Following PM Billy McMahon's speech
on the eve of the 1972 "Australia Day", four young Aboriginal men - Billy Craigie, Tony Coorey, Michael Anderson and Bert Williams - travelled from Sydney to Canberra.
By the end of "Australia Day" they were seated on the lawns facing Parliament House under a beach umbrella with a sign that read 'Aboriginal Embassy'.
Michael Anderson told the press, 'The land was taken from us by force ... We shouldn't have to lease it ... Our spiritual beliefs are connected with the land'.
Over the following days and weeks they would be joined by other black activists: Gordon Briscoe, Paul Coe, Chicka Dixon, Gary Foley, Bruce McGuinness, John Newfong, Roberta Sykes, Denis Walker and many others from all states and territories of Australia.
When Parliament resumed in mid February 1972, there were 11 tents on the lawns opposite Parliament House.
Leader of the Opposition, Gough Whitlam, accepted an invitation from Embassy organisers to visit the tents and speak with representatives. This gave it further recognition and legitimacy.
In March 1972, Embassy leaders addressed 200 Australian National University students, asking for their support for the protest. Canberra university students billeted Aboriginal protestors, joined the crowd on the lawns, and opened a bank account for the Embassy through the Student Representative Council.
Overseas visitors to the national capital, such as members of the Canadian Indian Claims Commission, visited the Aboriginal Embassy, as did Soviet diplomats and an Irish Republican Army member.
Bowraville, Mid North Coast hinterland of NSW, 22 January 2012
The last survivor of the four young Black Power men who set up the Aboriginal Embassy in 1972, Michael Ghillar Anderson, says he has received intelligence that there is a move to destroy him personally and the Aboriginal sovereignty movement in which he plays a large role.
Anderson makes the allegation in a media release from Bowraville, where he is meeting and has met previously with Aboriginal elders of Mulli Mulli (Woodenbong).
I have been given intelligence coming out of Sydney that there is a move to destroy myself and the Aboriginal sovereignty movement. I am taking this intelligence seriously because of past incidents and threats.
In 1972, after the Aboriginal Embassy had been put up, I returned home as a matter of urgency because my younger had been hospitalised. On my arrival my mother and the Aboriginal family next door (the Cain family from Coonabarrabran) told me they had been receiving in the mail correspondence with words cut from magazines and pasted on foolscap paper “Shut your f……. son up and get him out of the Aboriginal movement or you will learn of the consequences” or words to this effect.
In other correspondence the Cain family received similar letters: “Tell your next door trouble-making black bastards to stop that Black Power man or you will feel the consequences.”
These letters were given to the Criminal Bureau of Investigation in Sydney who placed phone taps on my mother’s phone and the Cain’s phones, so that any threatening conversations could be recorded.
My mother then went on to tell me that she did not want to cause concern, because she knew of my commitment to fight the fight. But recently she did say that I should be concerned. She told me that prior to the letters coming, a steel bar had been thrown through her ground-floor window in Surrey Hills, Sydney and was driven through a mattress where it was thought I had come home to stay.
Within three weeks after this incident my mother and her Aboriginal neighbour’s houses were blown up in Surrey Hills and the blast shattered the windows for three blocks around. My mother and her neighbours were put under police watch and relocated to another suburb for the next twelve months.
I was also threatened at a hotel in Sydney on the eve of going to an Aboriginal conference in Woollongong and the car that I was travelling in almost killed me, two children and the driver, who was the Newcastle Student Union President, Anne Coombs. I remember trying to successively slow the car down by running it into the side of the mountain, crashing it down Bulli Pass. The police investigation showed the brake lines had been cut.
In another incident, I recall Isobelle Coe and myself returning from Moree, Narrabri and Wee Waa to Sydney, where I attended the Clifton Hotel. From within the Black Power movement I was confronted by fellow Black Power colleagues, who told me I was no longer wanted at the Aboriginal Embassy. So I returned to Walgett and during Christmas 1972/3 I went to Wee Waa to work on the cotton fields with aunties, uncles and families from Goodooga and Walgett.
I recall that one week after 1973 New Year I was asked by the Aboriginal working community in Wee Waa to help fight for higher wages in the cotton industry. I arranged for a strike within the cotton industry for all workers and led them to a successful outcome within three weeks.
Within this three weeks, while I organising the strike, my auntie and uncle Isabell and Jo Flick told me I needed to get out of the Tulla Dunna camp because my life was under threat. On the evening I relocated from my tent at the cotton chippers camp to their house in Wee Waa, the people on Tulla Dunna Reserve thought I was killed in my tent, because a 4WD had pulled up and two shot gun blasts were fired into the tent and the people said a white 4WD had sped off into the darkness.
Today’s intelligence coming out of Sydney suggests I need to be very careful during the Aboriginal Embassy 40th anniversary, because the source is saying that the threats to my safety are coming from the same group of people, who attempted to cause injury and take my life previously.
Recently, during a visit by my mother and sister to Goodooga, my mother warned me that I need to be very well protected, because the government will find Aboriginal people to cause disruption to the sovereignty movement and threaten my life.
I have a very good idea of where the trouble will come from, as police intelligence is aware of the threat to my life and the sovereignty movement and that the people involved will commence a campaign to first character assassinate me to win support to reject me, thereby nullifying the sovereignty movement, by creating enormous divisions; which would permit the Australian government to say publically: Aborigines will never come together as a united body to fight for their sovereign status.
The Australian government knows what is at stake and will resort to any attempt to divide and conquer, because they know how easy it is to do so. They know that hate and jealousy within the oppressed people are so easy to promote and exploit.
In other words: feed them enough information to character assassinate and they will divide themselves.
I am seriously considering the threat to my life and safety and will consider whether my safety is worth the risk, because the government is seeking to destroy the sovereignty movement.
What stimulates me to stay the course is the fact that this sovereignty movement belongs to the people and is not owned by any family or group.
Michael Ghillar Anderson