Lismore will be treated to a visit from two Aboriginal idols this Friday, July 20, for the annual Southern Cross University NAIDOC family celebrations. Australian Idol and Deadly Award winner Casey Donovan will perform songs at the Lismore campus, and Aboriginal Tent Embassy co-founder Michael Anderson will reflect on the struggles by Australia's Indigenous peoples for equality and land rights.
The theme for NAIDOC 2012 is 'Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 years on' and according to Mr Anderson, the tent embassy remains as relevant as it first was 40 years ago. Mr Anderson is the last surviving member of a group of four Aboriginal rights activists who first set up the Aboriginal tent embassy on the lawns of the old Parliament House in response to then-prime minister Billy McMahon's refusal to grant Aboriginal land rights. Since then, the tent embassy has become a focal point for the struggle for Aboriginal rights.
"A lot of changes occurred as a result of the tent embassy; it was a major achievement," Mr Anderson said.
"It was a revolution that took place overnight in terms of changes to government policy and it shifted the way we do business.
"The fact that the tent embassy continues to operate indicates to everyone concerned, and not only Aboriginal people, that there is still something terribly wrong. We have seen an increase in terms of improvements but there's still a long way to go and we need to talk about this properly and not just react." Mr Anderson expected the tent embassy to remain in place until a compact treaty arrangement was drawn up with the state and federal governments and territories.
"A treaty will create a pathway where Aboriginal people will take ownership, and in some cases joint ownership, of programming in Aboriginal affairs rather than the current policy of total assimilation," he said.
Today, Mr Anderson is still a powerful advocate for Aboriginal rights and still helps Aboriginal people who want to protect their land from mining and destructive development.
"My inspiration and drive come from watching the elders who didn't have education and learned things by trial and error. They knew what they wanted and what their rights were in their souls and went for it. They are still watching their land be destroyed and are induced into signing things they didn't want to sign by lawyers and I truly understand their pain."
The free NAIDOC event will take place at SCU's Lismore campus from 11am-3pm and activities will include dancing, music, arts and crafts, face painting, information stalls, workshops, sausage sizzles and a photo exhibition. Michael Anderson will speak at 11.45am and Casey Donovan will perform at 12.20pm. RSVP (for catering purposes) by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 6620 3955. For more information, go to www.scu.edu.au/naidoc/.
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