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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3051 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

From 1976 to 1977 the embassy occupied a house on Mugga Way in Red Hill. Although this put the Aboriginal embassy among the embassies of other nations, I think it is fair to say that this location did not ensure that the Aboriginal embassy and its goals stayed in the political spotlight.

The word "embassy" conveys the feelings of many indigenous people that they have been treated like aliens in their own country-their laws have been disregarded, their land stolen, their children stolen, their liberty deprived and their culture attacked.

The original aim of the tent embassy was to achieve land rights, self-determination and sovereignty for the Australian people. As we know, 30 years later only a small proportion of Australia's land area has been handed back to Aboriginal people and little money has been paid as compensation for land seized by the European settlers. So the first goal of the founders of the Aboriginal tent embassy has not yet been achieved.

Some progress has been made towards self-determination, but indigenous Australians are a long way from achieving this goal in its entirety. In too many areas, services for Aboriginal communities are still being delivered by non-Aboriginal people. So the second goal of the tent embassy has not yet been achieved.

The third goal was indigenous sovereignty. This last goal has clearly not been achieved either. The special role of indigenous people has not been recognised in any Australian constitution, despite the efforts of the Australian Democrats to make this happen.

Ever since 1972, successive governments have tried to close down the embassy and replace it with a pretty government-sanctioned office to accommodate the indigenous ambassadors of the embassy. Every attempt by white Australia to remove or appropriate this indigenous symbol has failed.

I think it is time the federal government acknowledged that the tent embassy has a right to remain until the ambassadors of the embassy believe that the indigenous struggle has been won. Petty acts, such as depriving the embassy of essential services, only serve to lower the dignity of any government that sanctions these acts.

Mr Speaker, we need to support indigenous Australians and recognise that their struggle, symbolised through the tent embassy, is still not over, and hence recognise that the tent embassy is a vital part of the visual, social and political landscape of our city-visual in the way that it brings colour and life to the parliamentary triangle; social in the way that it is a meeting place, a coming together to discuss and plan for the struggle ahead; and political, as I have said, in the actions that have been taken by the people at the tent embassy and in the symbol it provides of their ongoing struggle.

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (3.42): I will also be quite brief on this matter of public importance, because there has been a great deal of debate about it in the public arena and even some in this place. I fully acknowledge the validity of the issues that were raised by the proponents of the tent embassy when it was originally established. Issues to do with the unequal treatment of Aboriginal people in Australia, issues to do with sovereignty and self-determination and issues to do with the lack of attention by non-indigenous Australians to these issues were all valid bases for taking up a protest of the kind that manifested itself in the tent embassy.

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