Sovereignty movement gains momentum across Australia

ABC Radio 612 - Brisbane Audio File Brisbane Tent Embassy - Interview 30th March 2012 - mp3

Emma Sykes ABC Radio 30th March 2012

Musgrave Park, in South Brisbane has been transformed into a Tent Embassy, as the latest of the Sovereign Rights protests hits Brisbane.

The Brisbane site is the third Aboriginal embassy to be set up across the country, with others already operating in Canberra, Portland (regional Victoria) and Perth.

Brisbane Embassy spokes person Kyu Bales says the national movement is gaining momentum.

January this year marked the 40th anniversary for the Tent Embassy on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra.

What started as a symbolic protest against then-prime minister Billy McMahon's refusal to acknowledge land rights has become an iconic part of the Canberra experience, and Ms Bales says now is the time to move on the momentum from the anniversary.

"This is a continuation of the momentum that was built up from the Canberra gathering and the 40th anniversary for the Embassy.

The tent embassy has been established in South Brisbane's Musgrave Park, which continues to be an important meeting place for a number of Indigenous groups of South East Queensland and is the site of the annual Musgrave Park Family Fun Day held during NAIDOC Week.

Ms Bales says the movement is about re-claiming land and educating the community about the sovereignty movement.

"This occupation, this presence in the public eye, this is everybody's opportunity to come and educate themselves.

"We want to stick around for a long, long time to come and share our message with as many brothers and sisters that we can, and try make some change.

"We hope these establishments, the permanent tent embassies around the country - we hope that they push for that.

Ms Bales says she hopes the Brisbane movement will continue to spread the message and culture of the first Australian's.

"By doing this we put a stop to that and we take it on in a matter of self determination and we take back the responsibilities and the rights to practice our culture.

"We want rights to our land, where do we go if we want to live back on our traditional country, where do we take our elders to pass on in their own country?

Ms Bales says one of the biggest issues facing indigenous communities in Australia is access to secure food and shelter.

"This is symbolic of the land rights movement; we want human rights, just like anybody.

The community behind the tent embassy say they will be lodging a claim for the land as a Cultural Heritage Site, but to date haven't had any issues with occupying the space.

"We've been trying really hard to keep good rapport, good relationships and communication open with the Lord Mayor, the local police, and the residents here."
Ms Bales says she wants to see tent embassy's across the country "to remind people that there is traditional owners"

"[We're] traditional custodians with rights and responsibilities to this country and we're going to start practicing them."

Lord Mayor of Brisbane Cnr Graham Quirk says the Musgrave Park is the spiritual home of the Indigenous people of Brisbane, but says the council will monitor their presence at the site.

Cnr Quirk says the group are welcome to stay in the short term, but he doesn't want to see a repeat of the Occupy Brisbane protests.

"I'm working very closely with the local Indigenous community, together with the local council to make sure it doesn't get out of hand."

Tent embassy opens branch in Musgrave Park, protesting over sovereign rights

Lara Lauth Quest Newspapers 30th March 2012

Brisbane now has it's own branch of Canberra's tent embassy - the Brisbane Sovereign Embassy in Musgrave Park.

Peter Skuthorpe said the working party, a group of eight volunteers committed to their cause, have set up camp near the corner of Russell St and Cordelia St, South Brisbane, which was once a sacred site in indigenous culture.

He said they've been in the park for two weeks, and other similar embassies will be opened in Western Australia, Port Headland, and New South Wales.

"We're using out sovereign right to practice our cultural beliefs...we want our sovereign right to be recognised," Mr Skuthorpe said.

Mr Skuthorpe, an self-employed youth worker studying social work at Griffith University, said he and the working party wanted the government to recognise their right to practice indigenous cultural beliefs and be governed by indigenous tribal customs.

He said he was concerned about the dilution of indigenous custom and wanted every school classroom around the country to teach indigenous beliefs and culture.

Mr Skuthorpe said the Brisbane City Council were aware of their presence, but had not yet contacted members of the working party.

Police have not yet asked them to move along, he said.

The working party said they'll welcome anyone into their embassy who would like to learn about their cause.

"We've erected a sacred fire and are in the process of getting it heritage listed," Mr Skuthorpe said.

He said the embassy will stand "as long as the fire's burning,".