About 5000 marchers have gathered for a vocal but peaceful protest at the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets in central Melbourne to protest against the proposed closure of up to 150 remote communities in Western Australia.
The marchers, some carrying gum leaves, were led by mounted police to the intersection near Federation Square.
The protestors carried signs reading: “Stop moving Aboriginal people on”, “Racism is a lifestyle choice” and “Close the gap, not the communities”.
The march was organised by the Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance “in solidarity with Aboriginal communities facing closure” in WA.
“The shutdown [is] a proud expression of Aboriginal sovereignty and a clear signal to the Government that our resistance is rising.” organisers said in a statement.
Mollie Kerby travelled from Castlemaine, in central Victoria, to attend the protest with her four-year-old daughter and said she was passionate about the issue.
“I can’t believe we even have to be here to protest,” she said.
“I never thought it would be an issue. Where are people going to go? It’s absolutely appalling.”
Protester Margaret Gardiner, from the Wurundjeri people, said everyone was concerned about the treatment of Aboriginal people.
“It’s time, I think, for us all to use this as an example now, to get together and unite and try to work towards a better future for ourselves, and therefore everyone else in Australia,” she said.
“It usually takes something such as this to get people united.”
Trams were banked up at the corner of Flinders and Swanston streets after Swanston Street was closed to trams.
There was a large police presence and police warned commuters that the protest could impact on pedestrians, vehicles and public transport around Flinders Street, Swanston Street, Elizabeth Street and Bourke Street.
“Victoria Police respects the right of the community to express their views peacefully and lawfully, but will not tolerate those who break the law,” police said in a statement.
The protest came during the busy evening peak ahead of the Collingwood and Carlton football match at the MCG celebrating coach Mick Malthouse’s 715th game.
There were similar protests in Perth, Darwin, Adelaide and Alice Springs as well as in Wellington, New Zealand.