This was first published on my personal blog.
If you haven’t heard it’s NAIDOC Week. This important weeek reminds us that despite making some progress to-date, there’s still a long way ahead to make sure equality between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians exists.
This year’s NAIDOC Week has the theme, Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on. With such a theme it is an opportune time to refocus energies for a fair and equal Australia. It’s also a particularly opportune time to refocus energies given the passage of the misleadingly named Stronger Futures legislation.
The Tent Embassy was established on 26 January 1972 when four men placed a beach umbrella into the lawn of Parliament House in Canberra in an iconic protest against the refusal to acknowledge Aboriginal land rights. This act represented for many a symbol of strength and defiance against injustice. The Tent Embassy’s protest on government policy, along with the Wave Hill walk off by the Gurindji people and the Gove land rights case of 1971, have been cornerstones in the history of the land rights movement in Australia. And of course we can’t forget the contributions of the Mabo case.
The Tent Embassy has maintained a presence in Canberra over the past 40 years and remains a powerful symbol for advocacy in Indigenous affairs. It provides a constant reminder to keep the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the political agenda and adds much needed visibility for equality and justice.
As Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda noted:
It is a symbol of struggle, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ power as a people to protest for positive change and to reclaim the pride undermined by centuries of dispossession and discrimination.
It is vital we acknowledge the legitimacy of the discrimination, disempowerment and frustration experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and focus efforts and energies on securing equal rights.