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The Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Aboriginal Tent Embassy

The History of how the Aboriginal Tent Embassy was first erected

TentIn the late 1960's Aborigines became increasingly frustrated by the Federal government's failure to live up to the spirit of the 1967 Referendum. A generation after the admission of Aboriginals to the public education system, more and more young Aborigines were now educated and politically aware, and Freedom Rides had shown the value of direct action.

In 1970 Australia celebrated the bicentenary of Captain Cook's landing at Kurnell. At the other end of Botany Bay, on the site of the old Aborigines Protection Board Reserve at La Perouse, Aboriginal Australia staged a ceremony of mourning . . . Aboriginal speakers called for Land Rights - Nationally - Now and this call was reported in the newspapers.

In 1971 the Aboriginal Advancement League appealed to the United Nations to support this claim for land and mineral rights and six billion dollars compensation. In North Queensland an Aboriginal delegation walked into the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs, always closed to the public . . .

On Australia Day 1972 Prime Minister McMahon . . . announced his government's Aboriginal policy. There was no admission that Aboriginals had any right to land or compensation, because land rights would threaten the security of tenure of every Australian. Aboriginal communities were to be granted only special purpose leases if they could demonstrate adequate economic or social use for them. Mining was to be allowed on Aboriginal reserves . . . After the frustration of the Gurindji land claim, the High Court's rejection of the Yirrkala people's case against Nabalco and the Commonwealth, and the release of figures showing that Aboriginal infant mortality way up to 17 times higher than the national average, this was the last straw for the young Aboriginal leaders.

On the afternoon of Australia Day 1972 a tent appeared on the lawns in front of Parliament House Canberra. This was the Aboriginal Embassy and became famous as the "Tent Embassy".

Source: Parbury, 1986, pp.131-132.

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