The movement started last January marking the anniversary of the setting up of the first Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra · Although the situation faced by Aborigines in Australia is still worrying, there are some signs of improvement.
Last January marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra, in the lawn of the Old Parliament House in the Australian capital. To commemorate the action, a number of tent embassies and camps were then set up along the Australian coast, and there are currently seven tent embassies, coordinated to claim Aboriginal rights. The spreading of the movement has brought along tensions with the authorities and police forces trying to prevent the trend from extending to more cities. Last week a massive police presence evicted a group of 80 people who had pitched their tents in Brisbane last March, and arrested up to 30 aborigines and activists.
40 years of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy
Yet this was just another example of state coercion against the movement. Aboriginal groups called for an investigation on the reaction of police officers during January's tent embassy protest, which they branded violent and provocative. On January 1972 tens of Aboriginal activists camped beside the Parliament of Australia at that time, in Canberra, as a consequence of the then prime minister Billy McMahon's refusal to guarantee Aboriginal land rights. To some observers this action marked a breakthrough which led to several improvements in the situation of Aboriginal peoples.
Optimism and recognition
Despite the serious problems faced by native communities, especially regarding health, education and land -as well as related its consequences as alcoholism, violence and culture loss- the situation is slightly improving due to a switch in the attitude and mentality of the Australian Government towards the Aborigines. According to the annual report of the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Aboriginal population is now growing, and the literacy and life expectancy indicators show a clear progress. However, this same report also includes criticism by native communities claiming that it is very hard for them to live according their traditional way of life when they are still confined to reservations.
(Image: one Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Picture by Somaya Langley)