Leaders of Aboriginal Tent Embassy denounce fire at old Parliament House

7 Jan 2022

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy to this present day is a site for remembering our collective resistance and our unceded sovereignty.  Leaders of the Embassy announced they did not endorse, support or mandate the actions which resulted in the fire at old Parliament House.

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is under attack by white supremacist groups, they infiltrate and influence through subterfuge and undermine principled justice movements. They do not belong in our movement, their agenda is diametrically opposed to ours so why do they embed themselves? 

On 21 December members of the anti-vax movements and right winged extremists held a protest outside of old Parliament House and set the front doors of the building on fire.  So far the AFP have charged four people involved in the altercation and have since some to move some of these people on, but they continue to make claims of ‘taking over embassy’ backed by those with no legitimacy or authority within our communities or Embassy itself.  

Although we have had to grapple with supremacists within all areas of Australians society, what is most alarming for me is the involvement of Indigenous people who have encouraged and are aligned with these racists who operate under the guise of the anti-vax movement which is underpinned by the extreme right, conspiracy theory and conservative groups.  

I have a healthy distrust of government and I am double vaccinated and soon to be boosted.  I am also a sovereign Wiradjuri and Badu Island Woman and I will not compromise my ethics and values to stand alongside a white supremacist to propel an anti-government agenda.  Let me make this clear these groups are not our allies nor are they anti-colonial but are working from a place of fear.  

Their fear is bedded in the fear of their power and white privilege being dismantled.  As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we do not protest and rally against this oppressive system based on fear but justice. Hence, our positions are not aligned and those who have been in the justice movement would know this, would critically assess those seeking to assert themselves as ‘allies’ most destructively.

To further add to this mess, a non-Indigenous group originating from the US calling themselves ‘sovereign citizens’ have found themselves a support base in Australia with members co-opting language of the Aboriginal Sovereignty Movement by refusing to recognize the legitimacy of settler sovereignty.  The issue I take here is Australian settlers originate from two hundred years of migrancy and Australian sovereignty finds its origins from the British Commonwealth. ‘Sovereign Citizens’ are weaponizing settler privilege inherited from Indigenous dispossession to propel a non-compliance agenda towards mandatory vaccination to assert body-sovereignty and freedoms against a vaccine.   

The Indigenous struggle is emancipatory from structures of racial violence.  Sovereign Citizens, neo-nazi and conservative groups alike are about maintaining structures of racial power not dismantling it. We are not the same and yet, we are constantly having to explain this and distance ourselves from those who co-opt and undermine our movement.

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy to this present day is a site for remembering our collective resistance and our unceded sovereignty.  Leaders of the Embassy announced they did not endorse, support or mandate the actions which resulted in the fire at old Parliament House.  local Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Matilda House made a statement in relation to a breach of traditional cultural protocols by Indigenous people who are directly involved with the encampment which is still lodged near the Embassy site with recent reports amongst a community of hostility and aggressions made towards local woman and Elders.

Aunty Jenny Munro and Aunty Matilda spoke to the Canberra Times, and appealed for the ACT government to intervene and remove the anti-vax camp from the area which surrounds the Aboriginal Tent Embassy given its close proximity to Indigenous people on the ground and those intending to travel down over the next few weeks for the 50th anniversary on 26 January.  I too am requesting the ACT government to act now to remove these agitators so that our people can commemorate and remember our heroes of the struggle peacefully.  

I am also calling on our allies and supporters who have asked time and time again how can we help? 

To them I say that now is the time for solidarity and hold to account circles who are preying on the vulnerable to recruit and lead their pro-fascist ideologies.  Your silence is deafening at a time when complacency means complicity, and I refer to the words of the late Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” 

For some years now I have been involved in leading and co-organizing Invasion Day rallies in Sydney and throughout NSW and have done so non-violently even when faced with threats by police refusing to allow us to protest during the Covid-19 restrictions.  I have also been vocal in uniting our people to converge onto the Aboriginal Tent Embassy site to replicate and reenergize the spirit of what our old people fought for in the 1960’s and 70’s – the objective being the Commonwealth to address Indigenous sovereignty is still unfinished business.  

Australia is the only settler nation (like Canada, New Zealand and the United States) to not have a treaty with Indigenous Nations.  And I am not saying entirely that treaties or compacts have proven to be beneficial in enacting Indigenous sovereignty but there are opportunities  to learn from past failures and draw from a transformative, equitable-based approach if we are to achieve peaceful cohesion in this country.  The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is a symbol of our reckoning with the settler state and we should never forget its message.

And to our mob who are standing on the wrong side of justice, Indigenous sovereignty is drawn from community health principles.  And I use the term ‘community’ to represent the diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, language and clan groups right across this continent.  The functions of our social and kinship systems are centred on the health status of the collective both human and non-human forms.  We understand this by looking after our most vulnerable in community, our Elders and goothas (children).  A health system which has withstood the test of time.  The recognition of our people’s sovereignty in a political sense means the settler state must reform and reconcile its imposed system through treaty which includes a package of rights – returning land, compensation for land/cultural loss, decolonizing institutions and eradicating racism from its legal and criminal system for a fair and just Australia – not just for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – but all people who now share a sense of belonging to this beautiful country.  This is our way – ensuring the health of the entire community.  

The year ahead holds a multitude of significance for Indigenous Nations as many have been organizing for months in advance to commemorate 50 years of the oldest political demonstration in the world, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on Ngunnawal country, Canberra.  It is in our remembering of who we are as the oldest continuing culture on the planet that we find our strength and resilience to persevere, resist and rebuild against layers of colonial violence and racism.  With this new disease that has come to our shores it is imperative that we look after our health first and foremost and to heed caution as we navigate this latest threat on the soil of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.  Lastly, I finish by quoting Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta writer Nayuka Gorrie in her article here on Indigenous X 

“…the way our community cares for each other is our greatest strength right now. Where white culture leaves their most vulnerable behind, it is in our cultures to protect each other to ensure our survival.”

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