Council breaches its own policy and dismantles the Portland Tent Embassy

Portland Aboriginal Tent Embassy Press Release

The Glenelg Shire breaches their own Laws to dismantle the The Portland Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Portland Tent Embassy - Markey Square, Portland, Victoria (Image: 'The Standard' Warrambool)

On Wednesday 23rd October 2013 The Portland Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Portland Victoria was invaded by the Glenelg Shire without Notification or warning or even paper work that would be expected of a Shire in Australia.The Glenelg shire sent in 3 trucks and about 20 men on the Wednesday morning at 7 am. The men who were sent in from the Glenelg Shire dug up a vegetable garden, pulled down fencing and buried in the Portland Aboriginal Tent Embassy Fire. They removed 3 Caravans and a generator worth $1800.

Sandra Onus a Yigar, Gilar woman from the Gunitchjmara Nation who is the founder and veteran of the Portland Aboriginal Tent Embassy was outraged by the Shire’s lack of formality to follow procedure and adhere to their own laws. The Glenelg Shire provided no evidence of a formal meeting deciding to evict persons from the land. They provided no evidence of any minutes over this matter on their website.

On Friday the 25th of October 2013 Ms Sandra Onus contacted the CEO of the Glenelg Shire and asked the CEO which Act or By Law enabled the Glenelg Shire to forcibly remove the Embassy without notification or discussion. The CEO did not verify their was even a law that they were acting from. The CEO then said that Ms Onus may pick up her belongings in which Ms Onus stipulated very clearly for the possession’s to be returned back to where they were taken from.

The CEO and Glenelg Shire acted outside their own Council policies of Codes of Conduct. The Glenelg Shire has also breached the Glenelg Aboriginal Partnership Plan 2011-2013 on a number of places. One example is section 7.6 part iii where the Glenelg Shire is to "Undertake timely discussions and engagement to resolve issues of Aboriginal land justice". The Local Government ACT 1989 section 197F Restricts Councils to make their own Local Laws.

It is requested that the Minister for local government : The Hon. Jeanette Powell, MP Investigate the Glenelg Shire as in section 209 of the Local Government Act 1989 to establish what other behavior’s the Glenelg Shire are outside the law on. The Duties and powers of the Chief Executive Officer and the Glenelg Shire are at present questionable of being outside the Law.

Sandra (left) and Maluda Onus protest at the Market Square Embassy (Archived image: 'The Standard' Warrnambool)
Council removes Portland Tent Embassy

By Jono Pech The Standard 23 October 2013

After more than 20 months of protest the Portland tent embassy has been disbanded.

Glenelg Shire Council this morning restored Portland’s Market Square for public use, removing some caravans and other items from the area.

A tent embassy had been erected at the site since February 2012, with indigenous organisers vowing to stay until the Native Title Act was upheld and social service inequalities were addressed.

Six tribes from the Portland and Heywood region arranged the protest to lobby for land rights, also claiming other clans were receiving preferential treatment.

Glenelg Shire Mayor Cr Karen Stephens said the council had acted lawfully today to restore Market Square for public use.

She said the site had not been occupied for some time, although caravans and other equipment and personal goods had been left at the site.

"Council is the appointed Committee of Management for Market Square and has continued to work with state agencies and local Aboriginal organisations to ensure there is a clear way forward on this matter," Cr Stephens said.

"As soon as that position became clear, council has taken immediate and decisive action to restore Market Square for general public use."

Cr Stephens said a council team would continue to clean up the site until it was fully presentable and able to be enjoyed by all of the community.

Glenelg Shire Council meeting in April 2012
Motion Outline Not exact wording - General explanation only

Motion (put forward from Cr. Ken Saunders and Cr. Geoff White)

  1. That the Council does not attempt to remove people or property from the Tent Embassy because Council does not have authority through its local law.
  2. That Glenelg Shire Council does not issue a notice or initiate legal proceedings at this time, because:
    1. Council's brief to lawyers based on a recommendation by the Aboriginal Consultative Committee on 23rd of March 2012, however recent advice from the Gunditj Mirring Corporation (one of the key organisations represented on the committee) and the recognised Native Title holders of the relevant parts of Market Square no longer support the recommendation and the Gunditj Mirring corporation stated that it is not their "responsibility to play any role in any disbandment of the Portland Tent Embassy."
    2. The subject of the protest relates to a matter that only State and Federal Governments can influence; and
    3. Senior Counsel advice, states "There is no quick solution to the problem. The protesters have a right to protest, Charter rights for the free expression and perhaps native title rights, all of which may limit the ability of the council to remove them."
  3. That council make the resolution public, and communicates it to the following audience in this sequence:
    1. to the protesters, via a visit by the Mayor, Cr Wilson and Chief Executive Officer, Ms Kelsey:
    2. to the relevant State and Federal Government MInisters in writing and by telephone, seeking their urgent involvement in bringing about a resolution to this matter; and :
    3. to the general public via a media release
    4. .

Motion: - Carried.

Source: Facebook - Portland Aboriginal Tent Embassy 27th April 2012