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Aboriginal Tent Embassy Canberra


the Aboriginal Tent Embassy is in place to preserve our country for future generations. for the protection of our people, our continued existence, for our people, our children, and the ongoing future of our culture. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is a neutral ground, a common meeting place of all Aboriginal nations . Aboriginal Embassy Site, King George Tce, Parkes, ACT, Australia Statement of Significance Heritage listing database, Register of the National Estate (Non-statutory archive) Class Indigenous, Legal Status Registered (11/08/1987) Place ID18843 , Place File No8/01/000/0421;place_id=18843 Amendments made by Australian Heritage Council, 20 February 2006. From the moment of its inception in 1972, the Aboriginal Embassy Site has been the focus for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people's political struggle for land rights, sovereignty, autonomy, equality and self government. The Aboriginal Embassy Site is also important as a place that has focused international attention on these political activities. It is therefore significant in the history of Aboriginal political culture. The first recorded Aboriginal political protest at the site was made during the opening of Parliament House in 1927 by Jimmy Clements (also known by many other names including King Billy, King of Canberra, and King of the Orange Tribe) (Criterion A.4). The Aboriginal Embassy Site is unique because it is the only Aboriginal site in Australia that is recognised nationally as a site representing political struggle for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The site of the Embassy also has significance for the local Aboriginal community because it was used in the past as a meeting and gathering ground. As such it represents part of the traditional way of life of the local Aboriginal community (Criterion B.2). The Aboriginal Embassy Site reflects a major turning point in the efforts made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for nationwide land rights and sovereignty. It provides a National focus, bringing many groups together in a place they chose themselves. It is a tangible statement by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the Australia Government and all Australian people. Therefore, it is important as a site that is representative of the history of the interaction between the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of Australia. The infrastructure presently on the site has been designed in such a way as to reflect both past and present Aboriginal living conditions. The design and on-site structures are continually changing to meet the needs of both residents and visitors (Criterion C.2). The Aboriginal Embassy Site is important as a National meeting ground for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from many different communities. It is a place where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people share knowledge about dance, language, music, culture and history. It is a place where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people find family and friends and where they can be educated about Aboriginal political history. It is therefore highly valued by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for symbolic, cultural, political, educational and social associations (Criterion G.1). The Aboriginal flag, created by Harold Thomas in 1971, was flown together with a flag designed for the embassy by John Newfong during the 1972 protest action. Designed to be an eye-catching rallying symbol for Aboriginal people, the flag is now universally recognised as representing a national Aboriginal identity. The Aboriginal Embassy Site is also important because of its association with many Aboriginal activists who were engaged in the political struggle that took place at the site. The importance of these early activists has been recognised by the memorial service for Kevin Gilbert being held there and the scattering of his ashes in the Fire for Justice which is located within the Aboriginal Embassy Site (Criterion H.1). Description Archaeological and historical evidence has shown that the area was traditionally used by Aboriginal people as a gathering and meeting ground. A number of artefacts, including scrapers, points, an axehead and a boomerang, were uncovered during the construction of Parliament House and the lawns. The first recorded Aboriginal protest took place at the site by Jimmy Clements during the opening of Parliament House in 1927. Jimmy's presence at the opening was a political act. He made a point of being there on behalf of his people. To the north of the Embassy buildings is the park area used for meetings and visitor camping. To the west is a second fireplace in which were cast the ashes of the poet Kevin Gilbert. This Fire for Justice is frequently relit and should not be disturbed. Many people and organisations have been involved in activities centred around the Embassy Site since its inception. The Aboriginal Embassy Site presently has on it a core camp, a varying number of additional tents, a mail box, a flag and mast and a camping and meeting area. The site is a living place. There is a cooking fire around which people gather. A site shed serves as an information and resource centre and keeps paperwork and photographs dry. History Added by Australian Heritage Council 20 February 2006. On 26 January 1972 in the early hours of the morning, four young Aboriginal activists set-up a beach umbrella and a sign on the lawns of Parliament House – and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was created. The events and processes that gave rise to this event can be considered in terms of three separate, but interconnecting themes: · Early Aboriginal political activism, leading to the 1967 referendum · Aboriginal land rights pre-1972 · The Australian Black Power movement In 1972, the ideas, activities and energy expressed in each of these themes came together, creating fertile ground for direct protest action in response to Prime Minister McMahon’s Australia Day speech. The events of 1972 and more recent activities at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy site can also be described in terms of three ‘waves’ of action: · Wave 1 – the Aboriginal Tent Embassy · Wave 2 – 1972 - 1992 · Wave 3 – 1992 to present Aboriginal protest and citizenship, leading to the 1967 referendum Aboriginal people have long resisted and protested against European settlement of their country, and the dispossession that it brought. Early Aboriginal protest action tended to focus on personal concerns, such as civil rights and prior rights to land, generally at a local or regional level[1]. While the emphasis on Aboriginal rights changed over time, with civil rights gaining prominence from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, rights to land has always been an issue of concern. The earliest Aboriginal protest can be traced to the mid 1840s at Van Diemans Land, focused on living conditions. Forms of protest action during this early period included letters, petitions, appeals to other sources of authority (e.g. the Queen), and strike action (e.g. at Coranderrk during the 1870s and 1880s) (Attwood et al, 1999:9-11). The protests usually focused upon local needs, rather than the interests and rights of others. From the 1920s there was a marked rise in Aboriginal activism and an increasing politicisation of Aboriginal affairs. In the 1920s – 1930s, under a government policy of ‘protection’ and then ‘assimilation’, Aboriginal people were largely excluded from the nation and citizenship, disenfranchised, and subject to restrictions on their daily lives (Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific (CHCAP), 2003:34). As part of a growing social awareness of people’s rights, Aboriginal political protest organisations were set-up at a state and later national level[2], aimed at ending discrimination, seeking full citizenship and improving administration of Aboriginal affairs (CHCAP, 2003:34). Most of these organisations were dominated by white membership, a characteristic later challenged by Aboriginal activists. An exception was the all-Aboriginal Australian Aborigines League established in Melbourne, Victoria 1936. These organisations largely campaigned by writing letters and forming delegations to politicians, and the imperial monarch (Attwood et al, 1999:14). Protest actions during this period included a petition to King George V (not forwarded by the government) calling for the establishment of special electorates for Aborigines in federal parliament; and the Day of Mourning, Sydney on 26 January 1938. Organized in response to the sesquicentenary celebrations, this protest called for new policies for Aboriginal affairs, with full citizenship status for Aboriginal people and rights to land. While the influence on government of these Aboriginal political organisations in this period was negligible, their actions illustrate the beginnings of a national-level political activism for indigenous rights, and an early expression of the claims for democratic recognition and inclusion (CHCAP, 2003:34). A significant development in the post-war era was the founding of a national organisation in 1958 – the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI). It became an important voice in national Aboriginal politics, and was a multi-racial organisation with Aboriginal leaders (Attwood et al, 1999:19). FCAATSI made a major contribution to the campaign leading to the 1967 constitutional referendum, and was also active in advocating for federal voting rights for Aborigines (Horton, 199

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