Date with destiny - February 9 - First Peoples' Sit-In in Canberra

Colours of the Aboriginal flag

Delegates and supporters of the Freedom Movement have set themselves a date with destiny after marching on Parliament House in Canberra on 27 January declaring they would be back in even larger numbers on February 9 to confront the country's politicians about their treatment and policies affecting First Nations People. More than 200 delegates and supporters marched on Parliament House on 27 January after more than 1,000 people had gathered at Canberra's Aboriginal Tent Embassy the day before on Invasion Day to protest at the Federal Government attack on First Peoples - attacks on culture, land grab threats, the dispossession of homelands.


On Tuesday the Freedom Movement delegates marched on Federal Parliament with more than 200 in support. Flags waved and were pitched at Federal Parliament. Police tried to stop the Freedom Movement marchers but they could not. The marchers walked past them, dignity in Culture at the fore.


The Freedom Movement 200 who marched from Aboriginal Tent Embassy sat themselves right in front of Federal Parliament. The media swarmed as Ghillar Michael Anderson launched a speech for the ages.


"We will be back February 9 and we will stay. We are here now to deliver this message. Parliamentarians return on that day and they will have no choice but to respond to us. This is our land, we never ceded our land, we will never cede our land," said Mr Anderson.


"We will not stand by and continue to watch our children jailed, our children suffer."


Further powerful speeches were delivered by Elders who had travelled from around the continent to Canberra to join in the protest.


Ngarrindjeri Elder, Christina Abdulla said, "We will come and we will stay. We will fight because this Government here is a racist government. All their decisions are made on the basis of racist ideologies. Our kids are being taken, our land coveted, our people harmed. We will fight the White fellas who are here in this building making decisions about us without us."


Wiradjuri Elder, Jenny Munro, "We own this land and you stole this land. There is no Black signature anywhere that we ceded this land. Instead of us proving this is our land, instead you, this House of Lies, you prove where you own this land. Prove to us where we signed it away. None of our people sold us out. We are coming back for it."


Noongar Marianne Mackay said, "They want to push our people off our homelands for mining and big business. Back in WA, our Aboriginal Corporations don't support us because they are all in the Government's pocket. Our homelands will be dispossessed unless we stand up. They say our homelands are not viable but that's a lie. Do they say that non-Aboriginal regional towns are not viable? Would they take off them their fly-in services and remote subsidies?"


Noongar Vanessa Culbong, "We are going to stay here in Canberra and be here for the Sit-In. We grandmothers want our babies back. They steal them from us, from within hospitals, while we are playing with family, while in the parks. Now is the time to move and stand up. We want our babies back. They are ours and we are theirs."


Last of the Swan Valley River People Herbert Bropho said, "They closed down my community. They will close down more communities. They don't care about us. It is bad in Western Australia, it is worse than elsewhere."


Noongar Senior Elder, Ben Taylor said, "I have lived racism for more than sixty years. I was taken from my family, I was institutionalized. I was put in a room with 21 others and one toilet bucket. When we were older we institutionalized again, this time in jail. For doing nothing like for being in possession of a bottle of wine."


"We fought the battle against racism and we have marched many times but here we are again still fighting the racism. We must keep on fighting."


Mr Anderson said, "What we did today here will now ensure the whole country knows of us and this will ensure we mobilise people in numbers they do not expect for February 9."


The dramatic march on Parliament House was the climax of days of protest in Canberra and at other capital cities around the continent by First Peoples and their supporters angered at government policies they believe are designed to destroy their Culture and heritage.


In Canberra thousands of voices made clear their view on Australia's treatment of First Nations People as a mass of people converged on the iconic Aboriginal Tent Embassy last Monday, a day regarded by First Peoples as Invasion Day, to support the Aboriginal Freedom Movement's call to protest against the Federal Government policies on Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander affairs.


As the self-proclaimed Prime Minister for Indigenous affairs, Tony Abbott dealt in his idiotic decision to appoint a knighthood to English Prince Phillip, wife of the Queen of England, he must surely have heard the clamour of the voices of First Peoples in the streets demanding justice and equality. He may not have listened but he surely heard.


Prince Phillip, the individual who once asked a First Nations individual "do you still throw spears at each other?" Pretty rich from someone whose kind have brought on world wars, the atomic bomb, nuclear warfare, guided missile warfare, drone attacks and large-scale covert organisations. The protest was amazing and demonstrated the depth of anger among First Peoples communities given representatives of nations from Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia had travelled to Canberra by bus, rail and motor vehicle to join with First Nations People from the eastern seaboard of the continent in the protest.


Organisers said more than 1000 people attended the protest march and the crowd of supporters continued to swell throughout the day at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.


The protest, called by the First Nations Freedom Movement, is the largest gathering of people in support of First Peoples in many, many years. The protest again highlighted the growing anger among First Peoples communities and the non-Indigenous Australians who support them that government, Federal, State and Territory must end their policies of assimilation or face more protests, more resistance.


More than 400 First Peoples camped for several days at the grounds of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in the days leading up to the protest and many are expected to remain there in the coming weeks.


Following powerful speeches on Invasion Day, the crowd of more than 1,000 then marched from the heart of Canberra to the Embassy.


One of the driving forces behind the formation of the Freedom Movement, Narrunga Elder, Tauto Sansbury said meetings of leaders at the protest had agreed to spread the message of the Freedom Movement to all communities to continue building support.


Mr Sansbury said summits would now be held in Darwin, Geraldton, Meekathara, Alice Springs, Uluru and other places and we will keep on growing.


It was only two months ago the Freedom Movement was ignited in Mparntwe (Alice Springs) after Mr Sansbury put a call out to First Nations leaders to join together in an alliance to oppose Federal, State and Territory government policies they regard are designed to obliterate their Culture and tradition.


"We cannot continue to sit idly by while our peoples are being jailed at the world's highest rates, while our youth are dying of suicide and dying prematurely at the world's highest rates, while the systematic destruction of our homelands and land rights is in full swing, while assimilation is all governments allow," Mr Sansbury said.


"We gather here at Aboriginal Tent Embassy, a gathering of many of our nations in huge numbers. People travelled in convoys for days, they found ways to get here."


"We are uniting. Unity is important if we are to have any real hope of pulling off real change, of reclaiming our rights struggle, of reclaiming our voice."


"Because of this gathering here in Canberra of our people, more will come. The many more of us who can come together the more we will be able to do for all our nations, for all our peoples."


"Our many issues will become one issue. Our many numbers will become one mass. Our presence needs to be seen, felt and heard."


"We are giving rise to a movement, to a cultural shift, to forums and meetings, threading ourselves together. It's the only way forward. We must keep going forward."


Freedom Movement delegate John Christopherson who is the father of Senator Nova Peris, a West Arnhem man and also with the Northern Land Council, will coordinate a summit in Darwin.


Arrernte Elder, Rosalie Kunoth-Monks will host one on her Country and Yamatji Elder, Sandy Davies will coordinate summits on his Country at Geraldton and Meekathara.


National groups were also formed at the protest gathering - Sovereign Black Women From Many Nations and a national youth movement. They will work in sync with the Freedom Movement.


The highly respected Michael Anderson, the last remaining founder of Aboriginal Tent Embassy and a leader of the Euahlayi nation, was one of many who delivered a powerful message to the crowd.


"Unity is how we will achieve anything," he told the protesters. "We need to come together as nations, support each other, educate each other on how we take what is ours."


His words were echoed by another warrior for the rights of First Peoples in Jenny Munro.


Ms Munro told the protest the core issue confronting First Peoples was racism.


"There is a sickness among White people and that sickness is racism," she said.


"Wherever White people have gone in the world they have taken their sickness with them. Through this sickness they exploit people, take from us what they should not," the Wiradjuri Elder and Freedom Movement delegate said.


While many will soon leave Aboriginal Tent Embassy and return home, many will remain and hold the fort in the weeks ahead. They will wait to link up with the planned Stolen Generations march on Federal Parliament.


Roxley Foley is one of many who will continue on at Aboriginal Tent Embassy to continue promoting the Freedom Movement and to strengthen a rising youth movement. Many who travelled with him from Adelaide will also remain to keep the fires burning.


Convoys came from Western Australia to attend the protest - some taking up to six days to arrive as they crossed deserts and the Nullarbor.


Professor Gracelyn Smallwood, who travelled from Cairns to attend the protest, also spoke and joined the call for First Peoples nations to unite.


"Our people have been deceived by far too many for far too long," Professor Smallwood said.


"We have to weed out those who let us down and we have to unite to end the racism, to end the wrongs, to give rise to our voice."


"There has to be an end to institutionalization of our people, to the trauma, to the genocide. We cannot accept the theft of our lands. There is a conspiracy of silence, and this silence must end."


Freedom Movement delegate, Wiradjuri man Les Coe said there was a growing movement among First Peoples who want to reclaim what has been stolen from them.


"We want our freedom and we are not going to stop until we realise what this is," Mr Coe said.


"It seems to be quite an elusive thing but it is something we need to grab hold of."


"As Aboriginal people we are just fed up. We are sick of it; no more lies, no more handouts, no more dangling handouts in front of us and no more the empty promises," he said.


See for television coverage of protests in Canberrra and other places across Australia.


See also: Grandmothers Against Removals call for support   |    'Survival Day' marked across Australia   |   Angry Protesters Sit-In: The 'National Freedom Movement' marches on Canberra's Parliament House on the 'Day of Resistance'   |   Stolen Generations representative among attendees at Canberra   |    The Canberra Times: Day of mourning and hope at Canberra's Aboriginal Tent Embassy   |  
The Guardian: 'We have no friends in parliament,' Indigenous protesters tell Canberra   |   NITV News - 27 January 2015: Angry Protesters - The 'National Freedom Movement' marches on Parliament House on the day after Invasion Day and   |   Freedom Movement to return on resumption of parliament   |   National Indigenous Times: Freedom Movement to confront politicians on February 9   |   Australia-wide Aboriginal radio programme, Let's Talk: Canberra Tent Embassy Invasion Day   |   The day I don't feel Australian? That would be Australia Day