On 26 January 1972, four Aboriginal men, Michael Anderson, Billy Craigie, Tony Coorey and Bertie Williams (later Kevin “Bert” Johnson), arrived in Canberra from Sydney, to establish an Aboriginal Embassy by planting a beach umbrella on the lawn in front of Parliament House (now Old Parliament House).The embassy was established in response to the McMahon Coalition Government’s refusal to recognize Aboriginal land rights or native title in Australia, instead offering 50-year general-purpose leases for Aboriginal people which would be conditional upon their “intention and ability to make reasonable economic and social use of land”, while reserving for the Crown rights to minerals and forestry.

Williams suggested calling the tiny protest, at that point just a camp with a few placards, an embassy.The term was “embassy” was deliberately chosen to draw attention to the fact Aboriginal people had never ceded sovereignty, and that there had never been any kind of treaty process with the Crown; they were the only cultural group in Australia who did not have an embassy to represent them. Dr Gary Foley later wrote in his 2014 book about the embassy that the term “tent embassy” was intended to serve as a reminder that Aboriginal people were living in substandard conditions, and treated “like aliens in their own land”.

Event Date26/01/1972
at07:00 am