Statements leave Brisbane Mayor standing on very thin ice

After a three hour consolidation meeting after the eviction, Mr Shannon Ruska, a Yuggera elder said they will meet Mayor Graham Quirk's at a meeting next Tuesday 22nd May, and that an indigenous 'Welcome to Country' ceremony should become a permanent feature of the annual Greek Paniyiri Festival.

Chris Kazonis - Paniyiri Festival spokesperson said the Greek communities concern was not the Tent Embassy being there but the amount of recently erected tents at the events main entrance. "It wasn't a major thing and I thought we could work around it, quite comfortably," he said.


The fire still burns

Brisbane Times May 17th 2012

A Musgrave Park traditional owner has urged Greek Paniyiri Festival organisers to make a "Welcome to Country" ceremony a permanent feature of their annual event on the West End site.

The call came after tent embassy protesters and Brisbane indigenous elders held a three-hour meeting today to discuss the future of the Aboriginal community's involvement with South Brisbane's Musgrave Park.

Aboriginal traditional owner Shannon Ruska, who attended the meeting, said indigenous elders had accepted Lord Mayor Graham Quirk's offer of a meeting on Tuesday next week to discuss the future of Musgrave Park.

Mr Ruska, a Yuggera elder, also said he had asked that an indigenous 'Welcome to Country' ceremony become a permanent feature of the annual Greek Paniyiri Festival, which is held at Musgrave Park.

The 2012 festival will be held this weekend. The tent embassy protesters were yesterday kicked out of the park by 200 police after being issued with a council eviction notice earlier in the week.

Mr Ruska acknowledged members of Brisbane's indigenous community had been asked by the festival organisers to perform on Sunday.

"And we are prepared to do that," he said.

But he said the respect should be permanent.

"Welcome to Country has definitely got to be a permanent addition to Paniyiri," he said.

"Because it is the formal Aboriginal way of welcoming people to their land since the beginning of time."

He said the Brisbane indigenous community had a good relationship with the Greek community, a point reciprocated by Paniyiri Festival organizer Chris Kazonis this afternoon.

Chris Kazonis - Paniyiri Festival spokesperson

Mr Kazonis said a 'Welcome to Country' had featured at the festival in 2009.

Mr Kazonis said he had contacted Brisbane City Council raising concerns over the tent embassy at Musgrave Park only as the number of tents began to increase as Paniyiri neared.

"It wasn't a major thing and I thought we could work around it, quite comfortably," he said.

When the number of marquees grew to 10 or 12, and at the main entrance to the festival, festival organisers put their concerns in writing.

Mr Kazonis said there were extensive behind-the-scenes negotiations with tent embassy representatives, Greek community president Jim Georgiou, Aboriginal elder Sam Watson and Lord Mayor Graham Quirk before the council asked police to enforce the eviction.

Mr Kazonis said the fact Brisbane City Council was in caretaker mode before the local government elections on April 28 had delayed a compromise solution.

This afternoon, Mr Ruska and Brisbane Sovereign Tent Embassy spokesman Chris Moreton emerged from the three-hour meeting, at the Jagera Arts Centre hall on the southern edge of Musgrave Park, as spokesman for the elders at the meeting.

"Today what happened is the start of negotiations between the Brisbane community, the original owners of the land and different facets of the national Aboriginal community," Mr Ruska said.

"And at this stage we have a verbal agreement on the cards with Brisbane City Council to use the land behind you.

"Until Tuesday the Aboriginal people here in Brisbane would like to make no further comments until we meet with Graham Quirk."

That meeting is expected to discuss a permant site for a Brisbane Sovereign Tent Embassy and ways to progress an indigenous museum or cultural centre in Brisbane, possibly at Musgrave Park.

Greek Newspaper Report

Indigenous Find New Place to Camp But Still Boycott Paniyiri Festival


Embassy - Festival in background

Areti Kotseli Greek Reporter May 17, 2012

The site of the initial tent embassy of the Aborigines is now surrounded by carnival rides put in place for the Greek Paniyiri festival that is about to take place this coming weekend.

The indigenous decided to camp at the new site in Musgrave Park, as their struggle is not over yet. Australian media report that today things are quieter at the new camp site, with a dozen protesters gathered around the Aborigines's sacred fire.

A spokesman for the group says morale remains high and they have been contacted by several law firms offering assistance. Opposition leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says negotiations should have started sooner.

"Everybody has their right to their opinions but these are matters that the elders need to raise at length with the council," she said. "Let's not forget that the park is a public place for all to enjoy."

Queensland historian Dr. Ray Kerkhove says Aboriginal people should be allowed to camp in Musgrave Park as the indigenous tent embassy was legitimate. Dr. Kerkhove says the park was part of a traditional camping ground that predates white settlement.

He explains that an Aborigines camp existed in Brisbane park long before the colony. "It was obviously there before settlement and this is the point I wanted to make - is that when people are saying 'oh, they're squatting there' and all this, in fact if anyone is squatting it's us - the white people." "A lot of these places where Aborigines have chosen to camp are camps that were there before the town," added the historian.

Meanwhile, punters are threatening to boycott the Paniyiri Greek festival this weekend. Paniyiri chairman Chris Kazonis justified the letter sent to Brisbane City Council by saying their primary concern was safety but there has still been a backlash on social media against the festival.

Some people have taken to the festival's Facebook page to say they would boycott Paniyiri because they did not believe the tent embassy should have been forced to make way for the annual event.

A "special" announcement will be made at some point today by the Paniyiri Facebook administrators. Tent embassy protesters said they have a good relationship with the organizers of the festival. The indigenous have problems with the Australian authorities, not the Greek Community.