Aboriginal Tent Embassy: Wikis

  
  

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Aboriginal Embassy and Mount Ainslie
Aboriginal Embassy and Old Parliament House

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is a controversial semi-permanent assemblage claiming to represent the political rights of Australian Aborigines. It is made of a large group of activists, signs, and tents that reside on the lawn of Old Parliament House in Canberra, the Australian capital. It is not considered an official embassy by the Australian government.

Contents

History

On 27 January 1972 at 1 a.m. four Aborigines, led by Michael Anderson, established the Aboriginal Embassy by ramming a sun umbrella into the lawn outside Old Parliament House in Canberra. The next day Quakers came and helped out by erecting tents. The Tent Embassy was established in response to the McMahon Coalition Government's refusal to recognise Aboriginal land rights and saw a new general purpose lease for Aborigines which would be conditional upon their ‘intention and ability to make reasonable economic and social use of land’ and it would exclude all rights they had to mineral and forest rights. The embassy has existed intermittently since then, and continuously since 1992.

The main people involved in setting up the embassy were the founder and first ambassador, Michael Anderson and three co-founders, Billy Craigie, Tony Coorey and Bertie Williams.

Other important people connected with the embassy are Gary Foley, Chicka Dixon, Pearl Gibbs and Paul Coe.

In February 1972 the Aboriginal Tent Embassy presented a list of demands to Parliament:

  • Control of the Northern Territory as a State within the Commonwealth of Australia; the parliament in the Northern Territory to be predominantly Aboriginal with title and mining rights to all land within the Territory.
  • Legal title and mining rights to all other presently existing reserve lands and settlements throughout Australia.
  • The preservation of all sacred sites throughout Australia.
  • Legal title and mining rights to areas in and around all Australian capital cities.
  • Compensation money for lands not returnable to take the form of a down-payment of six billion dollars and an annual percentage of the gross national income.

The demands were rejected, and in July 1972, following an amendment to the relevant ordinance, police moved in, removed the tents, and arrested eight people.

In October 1973, around 70 Aboriginal protesters staged a sit-in on the steps of Parliament House and the Tent Embassy was re-established. The sit-in ended when Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam agreed to meet with protesters.

In May 1974 the embassy was destroyed in a storm, but was re-established in October.

In February 1975 Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins negotiated the "temporary" removal of the embassy with the Government, pending Government action on land rights.

In March 1976 the Aboriginal Embassy was established in a house in the nearby Canberra suburb of Red Hill, however this closed in 1977.

For a short period in 1979, the embassy was re-established as the "National Aboriginal Government" on Capital Hill, site of the proposed new Parliament House.

On the twentieth anniversary of its founding, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was re-established on the lawns of Old Parliament House. Despite being a continual source of controversy and many calls for its removal, it has existed on the site since that time.

The embassy was partially destroyed in an arson attack

As well as political pressure, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy has also been under attack from criminal elements, having been fire bombed on a number of occasions.

Some local Aboriginal Ngunnawal people have also called for the eviction of residents of the tent embassy.[1]

Despite this, in 1995 the site of the Tent Embassy was added to the Australian Register of the National Estate as the only Aboriginal site in Australia that is recognised nationally as a site representing political struggle for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.[2]

When the 2000 Olympic Games came to Sydney, Aborigines set up a second Tent Embassy on the Olympic grounds.

A tent embassy has also operated intermittently in Victoria Park, Sydney in recent years.

A symbol at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy is the so-called Sacred fire which represents peace, justice and sovereignty. The Sacred fire is said to have been kept alight since 1998.

Issues

The Tent Embassy promotes Australian Aboriginal Sovereignty. Their demands included land rights and mineral rights to Aboriginal lands, legal and political control of certain sacred sites, and compensation for land that they claim was stolen. Their demands have been consistently rebuffed by past and current governments.

It has also been used as a site for protesting against other issues, such as against uranium mining at Jabiluka in the Northern Territory during the 90s. Currently Elders such as Uncle Neville Williams, from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy are working to protect traditional Wiradjuri land in Western N.S.W at Lake Cowal which is in the process of being mined for gold.

The group describes itself as an embassy, a designation the Australian government objects to. The group claims to represent a displaced nation of peoples, unjustly occupied by the Australian government. The subject remains controversial in Australian politics.

There have been a number of suspicious fires at the site, with the most devastating being the loss of 31 years of records when the container burnt down in June 2003. The ABC covered the story.[3]

The future of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

In August 2005 the Federal Government announced a review into Canberra's Aboriginal tent embassy. They consulted with the Aboriginal communities around Australia to determine what shape the tent embassy should take in future.[4] The group was headed by Minister Jim Lloyd and contained a number of Aboriginal Elders from around Australia. Professional mediators Callum Campbell and Tom Stodulka were called in to facilitate the process and consult with indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, to obtain and represent their views. This organisation was called Mutual Mediations. They reached a decision on the Embassy's future early in December 2005.

Jim Lloyd released a media statement in December 2005 stating that the Embassy will have no residents and shall be replaced with a more permanent structure. A sign stating "No Camping" has been erected at the Embassy, although Minister Lloyd has stated that no residents will be removed against their will.

The Embassy remains intact and plans for the annual Corroboree for Sovereignty are still going ahead. Corroborree for Sovereignty is always held on the 26th of January, which is Australia Day, known to some Indigenous Australians and their supporters as invasion day.

See also

References

External links

Coordinates: 35°18′04″S 149°07′48″E / 35.30111°S 149.13°E / -35.30111; 149.13








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