Tent Embassy’s 40th year highlights Aboriginal struggles

The official poster of NAODIC Week 2012

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.

A series of events was held to mark the 40th founding year of the tent embassy earlier this year.

“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.”

Source: Australian Human Rights Commission

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