Anne Fitzgerald from the Blue Mountains rose early on Thursday to travel to Sydney to back her friend, an Indigenous woman who was leading a choir due to perform a Darung song in Barangaroo on January 26.
“It was going to be challenge for her as an Indigenous woman performing on Jan 26 … so I came decorated with the mourning mask to help support her and Australia's dark history,” Ms Fitzgerald told NITV News.
“As a white Australian I’m also grieving on this day, because whilst I think that Australia needs as many solidarity kids of events, like what Australia day represents for a multicultural country, to do it on a day that represents the most painful commemoration date for Aboriginal Australia is… I mean, insensitive doesn’t go near it, really. It’s hurtful, it’s harmful,” she says.
Ms Fitzgerald decided to dress in black for the occasion; given it’s her culture’s “mourning garb”. She also decided to carry a sign with her saying, ‘Change the date please’ not knowing it would cause a kerfuffle.
“When I got to the top of the stairs at Barangaroo, there was a security person and a number of police officers. The security person led the discussion, which went on for about five minutes.”
The argument was preventing Ms Fitzgerald from listening to her friend’s song, as she was performing at the same time she was being prevented from entering the premises.
“I was saying I was here for a peaceful protest, it’s a democratic country and I’m saying please.”
Ms Fitzgerald says she told the security guard and police officers that she didn’t want to offend anyone, or disrupt the event.
“I don’t want to make noise, I just want to stand here and support Aboriginal people here today, who might feel it’s an ‘us and them’ thing.”
“After about 5 minutes, I said to the police, ‘am I breaching a law here? Can he stop me from going in?’ They said,’ it’s up to you, and nodded to the fellow.”
Ms Fitzgerald claims the security guard asked her if she could leave the sign behind.
“I said the sign is why I’m here. And I think I represent probably a lot of people in there.
“His response was, ‘well, I can’t let you go through’.”
Ms Fitzgerald claims she then told the authorities she would be reaching out to media with her experience, as she felt the situation was unfair.
“I moved aside, took some photographs of my sign and myself, and myself holding the sign, and of the group of officers… And then came back saying, ‘my friend is in the choir, and she’ll be really upset to think that someone peacefully coming into protest the date is not acceptable’.”
Ms Fitzgerald says this comment prompted a change of attitude.
“They said, ‘what are you talking about? You’re allowed in. We never tried to stop you’,” Ms Fitzgerald says.
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