Jason King and Sandra Onus at the tent embassy on Portland’s Market Square. AN Aboriginal tent embassy protest on Portland’s Market Square has been blamed for an ugly eruption of racial tension in the district.
Nanjing Night Net

As the small protest led by activist Sandra Onus drags on beyond 50 days, other members of the Koorie community have copped criticism, taunts and insults.

Glenelg Shire Council mayor Cr Gilbert Wilson has been told of a woman who was spat on and children who have been teased at school.

“It’s set our community harmony back at least 20 years,” he said.

Respected Aboriginal elder and fellow shire councillor Ken Saunders said unfortunately some people assumed all local Koories were associated with the protest.

“She’s a damn pest,” he said, referring to Ms Onus.

“Her protest is real stupidity and does not have our widespread support.

“The tent is driving everyone crazy and stirring up racism.

“Her issue has to be directed to the federal government, not us.”

The protestors continued to stand firm yesterday, telling The Standard they would remain steadfast in their bid to maintain a campsite at Market Square.

Ms Onus claimed specific indigenous groups received preferential treatment over others and said her activist organisation represented tribes including the Yigar, Gilga, Kerrup-Jmara, Kilcarer, Cart Gundidj and Euroite peoples.

“We plan to keep on representing the native people of this region through the tent embassy, even if it means being arrested,” Ms Onus said.

“This is an arm of the original Canberra tent embassy.

“Certain groups both inside and outside the indigenous community want to silence us.”

Several conical tents have been erected in the square, placards adorn the sides of the shelters and a small fire burns around the clock. In the 1980s Ms Onus protested alongside the late Auntie Betty King and others ahead of the Portland aluminium smelter opening by then premier John Cain.

The group set up an on-again off-again camp near Portland’s Uniting Church during the 1980s.

She was also involved in the Lake Condah land rights push.

Cr Wilson said the issue would probably end in a forced eviction, but he hoped for a peaceful resolution.

“We want to consult, not confront,” he said.

“The council has been moving forward in racial harmony, but this tent protest has brought it undone.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.