I visited the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1982 – its presence was about ten years old then, and it was generating considerable angst in the orderly scene that is public service Canberra. My errand was to return an address/appointment book I had picked up in the street. It belonged to one of the key embassy activists. I considered, given the sensitive nature of the contents, that I would deliver it to its owner myself rather than turn it in to “the authorities.” The public was not on side at this time; the tent was an embarrassment and should go. Thirty years later, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy pitched on the lawns of Old Parliament House has hit international headlines again.
It’s not my desire to add commentary to this particular event, apart to point out that the incident illustrates the distance we still have to travel before this country can speak of being unified.
Yet there remains enough positive energy from all parties to give it a go. Current anger and polarisation gives the appearance of sudden crisis. In reality, the crisis has existed for some time. Genuine and intelligent efforts continue to strive against all sorts of odds to address it. These efforts will not be diverted by the street theatre of yesterday, no matter who instigated it. The party of 22 diverse community leaders who have submitted the unanimous parliamentary report on changes to the Australian Constitution to acknowledge indigenous concerns remains promising. Today’s analysis: Long road to the Indigenous referendum – Eureka Street is both realistic and hopeful.