It is with reluctance that the Freedom Socialist Party — a socialist feminist political party with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous members — is putting forward this submission.
We are reluctant, because we do not support the racist and divisive process of the Federal Government in hiring consultants to make recommendations about the future of the Tent Embassy. We are gravely concerned that this process will be little more than a whitewash designed to give the appearance that a form of consultation has taken place when, in fact, consultation with Aborigines has been less than minimal.
The future of the Tent Embassy is not for the Federal or ACT Governments to decide. It is not for government-appointed consultants to decide. Equally, nor is it for those government-appointed “leaders” who profess to be acceptable to the assimilationist policies of the Federal Government, and who urge other Aborigines to accept the crumbs from the table of the invaders, to make the decision on behalf of all Indigines. The future of the Tent Embassy belongs to those whose rights are directly involved in this 33-year protest: the Aboriginal peoples.
Many of our members have visited the Tent Embassy. But for those of us who are Indigenous people and members of the FSP, the Tent Embassy is our Embassy and we have a direct stake in its future.
The Freedom Socialist Party strongly supports the concept of an Aboriginal embassy or embassies, as there are many Indigenous Nations on this continent. We recognise the first people of this continent as oppressed nations, and we actively defend the right of all these nations to self-determination.
When the Tent Embassy was established, by naming it an embassy, the movement zeroed in on the essential point that the sovereignty of Indigenous people must be recognised. This was a powerful challenge to the genocidal assimilationist policies which had predominated. But three and half decades later, genocidal assimilationist policies are back on the political agenda. The Howard Government calls it “mainstreaming.”
The policies of the current government and the failure to negotiate a Treaty with Australia’s Indigenous Nations, makes the Tent Embassy just as relevant today as it was when four young Aboriginal radicals established it in 1972.
We are opposed to suggestions that the living embassy be removed and a monument of some kind be placed on the site. The business of the Tent Embassy is not finished, and the struggle is a living one. We cannot build a monument on the site until a Treaty has been concluded with each and every Aboriginal Nation and Indigenous Australians are no longer oppressed. Without this, an embassy is needed as a symbol and focus of the ongoing struggle for self-determination.
Finally, while we are against the erection of a monument, we do have some ideas for useful facilities which would be a good addition to the site. Facilities such as a new toilet and shower block, a BBQ area and a children’s playground would be welcome. The sacred fire must have its own dedicated area and meet all safety and environmental concerns and legislation. We reiterate that such facilities would need to be designed and built in consultation with the custodians of the Tent Embassy.
We suggest that you recommend to those who have hired you that the future of the Tent Embassy must be the business of all the Indigenous peoples of this land along with those directly and currently involved in the Tent Embassy. The Freedom Socialist Party is an uncompromising defender of the right of oppressed nations to self-determination, sovereignty, treaty and social justice. As long as the Tent Embassy remains a symbol of struggle for these aspirations, it has our total support.
Alison Thorne, Melbourne and Ray Jackson, Sydney for the Australian section of the Freedom Socialist Party
24 September 2005