• Project Host Waleed Aly interviewed Ms Thorpe on Tuesday evening. (The Project TV)Source: The Project TV
The project host accused Ms Thorpe of ceding her sovereignty when she entered parliament, and there was audible laughter as she described herself as a 'grassroots Blak Senator.'
Rachael Knowles

22 Jun 2022 - 4:54 PM  UPDATED 22 Jun 2022 - 4:57 PM

Waleed Aly has come under fire for a heated interview with Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe where he accused her of ceding her sovereignty.

Ms Thorpe appeared on the program following discussions about Greens Leader Adam Bandt's publicised removal of the Australian flag from his press conferences.

Some commentators have labelled his move as "divisive" and "childish", while Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has urged Adam Bandt to "reconsider his position."

Appearing on The Project on Tuesday, the Gunnai Gunditjmara and Djab Wurrung woman backed Bandt's decision saying she also removes the flag.

“The Australian flag does not represent me or my people. It represents the colonisation of these lands and it has no permission to be here. There’s been no consent, there’s been no treaty," she said.

Ms Thorpe said the flag had connotations of "invasion and dispossession" and is associated with the mass murder of Aboriginal people.

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Mr Aly further questioned Ms Thorpe, asking her whether she retained her sovereignty after swearing allegiance to the Commonwealth to become a Senator.

She said her choice to enter into the "colonial project" was due to her aspirations to "renew this nation" which would mean every person in the country understanding "whose land they're on".

"I don’t want people to get upset by what I have to say. I want people to come on a learning journey, and a truth-telling journey so that we can unite this country and mature as a nation," she said.

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Mr Aly continued, asking if Ms Thorpe was describing the "whole nation as illegitimate" and if this was the "correct starting point" to unify the country.

"What we need to come to terms with as a nation, is the question of sovereignty. We have never ceded our sovereignty as First Nations people in this nation ever, ever, ever," Ms Thorpe responded.

The host then quickly followed up with the question “but you’re ceding it right now by being a Senator aren’t you?" 

"You’re saying 'I submit to this, I become part of the system.' I understand that may be your personal politics but that’s what that act means," he said.

Ms Thorpe responded, saying her decision to pursue a political career was not easy for her or her family.

She said whilst she swore allegiance to the "colonising Queen", it was something she had to do to be in the Senate for her people.

“I am here for my people, and I will sacrifice swearing allegiance to the coloniser to get into the media like I am right now, to get into the parliament like I am every day," she said.

"To make this country put a mirror up to itself and ask, who are we? Where do we come from and where are we going?"

Despite "understanding [her] convictions" Mr Aly then questioned Ms Thorpe on former senator Derryn Hinch's perspective that it was "bad tactical move, if nothing else" to create opposition between progressing Indigenous affairs and the nation itself.

“Well, you are comparing a middle-aged, white, privileged guy, to a grassroots Blak Senator who comes from the frontline activist space," Ms Thorpe said.

At this point, there was audible laughter after the senator's response.

"You’re gonna believe who thinks he knows best, which is part of the problem in this country," she continued.

"Believe a Blak Senator who left school at 14, who survived family violence, who survived public housing, three kids, five grandkids . . . I’ll leave it up to your viewers to decide who they think should be more, who has the authority to speak on that."

The backlash

The host's conduct has been criticised strongly online.

PNG woman, radio producer and host of ABC TV's 'Art Works' Namila Benson said it wasn't the host's "place" to say removing the flag would "undermine progress" of Indigenous issues.

"Not Waleed's place to make that call when speaking with senator Thorpe," she wrote.

"Literally not his place.

"Also, mentioning Hinch's name in a lame attempt to add gravitas to the question - yeah, no."

Junkee Senior reporter Lavendar Baj said Mr Aly owed the senator an apology.

"Criticise Lidia all you want . . . but this interview is an absolute trainwreck," she wrote.

"Condescending, ignorant, and offensive behaviour from Aly."

Another Day in the Colony author and academic, Dr Chelsea Watego called out The Project for its decision to broadcast the segment.

"It's pretty slack how The Project TV ran this," she wrote.

"Why was there no interrogation of why Libs & Nats exclude Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags given their status and umm . . . whose land you're all on?"


Dharug woman and writer, Laura La Rosa accused the show of working to "appease" a conservative audience.

"I think schooling The Project TV about their pathetic flag segment is pointless," she wrote.

"Having seen the way they handle segments on issues like asylum-seeking, it's clear that The Project toe the line and work to appease conservative Australia (while trying to come across progressive).

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