• Australia's Indigenous culture was a key component of the opening ceremony. (Getty )Source: Getty
First Nations issues were front and centre at last night's Commonwealth Games opening ceremony - both inside and outside the stadium.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

Source:
NITV News
5 Apr 2018 - 2:58 PM  UPDATED 5 Apr 2018 - 2:58 PM

As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers graced the world stage at what some are calling Australia's "most inclusive" opening ceremony, outside the stadium Indigenous protesters clashed with police. 

Three activists - Ruby Wharton, Meg Rodaughan and former Northern Territory youth detainee Dylan Voller - were arrested and charged for public nuisance after attempting to force their way into the stadium. 

The trio has since been released, with court dates scheduled in the coming weeks. 

Before his arrest, Mr Voller said a handful tickets had been allocated to allow "ten staunch brothers and sisters" to access the venue. Upon being denied access, protesters attempted to force their way through the entrance, resulting in a scuffle with police. 

"We were again showing respect and tolerance, but we got to the point, as we said all along consistently, if people cross the line we will take action and that’s what happened," Queensland Police deputy commissioner Steve Gollschewski told media on Thursday. 

The arrests followed a series of protests on Wednesday, after activists earlier formed a roadblock, delaying the Queen's baton relay for almost as hour as it approached the stretch of road adjacent to the protest camp at Doug Jennings Park. 

MORE ON THIS STORY:
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Uncle Wayne 'Coco' Wharton, a key organiser of the protests, says the group is using the Games as a platform to raise awareness of issues affecting their communities — including child removals, suicide rates and land rights disputes. 

He's calling on the federal government to establish a truth commission to acknowledge the ongoing sovereignty of Australia's First Peoples.

Opening ceremony a 'dream come true' for Indigenous performers

Meanwhile, inside the opening ceremony, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performers played an integral part in the proceedings, with appearances from Queensland didgeridoo player William Barton, Thursday Island hip hop artist Mau Power, Christine Anu, Bangarra Dance Theatre and hundreds of other dancers and musicians. 

For 14-year-old Preston Cockatoo-Collins, who danced at the ceremony alongside Bangarra, it was a moment he'll never forget. 

"To know that he danced with them, at this age... for him, it's an absolute dream," says Preston's mum Delvene Cockatoo-Collins, who designed the Commonwealth Games medals and the Migaloo whale shown during the ceremony. 

"I feel like all the way through there were elements of Aboriginal expression, Aboriginal culture, the history… it was absolutely phenomenal."

Yugambeh elders Ted Williams and Patricia O'Connor, who last year helped launch the Queen's baton relay at Buckingham Palace, gave a Welcome to Country. Aunty Patricia, who was born in the 1920s, was overcome with emotion as she spoke about the history of her people. 

"The pride she sends through her community is amazing," said Patricia's son Rory O'Connor, who played didgeridoo at the ceremony. 

Mr O'Connor heralded the ceremony as the "most inclusive" in its Australian history.

"Five years ago, we went to the Commonwealth Games as a community and said we want you to include Aboriginal material, and they said we want to make this the most inclusive in Australia's history," he said. 

"And the feedback we're getting, and what we saw last night, it is. More stories told about Aboriginal people, Torres Strait Islander people, than any games in Australian history. I think today, Indigenous people stand proud."

Mr O'Connor stopped short of supporting protesters outside the venue. 

"Protest is important for all Australians, and we advocate for that. However what we say is we had the chance to be inside the tent on this event, and we did… we’ve won this one by being inside," he says. 

"To our friends protesting, that’s OK, but we feel we’ve used this Games to tell our story."

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See the full story on The Point - tonight at 8.30pm on NITV, and streamed live on NITV's Facebook page.