Few Australian political protests can claim to have made an impact as great or as lasting as the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. First set up on the lawns of Old Parliament House in January 1972, the embassy has been a focal point for the struggle for Aboriginal rights.
Four Aboriginal men, Michael Anderson, Billie Craigie, Tony Koorie and Bertie Williams, launched the embassy in response to then-prime minister Billy McMahon’s refusal to grant Aboriginal land rights. Instead, McMahon had offered to lease stolen land back to Aboriginal people.
The protest swelled, capturing the imagination of Aboriginal activists and their supporters around the country. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy received wide media coverage in Australia and internationally. It threw the spotlight on the appalling conditions Aboriginal people faced and the refusal of the Australian government to respond to Aboriginal demands for justice.
The activists decided to make the tent embassy a permanent protest, while the government pursued legal avenues to evict the protesters.
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