Old Parliament House Aboriginal Tent Embassy marks 50 anniversary on January 26

Paul Girrawah House

The organisers at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawn in front of Old Parliament House are planning a day of cultural events and speeches to mark the 50th anniversary of the embassy's establishment.

The day is to start at 9.30am when participants assemble at Garema Place in Civic to march, via Commonwealth Avenue Bridge, to the embassy.

"It's a culturally safe, family-friendly day and everyone is welcome," one of the organisers, Paul Girrawah House, said.

He wanted to emphasise that the event would be positive. "We want people to bring all the good nutrients," as he put it.

Any danger of a repeat of the recent trouble outside Old Parliament House has been defused by the removal of the neighbouring anti-vaxxer camp.

Paul Girrawah House. Picture: Steve Evans

Paul Girrawah House. Picture: Steve Evans

A 30-year-old man from Gippsland in Victoria is awaiting trial for allegedly setting fire to the doors of the iconic building. He is not believed to be connected to the Aboriginal camp.

The Tent Embassy was established by four men on January 26, 1972. They were inspired by the non-violent militancy of the Civil Rights movement in the United States. From the initial planting of an umbrella on the Canberra grass grew the world-famous symbol of Aboriginal protest against the taking of land.

The concerns remain the same, according to Paul Girrawah House.

"It's about, acknowledgement and honouring our ancestors, the founding families and traditional owners of country," he said.

"Our land was never ceded. It was stolen without consent or treaty and we've never been compensated for our loss."

He was particularly keen that Canberrans realised that the name for the city derived from the Aboriginal name, Ngambri.


One of the original protesters, Ghillar Michael Anderson, explained earlier why he and the other three decided on what was then the functioning Parliament House: "The idea was to set up a permanent vigil, and we wanted to get right in their faces, and we couldn't get more in their faces than where we ended up."

He, too, distanced the Tent Embassy from the fire which destroyed the front portico on December 30. He said the alleged arson was "a sign of disrespect".

"We don't have to be destructive and those of us involved with the embassy have never been destructive in the past - and we don't intend to be in the future," he said.

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This story 'Everyone is welcome': Day of protest planned for tent embassy anniversary first appeared on The Canberra Times.