All are welcome at Camp Sovereignty

All are welcome at Camp Sovereignty
Ellen Sandell

Right in the heart of our city, in between the NGV and Myer Music Bowl, is a patch of land where the remains of First Nations people from 38 clans have been laid to rest. Yet, this place is still, insensitively, called “King’s Domain”.

This burial ground, which includes remains of Aboriginal people brought back from overseas museums and institutions, is a sacred and calm place, right in the middle of our busy city.

On January 26 this year, Uncle Robbie Thorpe, along with several other First Nations people, set up Camp Sovereignty on this site, and I recently joined a smoking ceremony there at sunset. I was welcomed with warm smiles and cups of tea. It’s clear it’s a very special and healing place.

The camp has been set up to reignite calls for a piece of this land to be returned to Aboriginal people to use for ceremonial purposes, and as a place for Aboriginal people to invite the broader community to be part of cultural practices. They also want the place to be renamed, so it’s no longer “King’s Domain”, but something more culturally appropriate.

“This is a very significant site for Aboriginal people,” Uncle Robbie said. “Under that rock there are fragments of our people. That makes it a burial ground. There’s an amazing history of the site. It’s a former Aboriginal reserve.”

First Nations people have been asking for this land back for decades. Some people may remember Uncle Robbie set up the original Camp Sovereignty here in 2006, at the time of the Commonwealth Games.

Uncle Robbie says that what prompted them to set up camp this time was feeling devastated about what was happening in Gaza, and the poor response from our governments.

As well as reigniting the call for Aboriginal land back, they’ve welcomed protesters for peace in Palestine onto the site. “Under our sovereignty we want to protect them,” Uncle Robbie said.

It’s shocking that such a significant site is still known as “King’s Domain”. We still have so much to do when it comes to justice for First Nations people. I was disgusted to learn in January that the Liberals and Nationals have pulled out of their support for Treaty.

Victorians have shown time and time again that they want to see Treaties deliver peace, justice, rights and healing for First Peoples. The Greens and I will keep pushing the Labor Government to ensure a thorough and fair Treaty process that delivers meaningful change.

Camp Sovereignty is open to all who wish to join. They are hosting a whole range of activities including film screenings, art sessions, workshops, and smoking ceremonies. You can find weekly schedules at on Instagram. •


Caption: Leader of the Victorian Greens, Samantha Ratnam; Uncle Robbie Thorpe; and Deputy Leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell.

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