Aboriginal Tent Embassy co-founder Michael Anderson believes the embassy in front of the old parliament House in Canberra is even more relevant this year than when it was first established.
Mr Anderson, addressing the crowd at last Friday’s NAIDOC celebration at the Southern Cross University (SCU) campus in Lismore, also warned about the ‘sham’ of native title and Indigenous Land Use agreements.
He and singer Casey Donovan were hosted by the university for the event which was the final destination for the pair as they visited all three SCU campuses: Gold Coast, Coffs Harbour and Lismore.
The theme for this year’s NAIDOC celebrations is ‘Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on.’
Mr Anderson told Echonetdaily that the tent embassy was originally set up in opposition to a statement made by the government in 1972 that government policy on Aboriginal land rights was to lease land to Aboriginals.
‘Deep in our hearts and our soul that did not gel with us. People just came in, squatted, shot us out and took control. We wanted to make a statement and say that we did not want to lease land, we are after our own land. So we will start with this bit of land here in front of the government.’
Mr Anderson acknowledged the progress over the last 40 years but stressed ‘the policies of reconciliation hide assimilation. Widening the gap is assimilating Aborigines into white society so we are losing too much of our culture, our land, our sacred knowledge and languages. This shouldn’t be kept aside for museums and tourist exhibits.
‘The Northern Territory intervention is taking away basic human rights to improve Aboriginal communities. How can you advance communities when you force them off their land and say they will not provide services out there?
‘The government does not need massive infrastructure costs to build communities out there. They don’t need electricity as solar power would do the job and we have access to satellite technology.’
Mr Anderson says intervention has another agenda.
‘The primary hidden agenda is that Aborigines own 37 per cent of the land, but 80 per cent of the mineral wealth of Australia is on that land. Asserting our legal status and sovereign status as a people is our next challenge,’ he said.
His talk began by expressing his disappointment at a recent NAIDOC celebration in Hobart, Tasmania.
‘It was an insult as far as I was concerned. Here we are celebrating the spirit of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy and it certainly shouldn’t have had someone like Jenny Macklin in attendance that has extended the Northern Territory intervention around the country to attack people, again.’
Mr Anderson said his mother grew up on a mission and lived off rations. He was not afraid to share his disgust that this regime still continues.
‘This is a fascist dictatorship that should never be seen in this country. Jenny Macklin be aware that I am not dead yet, there is still a lot of fight left in me,’ he said.
Although the tent embassy was the crux of his address, Mr Anderson encouraged listeners to investigate legislation concerning native title in Australia.
‘This thing they call native title is one of the greatest shams of all times when we consider legal history. If you look at the Mabo decision you will find that Mabo cheated us and created another lie within that judgement.
‘There is an act in the English parliament which is an executive order from Queen Victoria that has never been overturned. She issued an order in council which said in 1875 that she did not claim dominion or sovereignty over the Aboriginal people, their rulers and chiefs and their places.
‘Which means that in this country, Australian governments have been hiding the fact that we have multiplicity of sovereign people who own their country and the English have got no power or authority over that? They have been ruling us fraudulently and it is now time for us to stand up and be counted.’
Appeal to UN
Mr Anderson is currently the interim chairman of the Aboriginal National Unity Government, also known as the Sovereign Union of the Aboriginal Nations and Peoples in Australia (SUANPA), which has appealed for protection and support from the United Nations in order to establish the sovereignty movement.
The serious tone of his reflections turned to humour when he told the story of Dennis Walker who, back in 1972, when asked at the tent embassy ‘what do you blackfellas want?’ replied ‘we’re here to collect the rent’.
The musing continued with Mr Anderson explaining that the morning after the erection of the embassy, the police commissioner came up and asked ‘what it was all about?’ After a straight answer was given that it was about land rights, he then asked ‘how long are you going to be here for?’ Michael still gets a laugh 40 years on when he thinks back to Billy Craig’s answer, ‘until we get land rights’.
He also stressed that Aborigines had planted an umbrella, not a flag. ‘It was a beach umbrella because we didn’t have a tent,’ he said.
Mr Anderson says a further ‘deceit of land rights’ is the Indigenous Land Use agreement.
‘I have been advised by an ambassador from Argentina who was a former judge of the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, to tell our people to be very careful about signing Indigenous Land Use agreements as it is signing sovereignty over,’ he said.
Mr Anderson also says Aboriginal Land Councils do not own any land.
‘With a stroke of a pen, and an executive decision in the parliament, the NSW minister for Aboriginal Affairs can take it all away. Read the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, you will find that the minister owns the land. We can’t call it our own, that is not ownership!’
Mr Anderson said royalties from mining on Australian land have been collected by the government since 1942 and held in a fund for Aboriginal people.
‘But Aboriginal people cannot touch it, only the minister for finance and it is controlled and regulated by the Federal Audit Act. More than 1.3 trillion dollars is sitting in that fund and yet it cannot be accessed by Aboriginal people.
‘Why are we subject to communist-type administration in this country when we espouse that we are a democracy. The only people who can’t control their own money and estates are Aboriginal people. We are the most regulated people in the world.’
Mr Anderson concluded his speech by saying ‘we are three per cent of the population but are one hundred per cent right in the rights that we are fighting for’.
A copy of Mr Anderson’s letter to the UN Secretary General can be found at: http://treatyrepublic.net/content/australia-using-superior-force-suppress-sovereignty-movement
Casey Donovan, a former Australian Idol and now a successful solo independent artist, performed a few of her well known tracks as well as a Mama Cass cover from her role in the Australian musical, Flowerchildren.
Ms Donovan, who is half indigenous told Echonetdaily, it was the second time she’d played at Lismore.
‘My country, Gumbaynggirr is right next door. I’m in a really good place now. I’m acting and singing and quietly achieving what I want to achieve,’ she said.
The singer is aware of her role model status, especially with teenagers. ‘I enjoy going out to communities and talking to kids about fame and fortune and the work that you have to actually put in, it’s not going to fall out of the sky and you’ll be magically famous!
‘I’ll often ask them do they want fame or longevity, because I am here for the long run not just the short game.’
She said ‘Michael and the group that started the embassy, changed the world, changed Australia and gave people a voice and power’.
‘He is a strong black man that stands for all the right reasons who is there to better his people and better himself. He is my idol!’
The celebrations also included performances by local bands Decolonisation (whose name was inspired by Michael Anderson) and Supafresh, the Deadly Dancers and information stalls. Tom Avery, aka Blackboi from Decolonisation, arrived on a skateboard waving the Aboriginal flag, reminiscent of his recent flag wave while riding a paddle board in an expression session during the Australian Indigenous Surfing Championships at Bells Beach.