In less than a month 20 representatives from the biggest economies of the world will meet in Brisbane. The summit is set to bring Queensland and Australia into the world’s spotlight—at least it will if Tony Abbott makes good on his President Putin shirtfront declaration. However, we won’t see much of what is really happening in the meetings as they are not open to the public, despite most of the member countries claiming to be democracies
During the summit the city will be patrolled by 6,000 police officers, access to the city will be highly restricted, and the Friday has been named a public holiday to reduce the volume of people. In fact the security operation is set to be one of the biggest in Australian history. Much Brisbane city council is preparing cultural celebrations in the lead up to the summit, but not everyone in the city is happy with the G20 summit. In fact a lot of the security preparations are in anticipation of the large numbers of expected protesters who are also organising their own events.
We met up with some of the main groups organising the G20 protests to find out what they’re planning. We met BoeSpearim the organiser for the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy and Callum Clayton-Dixon the co-editor of Brisbane Blacks at Musgrave Park, an important site for Brisbane’s Aboriginal community and the centre of the events they are planning for the G20, and talked about world politics and environment.
The G20 have stated that their main focus is economic growth, one at odds with the protester’s and much of the publics concern over issues around the environment and human rights. “Economical growth is basically exploiting the land of Indigenous people.. It’s the clash of two worlds and it is the rise of the economic benefit of the few,” Boe says.
Boe and Callum are not overly concerned with catching world leader’s attention, but rather see the G20 week as an opportunity for Aboriginal people and the broader community to engage. The protests at the 1982 Commonwealth games in Brisbane made history as Aboriginal people came all together from all over the country for the abolition of the Aboriginal Protection Act and the Apartheid Legislation. The G20 protests have the same potential, there are buses coming from Cairns and Melbourne to support the protests, “the whole idea of putting up these events is to galvanize the movement, to put us into the next stage of the movement, to inspire and give motivation to our own people, to get as all active again,” Callum says.
Later in the day, I met with BrisCAN-G20 spokesperson Robin Taubenfeld and a handful of individuals from activist groups the Occupy movement, Friends of the Earth, Socialist Alliance, and the West End community. They also believed the G20 representatives won’t be solving the world’s real problems, “We are in a time when corporations and decision makers are putting an agenda of growth which is in direct opposition with the planet and the climate and for human rights here in Australia and globally,” Robin says.
When asked if they felt suitably represented by Tony Abbott on the world stage they literally laughed. “We are not going to get our freedom from the people that have been oppressing us but from the people that feel the same way that we are feeling,” Boe said. While Robin and the BrisCAN-G20 crew said the Prime Minister had a “political agenda for intentional disregard for the community and the planet as a way of showing force.”
Abbott’s declaration that the G20 won’t focus on climate change has the community concerned, as has the current government’s decisions to support mining and fossil fuel industries despite the US committing to reduce their own carbon emissions.
The list of issues is understandably long, but all the protesters agree that the international attention can be a positive tool for change. For the Aboriginal community it would be an opportunity to speak about their history and connect with others around the world, “at the end of the day it’s not world leader we want to speak to, it is the other Indigenous and oppressed people around the world we want to open a dialogue with.” BrisCAN-G20 and the Aboriginal community are committed to broaden these communications with various talks, symposiums, concerts and workshops that can bring grass-root based solutions to the problems that are not being addressed by the G20’s decisions, that would affect not only Australia but the world’s non-privileged population.
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