An Aboriginal activist who made headlines last week for saying she wishes Australia would ‘burn to the ground’ has been criticised for working for government-funded organisations.
‘Invasion Day’ protest organiser Tarneen Onus-Williams led a crowd of thousands in Melbourne on Friday as they flooded Spring Street and Collins Street, carrying placards and shouting slogans.
‘We have not organised this to change the date. We have organised this to abolish Australia Day because f*** Australia. F*** Australia, I hope it f***ing burns to the ground,’ the 24-year-old, who identifies as a Yigar Gunditjmara and Bindal woman, said.
Aboriginal activist Tarneen Onus-Williams, who made headlines on Friday for saying she hopes Australia ‘burns to the ground’, has been slammed for working for state-funded organisations
‘Invasion Day’ protest organiser Tarneen Onus-Williams led a crowd of thousands in Melbourne last week as they flooded Spring Street and Collins Street, carrying placards and shouting slogans
On Monday, former Australian Labor Party president Warren Mundine (pictured far left), who is an Aboriginal leader, called MsOnus-Williams a hypocrite for attacking the government, despite currently working for several state-funded programs
Ms Onus-Williams later refused to apologise for the comment, which she said was meant to be a metaphor.
‘It was…not actually a statement to be taken literally. I just want everything, all the governments to fall apart, because our people are dying and nobody cares and the whole system needs to change.’
On Monday, former Australian Labor Party president Warren Mundine, who is an Aboriginal leader, called Ms Onus-Williams a hypocrite for attacking the government, despite currently working for several state-funded programs.
Ms Onus-Williams is a Koorie Youth Council executive member and serves on the state government’s Aboriginal Interim Treaty Working Group.
‘The serious question here is why is the government funding these groups and these organisations when the people involved are haters who have no scruples about taking taxpayers’ money and then spitting in their faces,’ Mr Mundine told The Australian.
‘And governments only have themselves to blame for wasting taxpayers’ money, because there’s no real rigour in appointments and no questions about where this money is going. And then you see money going into causes and demonstrations where people are racially abusing and threatening people — it has to change.’
Ms Onus-Williams (pictured) told the assembled crowd ‘f*** Australia, hope it burns to the ground’ during one of many speeches
Onus-Williams along with other speakers claimed Australia was ‘not mature enough’ to celebrate itself – even if the date was moved from January 26
Protesters flood the area around the Victorian Parliament to protest against ‘Invasion Day’
Tens of thousands flooded Spring Street and Collins Street in Melbourne’s CBD to protest against ‘Invasion Day’, carrying placards and shouting slogans
Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett told The Australian he believes the 24-year-old should step down from her role with Koorie after her comments.
The Koorie Youth Council told the publication it didn’t support Ms Onus-Williams’ comments, who the organisation said had been a volunteer since November 2016.
Ms Onus-Williams began working as a member of the Aboriginal Interim Treaty Working Group in July 2016, according to her Linkedin.
The 24-year-old has a lengthy resume, starting with her role as a receptionist for Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service from 2010 to 2012.
She then worked briefly as a Sexual Health and BBVs project officers for Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Inc and as a health educator at Ilibijerri Theatre company in 2015.
From January 2013 to November 2015, she worked as a medical and dental receptionist for Victorian Aboriginal Health Service Co-op.
She was then moved into the role of support facilitator at the Co-op, which she left in June 2017.
Ms Onus-Williams lists her current employment as a committee member for the Aboriginal Nations Torres Strait Islander HIV Youth Mob, a client services officer for Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, and a trailwalker for Oxfam Australia.
The rally organiser earlier accused broadcaster Neil Mitchell of being a racist during an awkward interview on live radio
Aboriginal activists declared Australia didn’t deserve a day of celebration and hoped the country ‘burns to the ground’ at a Melbourne rally
They then marched down Bourke Street chanting ‘always was, always will be Aboriginal land’, ‘no pride in genocide’ and ‘our land, our law’
Activists take over the steps of the Victorian Parliament during ‘Invasion Day’ march
Ms Onus-Williams clashed with Neil Mitchell on Tuesday while she was on 3AW radio to promote the protest.
The tension kicked off when Mitchell asked he if her protest group would cooperate with the police or council to minimise disruption.
‘Yeah look, we are asserting our sovereign right to walk on our country because we are sovereign people to this land. At the moment we’re not organising with police,’ Ms Onus-Williams said.
‘So people can do things the way they like, and we like to do things we like to do.’
In Sydney a large group including former Sydney Swans stars Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin gathered at inner-city Redfern’s The Block and marched to nearby Victoria Park
Protest banner in Redfern speaks out against Aboriginal deaths in custody
Organiser Ken Canning from Fighting In Resistance Equally hoped the Sydney Invasion Day rally would draw attention to indigenous deaths in custody
Sydney protesters declare ‘no pride in genocide’ as they march through Redfern
Protesters wear Bob Marley t-shirts and traditional paint while carrying boomerangs
Mitchell asked Ms Onus-Williams if that meant she ignored ‘white man’s law’.
‘On that basis you can say the aboriginal people can do whatever they like and just ignore the law of the land,’ he said.
Ms Onus-Williams replied saying ‘we have a law of the land already, we do hold our values strong to our heart’.
She refused to answer questions about Koorie Youth Council using taxpayer money to promote the rally and said it was protesting the abolition of Australia Day, not just pushing for the date to be moved.
Mitchell cut in saying: ‘you’re happy to interview yourself, but that’s not the way it works’.
This sign called for the Australian flag to be changed along with date of Australia Day
Hundreds of police looked out over the protest, ready to suppress any violent clashes between protesters and far-right activists.
Many white people were in the crowd protesting Australia Day in Melbourne
The interview descended into chaos when Ms Onus-Williams said she would not ‘take orders’ from Mitchell.
‘I won’t take orders from a radio host on a racist radio channel,’ she said.
A shocked Mitchell said, ‘did you just call me a racist?’ to which Ms Onus-Williams replied, ‘Yes, I called you a racist’.
‘You’re questioning my legitimacy as a sovereign person of this land,’ she said.
Some Aboriginal attended wearing traditional dress and painted in colours
Aboriginal elder in traditional dress addresses the crowd in Melbourne’s CBD
Flags, banners, and placards were waved in the crowd, one reading ‘f**k celebrating day made of misery’
Mitchell told her he was offended by the accusation, saying it was ‘ugly to throw around the word racist’.
‘I’m questioning you not because you’re black or yellow or white, but because you’re in a position organising a rally which is significant to this town around a significant issue which is the future of Australia Day,’ he said.
‘It does not make me racist to ask you a bloody question and to call me a racist is damn offensive.
‘Please please please don’t assume that questioning equates with racism, that really is quite offensive intellectually and morally.’