Merri-bek councillor resigns from Greens in solidarity with Lidia Thorpe

Merri-bek councillor resigns from Greens in solidarity with Lidia Thorpe


Key points

  • Merri-bek Greens councillor James Conlan has left the party and will remain on the council as an independent. 
  • He resigned in solidarity with Senator Lidia Thorpe, who quit the federal party on Monday. 
  • His resignation also follows that of Yarra councillor Amanda Stone, who left the Greens on Monday. 

A Greens councillor in Melbourne’s inner-north has resigned from the party in solidarity with Lidia Thorpe and called out what he described as structural racism in the party.

James Conlan from Merri-bek City Council said Thorpe had been abandoned by her own party and he was resigning in opposition to the Greens’ rejection of grassroots democracy and sidelining of First Nations voices.

Lidia Thorpe split from the federal Greens on Monday and announced she would move to the crossbench.Credit:Getty

Thorpe split from the federal Greens on Monday after a long-running dispute over the Voice to parliament referendum, and announced she would move to the crossbench.

“Lidia has been abandoned by large sections of the party,” Conlan said in a statement announcing his resignation from the Greens on Tuesday.

Merri-Bek councillor James Conlan has resigned from the Greens and will continue as an independent.

“This is how structural racism perpetuates itself in a party like the Greens – not in its policies but in how it sidelines, diminishes and ignores the voices of marginalised groups, especially First Nations women, who don’t fit the white, middle-class mould.”

Conlan said the Greens’ official policy was to prioritise a treaty before the Voice to parliament, but the policy had been abandoned.

“The process is very flawed,” he told The Age. “Instead, over the past few months, the party establishment have ostracised, isolated and publicly undermined Lidia Thorpe for advocating for her party’s own policy on treaty and Voice.”

Conlan said while it would be difficult for the Greens to oppose a Voice to parliament, there were “obvious negotiating tactics” the party leadership could be using, such as only providing conditional support for the Voice and demanding the federal government legislate a concrete, unambiguous path for a treaty process at the same time.

He said Thorpe and First Nations communities had raised legitimate concerns about establishing another powerless advisory body that could suck the political momentum out of a treaty process, which was designed to give First Nations people real, structural power.

Conlan said Thorpe provided him with a model of inspiring, unwavering political leadership.

“As a member of the queer community, I understand the history of police violence and state repression against my community,” he said. “I’m not interested in being a member and elected representative of a political party that talks big on anti-racism, whilst silencing, undermining and crushing the voices of those who most need the party’s support and leadership.”

Conlan has cancelled his Greens membership and will continue the rest of his council term as an independent.

His resignation leaves Merri-bek with three Greens councillors, down from four.

Merri-bek Mayor Angelica Panopoulos said she was disappointed by Conlan’s decision “but will continue to work with him, as we do with all councillors, to deliver the best outcomes for our community”.

At nearby City of Yarra Council, the Greens’ longest-serving councillor, Amanda Stone, quit the party on Monday after her colleagues restricted public access to council meetings to once a month.

Stone, first elected to the council in 2008, will sit as an independent for Nicholls ward, which covers the suburbs of Carlton North, Fitzroy and parts of Collingwood.

A spokesperson for the Greens declined to comment on Conlan’s resignation.

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