Huge crowds march on 50th anniversary of Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra

Ashleigh GleesonNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: NCA NewsWire

Huge crowds turned out to mark the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, marching through Canberra before ending where “the extremely powerful moment” in Australian history started.

Organisers estimate 2500 people turned out for the Invasion Day of Mourning event, where there were loud chants of “what do we want? land rights” and signs saying things like “no pride in genocide”.

There was also a second gathering at Parliament House where the only surviving member of the original Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Ghillar Michael Anderson, spoke about how the world’s longest continuous protest for Indigenous land rights began.

He along with three others – Billy Craigie, Joe Williams and Tony Coorey – pitched a beach umbrella on the lawns opposite what’s now known as Old Parliament House, in the moment that began it all.

Ngalan Gilbert, the grandson of Aboriginal activist and author Kevin Gilbert, attended Aboriginal Tent Embassy 50th anniversary march.
Camera IconNgalan Gilbert, the grandson of Aboriginal activist and author Kevin Gilbert, attended Aboriginal Tent Embassy 50th anniversary march. Credit: NCA NewsWire

Mr Anderson said despite the 26th being the anniversary, they technically set up their umbrella at 12.45am on the 27th.

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“We got out and drove the umbrella into the ground, put the plastic around us, squatted our black arses onto the ground,” he told the crowd.

He said at sunrise the ACT Police came up to speak to them.

“He looked at us and said ‘what are you doing? How long are you going to be here?’” he said.

Ghillar Michael Anderson on the 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
Camera IconGhillar Michael Anderson was one of the original members of Aboriginal Tent Embassy. Credit: NCA NewsWire

Mr Anderson told them that Mr Craigie said: “Until we get land rights”.

“Here we are, we’re still arguing,” Mr Anderson said.

He said that day was “an extraordinary powerful moment” that gave Indigenous people “the will to fight”.

Ngalan Gilbert, the grandson of Aboriginal activist and author Kevin Gilbert, attended the main march which finished at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which became a permanent site in 1992.

“It’s a pretty big honour, I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid and every year it gets bigger and bigger,” he said.

“We want change so we can better our people and try to close the gap.”

The 50th anniversary of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
Camera IconOrganisers say about 2500 people attended the event. Credit: NCA NewsWire

One of the speakers, Cheryl Buchanan, told the crowd about her time at the embassy.

“The umbrella grew to a few canvases, I remember sleeping on a canvas, covered in a canvas and waking up covered in ice,” she said.

‘There were wonderful people and we should remember them as we march today, very proud warriors, very proud warriors that we have lost.

“What brings joy to me is to see all the young people.”

Originally published as Huge crowds march on 50th anniversary of Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra

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