Amy Simmons ABC Online May 18, 2012
Photo: Protesters march through South Brisbane after the Aboriginal tent embassy in Musgrave Park was dismantled by police on May 16, 2012. (ABC News: Amy Simmons)
The removal of an Aboriginal tent embassy from Brisbane's Musgrave Park on Wednesday was met with defiance, anger, tears and frustration. Hundreds of police surrounded the campsite at dawn, shutting it down to make way for a Greek festival to be held at the park this weekend. As emotions ran high, dozens were arrested and charged.
The group is now camped at the Jagera Arts Hall, a sacred Aboriginal site only metres up the road from Musgrave Park.But the embassy's eviction has left a big question mark over just who was involved and what they were protesting about. The Brisbane Sovereign Embassy, as it is formally known, was set up at Musgrave Park in early March and held its official opening ceremony on March 24.
It was part of a nationwide movement inspired by the 40th anniversary of Canberra's Aboriginal Tent Embassy in January. Brisbane's was the third embassy to be set up, after Canberra and Perth, and is now one of seven in place around Australia.
Map: Aboriginal tent embassies around Australia, according to the National Unity Government website.
Organisers say the movement, which aims to "protect Aboriginal people's rights to sovereignty", is gaining momentum. A statement made by the Brisbane embassy on March 25, 2012, said the embassy was designed to act as a "consultation station for Aborigines to talk about any problems they've faced as an Australian Aborigine". Here is an excerpt from the statement:
ABC News Online spoke to people who live in the tent embassy, and others who have come from far and wide to lend their support.Their reasons for being there are mixed, but ultimately, all want the government to do more for Aboriginal rights. They also say Musgrave Park is their land to live on.
Kaylah Tyson, 24, has been living at the Musgrave Park embassy for months. She says she is there to make a stand.
Photo: Kaylah Tyson, Brisbane Sovereign Embassy member (ABC: Amy Simmons)
I think people think sovereignty is us trying to get rid of everybody that is not Aboriginal from the land and that's totally not what we're about. Basically it's in the white man's law that we are recognised as sovereign people and we do not fall under that law, so we are here to make sure that everybody knows that, and all we want to do is make a better country for everybody to live in. - Kaylah Tyson
Cynthia Ivey says she came to Brisbane to support her "brothers and sisters who are doing the right thing".
It's just like when they first came over and planted the flag and claimed it, it's just the same thing that's happened 200 years ago, and it's just taken us this long to actually get up and say it.It's sad, it shouldn't have come this far - the politicians should have sat down and really listened, they brought it all onto themselves now and its only going to get worse. - Cynthia Ivey
Robert and Sylvia Harper spent eight weeks in the Canberra embassy before shifting to Brisbane.They say the sovereign movement is about justice and "sticking up for what we've got".
Photo: Robert and Sylvia Harper, members of the Aboriginal tent embassy movement (ABC: Amy Simmons)
We want justice for all sectors of the community.Campbell Newman and what's his name - Lord Mayor Mr Quirk - they failed to show me that they're a part of any community. Everybody's got to focus on trying to ascertain justice in all sectors of the community. - Robert Harper
David Black, 26, is a supporter of the movement. He was arrested on Wednesday for scaling a fence to reach his friends in Musgrave Park.
Photo: David Black, 26, supports the Brisbane Sovereign Embassy (ABC: Amy Simmons)
I'm going to follow them wherever they go. I'm going to stay with them.I'm supporting their cause because it's their land and we took it from them, it's a sacred site and we need to endorse their sovereign rights and I'm there to fully support them in any way I can. - David Black
Video: Brisbane Sovereign Embassy official opening on March 24, 2012