roe Highway extension through the Beeliar wetlands where police used pepper spray liberally, but says this time round the most she faced was a request not to swear.
“When I was at Roe 8 I was frightened of them, and today I go up to them and talk to them and they talk back nicely. It’s not degrading and they give me respect,” she says.
Earlier this month WA police commissioner Chris Dawson offered an historic apology to Aboriginal people for their treatment by police, saying they faced racism and “unconscious bias”.
Perth superintendent Peter Hatch was pleased with the feedback.
“Members of the public have a right to protest, and WA Police Force is committed to maintaining public safety and ensuring these events are conducted in a lawful manner,” Supt Hatch said.
Meanwhile inside the convention centre Ms Southern was urging Australians to reject multiculturalism.
“It really seems that you guys are at a crossroad,” Ms Southern addressed Aussie fans in a publicity video for the event.
“Do you want to retain your culture, do you want to retain your borders, family, identity, or will the boats keep coming, will the ‘no go zones’ keep growing and will you become another victim of multiculturalism.”
There were clashes outside Ms Southern’s Melbourne gig, with the Victorian police reportedly handing her a $60,000-plus bill for covering the event.
by MOLLY SCHMIDT