27 Jan 2012

Aboriginal leaders condemn Canberra protest

2:56 pm on 27 January 2012

Indigenous leaders in Australia have condemned the Aboriginal activists whose rowdy protest led to security staff bundling Prime Minister Julia Gillard away from an awards function on Thursday.

Ms Gillard and opposition leader Tony Abbott were attending an Australia Day ceremony at a Canberra restaurant when it was interrupted by about 200 people.

The visibly shaken Prime Minister stumbled as she was rushed to a waiting vehicle and was helped up by security officials who were confronted by the crowd.

The protesters had been nearby, marking the 40th anniversary of the tent embassy outside Old Parliament House.

The group was incensed by remarks made by Mr Abbott in which he said he thought it was probably time to reconsider the relevance of the tent embassy.

Indigenous leader and former ALP president Warren Mundine told the ABC the protesters misinterpreted Mr Abbott's comments as a call to demolish the embassy.

He said Mr Abbott was only questioning whether it was outdated, something Mr Mundine agrees with.

Mr Mundine said the protesters were disgraceful and the full force of the law should come down on them.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has also sided with authorities, saying he is appalled at the level of disrespect and aggression shown towards the two leaders.