Aborigine elder protests bicentennial cricket match

Jan. 13, 1988
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SYDNEY, Australia -- An Aboriginal tribal elder, his face smeared with white ceremonial paint, tried to disrupt a bicentennial cricket match organized by Prime Minister Bob Hawke today but was carried off the field by police.

Burnum Burnum, an Aboriginal elder who was protesting Australia's bicentennial, dashed onto the playing field at Manly Oval before the match began and squatted on the pitching area. Four policemen rushed onto the fieled and carried him off minutes before the competition began.

The match featured the nation's first all-Aboriginal touring team since 1868 against a team of former white Australian greats, headed by the prime minister.

Before sprinting to the wicket, Burnum, wearing tribal paint, shorts and a T-shirt, said he was outraged by his fellow Aborigines' decision to take part in the bicentennial celebration match.

The Aboriginal team is scheduled to tour England later in the year, nearly 120 years after an Aboriginal squad visited the country in a historic 1868 match.

Federal Aboriginal Affairs Department Secretary Charles Perkins said earlier that today's match would promote good will between Aboriginals and whites.

But Burnum blasted the event, saying, 'It's not a good-will gesture because it comes under the heading of the bicentenary.

'It's like the British came here and you said to us, 'Give us your land and we will give you the gift of cricket,'' he said. 'For Aborigines to go to England in 1988 legitimizes the theft of Australia.'

After the incident, Hawke swept aside the protest, telling reporters, 'I'm not interested in something from a very small minority.'

Australia is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of convict ships from England in 1788. The arrival of the ships launched the white settlement of the country.

Many Aborigines, who make up 1 percent of the nation's 16 million population, feel the bicentennial is a slap in the face because it celebrates the arrival of whites, which led to the dispossesion of their lands and the killing of tens of thousands of their people.

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