Defend the Aboriginal Tent Embassy! Resist the racist ban on camping!

The Embassy has been attacked many times. This building was destroyed by fire. Photo from
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The National Indigenous Times calls the Aboriginal Tent Embassy “one of the enduring icons of Aboriginal dissent.” However, the Parliament of Australia webpage asks if the Tent Embassy “is an icon or an eyesore?” The Howard Government — true to its assimilationist mission — has clearly made up its mind. Past attempts to close down the Embassy have failed, so the government is trying a new tactic— a dodgy consultative process.

Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced plans to hire a consultancy firm to conduct an inquiry into the future of the Tent Embassy, sparking widespread alarm among supporters of Indigenous sovereignty. The site, which has been fire-bombed three times, is again under threat. Federal Territories Minister, Jim Lloyd, employed a company called Mutual Mediations which was due to report in October 2005. This deadline was later extended by a month. The Minister said this was because of increased demand from communities to have a say. But defenders of the Embassy fear the new deadline was a ploy to delay the final report until the eve of the festive season, making it more difficult to defend the historic site.

The consultants’ report was released on 9 December and recommended a ban on camping at the Tent Embassy site. Brendan Cook, a spokesperson for the Embassy, said the government has no right to order such a ban.

The Tent Embassy was established on the lawns of Old Parliament House in 1972 to demand land rights and highlight that Australia’s Indigenous people belong to a number of sovereign nations. It has been a focus for Indigenous protest ever since.

Victorian Aboriginal activist Robbie Thorpe, a leader of the Black GST [Genocide to be stopped, Sovereignty to be restored, Treaty to be made] Campaign, told the Freedom Socialist Bulletin that the flame from the sacred fire at the Tent Embassy will be coming to Melbourne for the protests against the Stolenwealth Games.

Wadjularbinna Nulyarimma, an Aboriginal grandmother and elder of the Gungalidda nation, is a member of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. She sees the Embassy as particularly important in the current period: “Since we don’t have a national voice and there is much unfinished business, it is important that the Aboriginal Embassy remains as a place of self-determination, which flows from our sovereign right to this land. We are fighting for recognition of our identity and we have never ceded our sovereign rights, but we are prepared to walk side by side as equals, without losing our identity. Aboriginal people from all parts of Australia come to the Embassy, because grassroots Aboriginal people are out of sight and out of mind. We need to set things straight now. For the sake of future generations, we must not delay.”

Thorpe also believes the site is extremely significant for Indigenous Australians: “They will never move us until the war against Australia’s Indigenous nations has ended. This will be the site of our war memorial to recognise the end of that war. We would move off the current site if the Embassy could move into Old Parliament House. Such a move would symbolise the end of the war and that we’ve finally taken our place in this country.”

The Freedom Socialist Party supports the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and is ready to work with all who are determined that it remain a site of living struggle — not turned into a monument to hide the war still raging against Australia’s Indigenous nations. We reprint our submission to consultants, Mutual Mediations. Click here.

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