Date: 
Wednesday 25 January 2012

Those who established the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra 40 years ago tomorrow played a major role in raising awareness and cementing commitment to protecting the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia, Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said today.

Speaking ahead of the 40th anniversary of the original ‘Aboriginal Tent Embassy’ established under a beach umbrella on the lawns of Parliament House on 26 January 1972, Mr Gooda acknowledged the importance of the efforts of these early campaigners.

“The Embassy’s protest on government policy, along with the Wave Hill walk off by the Gurindji people, and the Gove land rights case of 1971, have been cornerstones in the history of the land rights movement in Australia,” Commissioner Gooda said.

“The efforts of these early campaigners helped to galvanise support and commitment to overcome a number of critical challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at that time such as land rights, health and housing, which sadly remain just as relevant and as urgent today as they were 40 years ago.”

Mr Gooda said the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy brought together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from all over Australia and helped to sow the seeds of more recent campaigns to improve access to justice, education and equal rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“The legacy left by these and other early civil rights movements has been to take the very real concerns of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to the forefront of Australian politics,” Mr Gooda said.

“While their efforts have helped to make self-determination the overriding factor in thinking about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, there is still a long way to go.

“Now, this early goal remains as important as ever as we work towards bringing the nation together in one voice to finally recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution,” Mr Gooda said.

Up to the minute information on human rights is now available on twitter at twitter.com/AusHumanRights.

Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597