“All of Australia is the West Bank”: An Interview with Camp Sovereignty’s Uncle Robbie Thorpe

Information on this page was reviewed by a specialist defence lawyer before being published. Click to read more.
Australia West Bank

As Uncle Robbie Thorpe tells it, the reason for lighting the fire at and establishing Camp Sovereignty on Boonwurrung Country in the area also known as Melbourne’s Kings Domain on 12 March 2006, and again on 26 January, is the Blak GST.

The Blak GST is genocide, sovereignty and treaty.

Genocide is front and centre globally at present. The genocide the Israeli state is perpetrating upon the 2.3 million Palestinians of Gaza is being broadcast 24/7 to the entire planet in a manner never possible before, focusing on an atrocity that is unprecedented in scale.

Thorpe was an organiser of the original Camp Sovereignty, and due to Gaza, the Gunnai Mara elder thought it was time to establish the site permanently, as a cultural exchange where people can gather and learn about the genocide on this land, the true sovereignty and the lack of any treaty.

“Australia” is the crime scene

The genocide is also heightening the focus on the genocides that have occurred and are ongoing on this continent, with the same patterns of dehumanisation, subjugation and usurping that have occurred in Palestine – in an escalating manner now in Gaza and also in the West Bank.

And just as people across the planet are currently experiencing a prohibition on naming a mass slaughter of innocent civilians, via military assault and forced starvation, there was the Great Australian Silence here, with the erasure of First Peoples from the history books on federation.

The past wiping of the histories from the Australian public record means that the myths of terra nullius, peaceful settlement and the prejudices that stem from these perceptions still pervade in the public mind, and the true histories of mass killings, dispossession and segregation camps are blurred.

But the catastrophe in Gaza is making the crimes of this land more immediate and less easy to position in a distant past that no longer has bearing.

Camp Sovereignty is a reaction to this need for a greater understanding of what happened on this continent, which, of course, has never been suppressed in Aboriginal histories.

Cultural interpretation

Thorpe is a revered social justice activist going back to the 1970s. And the Gunai Mara elder is a prolific publisher, writer and broadcaster.

Currently, Uncle Robbie hosts the Bunjil’s Fire talk show on Radio 3CR every Wednesday from 11 am to 2 pm.

Sydney Criminal Lawyers spoke to Uncle Robbie Thorpe about the similarities between the situation in Palestine and what’s occurring on this continent, the reasons for Camp Sovereignty, as well as the reckoning he foresees as coming.

Uncle Robbie Thorpe speaking at Camp Sovereignty. Photo credit bruna @revoltlens
Uncle Robbie Thorpe speaking at Camp Sovereignty. Photo credit bruna @revoltlens

Uncle Robbie, you reestablished Camp Sovereignty on Boonwurrung Country, lighting the fire on 26 January, as the protest camp was initially set up over a number of months in 2006.

Why did you reestablish Camp Sovereignty last month? How would you describe its aims?

It’s the same aims that it was back in 2006, and that’s around the issues of the Blak GST: genocide, sovereignty, treaty.

These are fundamental legal issues in this country under norms of international law.

What has also motivated is what we have been watching on the television, the genocide that is going on in Palestine.

So, how would you say the genocide taking place in Gaza is impacting locally on this continent?

The people supporting it are the Australian government. They are sending arms over there, as well as militarily and economically supporting Israel.

They are complicit in genocide there. They are also complicit of genocide here – undoubtedly.

So, that’s what we’re talking about here: Australia’s true character and history. What that really is.

It is not just Israel. It is Taiwan. It is Ukraine. It is Hong Kong. These other likeminded countries that they’re supporting around the world.

They’re similar to them: occupiers, invaders, trespassers – people who commit genocide. They support that network globally. It’s part of the AUKUS arrangement as well.

America, Britain and Australia are the coalition of racist evil.

That is who they are, and that’s why we’re protesting. And that’s why we will continue to protest until we get some resolution around who’s land this is.

This land is our land. We have never ceded our sovereign rights. You check with your own legal system on that.

And there’s a crime of genocide that Australia is clearly guilty of, according to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide 1948.

Tell me, what they are not guilty of? It is all there on the record. And there is no treaty, no consent and no jurisdiction. But despite that, the stinking gaols are filled with Aboriginal men, women and children.

That is one of the reasons why we are doing what we are doing, and we will continue to do that.

You remarked at last month’s Invasion Day rally that Australia is a big Israel. Could you speak further on why that’s the case?

If you have a look at the histories of Israel and Australia, they’re very similar.

We’re talking about occupied land and genocidal oppression and propaganda at the highest level. That is Australia all over.

We’ve had 251 years of what they call a nakba or a holocaust or a crime scene. It is unchecked, as Australia has been out of sight and out of the mind of the rest of the world. They’ve been able to get away with it.

We have had three times as long of a nakba compared to Palestine. But it is very similar. All of Australia is the West Bank.

A West Bank where they steal all their resources and all their wealth for what they do around the world

America is the same. Britain is the worst of them all. They are the heart of it all. They are the colonisers.

And do you think a reckoning is coming?

Absolutely. Of course, it is. They’ve been able to get away with what they did, and the reckoning is environmental collapse. If you want to cause genocide, you’re going to cause ecocide.

That is the hook in the tail for all the colonisers, who think they’re smart, and they can get away with crimes against humanity as they have.

That is the real punishment for their children. They have stolen everything, set it up for themselves, and their kids are going to pay for it.

Another point you made on 26 January was that Israel would not be a nation state if Australia did not exist. Can you explain that a little further?

They supply arms for them over there. Australia is right behind them. So, if it wasn’t for Australia, they wouldn’t exist and be in the position that they’re in.

It is part of a global genocide network. America, Australia and the UK are like the boss, AUKUS basically.

If it was not for them, Israel would not exist. It would not exist in the way it does.

But I know more about Australia’s genocide than I do the genocide happening there right now.

Australia is behind them. They want people to be like them – murdering, thieving, lying racists –because it is in their interests.

In the wake of the voting down of the Yes campaign in October, which directly coincided with the catastrophe in Gaza, how would you describe the state of Indigenous affairs on this continent right now?

Atrocious, all of it. Disgusting, as it has always been. We don’t need foreigners managing our affairs.

Who the hell do these people think we are?  They are invaders, trespassers, illegal aliens. We didn’t consent to their occupation. We don’t agree with anything they do.

People don’t realise there has been a holocaust here, and it has been that way for a long time. We are the survivors here of that genocide. Why can’t people see that?

We know that at some time, the rest of the world is going to start looking at Australia a lot differently.

I’m really glad that South Africa has broken the ice in terms of the international legal business, because the eyes of the world are going to turn on Australia next.

The truth will be told about this country. There is a lot of oil and gas involved.

Whoever is in control of Australia controls the South Pacific, which brings a lot of wealth and stolen resources here to build and trade with.

If people want to learn more, they can tune in to your program on Radio 3CR at 11 am on Wednesdays called Bunjil’s Fire.

And lastly, Uncle Robbie, what’s been happening at the camp over the last month? And what do you envision for its future?

We have had a fantastic time. It has been a really successful camp up until this point. It has been about 30 days.

We are getting stronger the longer we stay there with our fire: it is a mark of our occupation and our lore.

It is growing stronger every day, and we are looking forward to engaging with the wider community, the Melbourne city community and maybe, the Governor of Victoria.

We have some great plans for that place. We want to permanently occupy it with a cultural interpretation centre.

It was formerly an Aboriginal reserve, beside the Botanical Gardens. It’s also a burial site of our people there.

It is the site of the old Camp Sovereignty, and the issues then were the Blak GST: genocide, sovereignty, treaty. Fundamental legal issues in international law.

No one can explain to us, even though we fill their gaols, why they have jurisdiction over our people and our land.

Main photo of Camp Sovereignty by photographer Anthony Kelly

Photo of Uncle Robbie speaking at the sacred fire is by bruna @revoltlens

Last updated on

Receive all of our articles weekly


Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

Your Opinion Matters