Angry tent people mob Gillard on Aussie Day

In one of the most dramatic moments to celebrate Australia Day, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard lost a shoe and was dragged by his bodyguard when an angry mob of indigenous people rounded up a restaurant in Capital Hill hunting for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Bodyguard bundles up Julia Gillard from the angry mob

The prime minister and the opposition leader were in The Lobby restaurant to present the national emergency service medals  as part of the Australia Day celebrations.

The drama unfolds as the celebration began. A man in black T-shirt emblazoned with Aboriginal flag watched the proceedings through the restaurant’s glass façade. Then  a woman barged in to scatter petals of roses before she shouted when Gillard was presenting 26 service medals.

About half of the 200 protesters circled the restaurant, banged the glass windows, and chanted “shame” and “racist” while calling for Abbott to come out.

About 200 protesters from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy nearby have gathered to mark its 40th founding year today. A series of cultural performances and entertainment has been planned through the weekend to celebrate its founding but marred by such an “extraordinary” incident.

A series of events has been planned to mark the 40th founding year of the tent embassy

The protesters rounded up and stormed The Lobby to confront Abbott following the opposition leader’s comment earlier during the day. The SBS said Abbott has called for the disbandment of the tent embassy noting time has changed and therefore it is no longer relevant. The SBS quoted Abbott as saying, “I can understand why the tent embassy was established all those years ago,…  think a lot has changed since then, and I think it probably is time to move on from that.”

Riot police came to rescue Gillard and Abbott while trying to pacify protesters. But protesters said they stormed in to confront Abbott without knowing he was with Gillard. They insisted Abbott incited the riot, not the Aboriginal people of the tent embassy. Towards the end of the day, the protesters are demanding for Abbott’s apology.

News Link: Asian Correspondent 

Australia Day focuses on Aborigines, refugees

This year’s Australia Day has seen both old and new issues come under the spotlight, including indigenous culture, asylum-seekers, gay marriage, and climate change.

These issues, however, cannot be solely discussed through political means but through the arts.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard poses with Geoffrey Rush

Academy-award winning actor Geoffrey Rush was named the 2012 Australian of the Year in a ceremony at the Parliament House, Canberra. In his acceptance speech, he urged Australians to consider the importance of arts to nurture and uplift the spirit of the nation. Rush spoke of urgent issues that affect the nation which can find solutions in the arts.

Rush says Australia is one of the oldest nations on earth where inspiration abounds. He noted that going back to the root of the nation through aboriginal history, culture and performing arts, Australians will be able to find “our dreaming” which leads to the heart of the nation’s being, the ABC quoted him in his speech.

The ABC added, “In the past, Australians of the year have used the spotlight to focus on social, political or environmental issues, but Rush does not see it as a automatic megaphone.” As a performing artist, the event is an opportunity to spotlight current issues through the arts.

SBS, a multicultural public broadcaster, also noted Rush of his support to local writers to write stories about people who come to Australia by boat.

“I put a call out to the writers of Australia, we’ve had a bumper year in television drama, people are starting to watch it in great numbers..I  would love a writer to write a fabulous great miniseries,” the SBS quoted him in his speech before reporters.

Six Australians are featured in the SBS documentary :Go Back to Where You Come From"

SBS has produced a documentary last year entitled Go Back to Where You Come From” which featured six Australian volunteers who were challenged to take part in an adventure to experience life as a refugee. The script took them to the local communities where refugees have settled down, then flash backward to the horrific journeys by sea, asylum-seeker camps, and to the tricky and dangerous places on earth. Featured places include refugee camps in Malaysia, war-torn Jordan, Iraq, and Congo. The mini-series has elicited various reactions from televiewers while Fairfax media lambasted the series claiming it as a story for the manipulated and gullible participants.

Rush is a stage and film actor. His first film Hoodwink was featured in 1981. He rose to global fame in 1996 with the film Shine for which he won an Oscar. More recently, he appeared on Munich, Pirates Of The Caribbean and The King’s Speech, for which he earned a BAFTA. Rush is an ambassador for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and UNICEF Australia, as well as patron of the Melbourne International Film Festival.

News Link: Asian Correspondent

Heatwave threatens Australia’s wildlife

Australia’s famous New Year’s eve fireworks at the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge made another landmark spectacle to impress the world. But after the pyrotechnics have died down, the country-continent faces the reality of dealing with the temperatures soaring to over 40 degrees Celsius.

The Black Saturday flares up in Victoria (News Ltd)

The heatwave spreads throughout Victoria and South Australia. Melbourne and Adelaide started the year with day time high of 40 degrees Celsius and will remain at 30 level until tomorrow, AAP reported. Sydney and Brisbane are reported to have a more tolerable levels at around 26- 28 degrees Celsius, while Perth will experience around 31-degree.

Holiday-makers who are heading to the bush in the southern states are warned not to put up campfires. Fire and safety authorities have already issued bushfire alert warnings to caution residents and tourists to be bush-fire-ready.

A total fire ban has been issued in many regions in Victoria including tourist destinations such as the Southern Grampians, Apollo Bay, Warnambool, and other southwestern areas. The fire ban strictly disallows campers to build a campfire during the night while frolickers are also not allowed to light up a barbecue grill.

Two years ago, the bush fire famously called the Black Saturday razed 450,000 ha (1,100,000 acres) in Victoria sending residential, agricultural, and touristic areas into ashes. Affected areas included Kinglake and Whittlesea, Marysville, Central Gippsland, Beechworth, and to as far as the old gold town of Bendigo bringing to a total of 170 districts affected.

In 2006, the Grampians National Park was engulfed by another massive bushfire which burnt 130,000 hectares — or 47 per cent of the park.

Sam the koala became famous around the world after this photo was taken during the Victorian bushfires. (Reuters)

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimated that over a million of animals have perished in these bushfires. Other wildlife species have suffered from severe burns. Koalas and kangaroos which inhabit most of the bush habitat are most affected while the Leadbeater’s Possum, Victoria’s faunal emblem, is under further threat to extinction.

This koala became homeless after the fire (News Ltd)

South Australia is reported to have issued total fire ban on 13 districts out of 15.

Victorian Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley urged people—especially campers— to take extra care amid extreme heat conditions. He said most of the earlier fires started with campfires.

News Link: Asian Correspondent