The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) observes the spirit of Aboriginal struggles this week since the founding of the Tent Embassy 40 years ago.
Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said NAIDOC Week should be a reminder that despite inroads made to date, there’s still a long journey ahead to ensure equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous Australians,
Speaking ahead of the start of NAIDOC Week with the theme, Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on, Commissioner Gooda said it was an opportune time to refocus energies and pursue the dream of a fair and equal Australia.
“The Tent Embassy has maintained a presence in Canberra over the past 40 years and remains a powerful symbol for advocacy in Indigenous affairs,” Commissioner Gooda said.
“It provides a constant reminder to us to keep the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the forefront of our leaders’ minds and adds much needed visibility for our struggle for equality and justice.
“It is crucial that we acknowledge the legitimacy of the discrimination, disempowerment and frustration experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and focus our efforts and our energies on securing the equal enjoyment of rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
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.
“The Tent Embassy has helped to make self-determination an overriding factor in the thinking about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs. However, of most significance is the place of the Embassy in the collective understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recent history,” Mr Gooda said.
“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 also reminds us of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s ability to unite to campaign for better outcomes, bringing concerns and the struggles for equality to the forefront of public attention and political debate.”