Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3053 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
a major player in that exercise. It is certainly a conspicuous figure on the political landscape, particularly when it gets itself in the headlines in an unfortunate way, but it is not a player which is active in those other debates. It does not help those other debates. In fact, it has the potential to hinder them.
I believe that the tent embassy is a problem, as well as being a symbol of some kind of historical heritage process. It is not visually appealing. I disagree with the point made in the description of this matter of public importance. The embassy is not a vital part of the visual landscape of our city. I support the proposal which I think has been put forward by the federal minister in recent days to establish something else visual in or near that site which would hark back to the history of the embassy, which would permanently and symbolically represent the issues the embassy raises, but which would not be the embassy in its present form. That would be an appropriate way of progressing this debate.
I have been encouraged in raising these issues with Aboriginal people themselves, both locally and nationally, to see that there has been an acknowledgment of this very problem I raise-acknowledgment of the fact that there is a sense of dislocation between the agendas of some Aboriginal people and those people who are responsible for the maintenance or the operation of the tent embassy. I particularly note the very strong critical view of the local Ngunnawal people, which I believe needs to be taken very careful heed of, since they are the local indigenous people.
Mr Speaker, I hope we will have further constructive debates about this, but if the embassy is to fulfil an active and vital role, at the very least it needs to rethink its position as a contributor to the debate, and perhaps it needs to be rethought and removed from that site altogether.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (3.50): Mr Speaker, as everybody knows, the ACT Labor government has been unequivocal in its support for the Aboriginal tent embassy as a sign of the struggle and protest for justice for the dispossessed traditional owners of Australia.
The Aboriginal tent embassy is a focal point for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people's political struggle for land rights, sovereignty, autonomy, equality and self-government. It is in fact a national institution. It has become such a significant site that the Australian Heritage Commission has placed it on the Register of the National Estate. The Australian Heritage Commission recognises the significance of the Aboriginal tent embassy. It points out:
the site is significant in the history of Aboriginal political culture;
it is the only Aboriginal site in Australia that is recognised nationally as a site representing the political struggle for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people;
it is significant for the local Aboriginal community, because it was used in the past as a meeting and gathering ground;
it represents the history of the interaction between the indigenous and non-indigenous people of Australia; and
it is a national meeting ground for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from many different communities.