Aboriginal Tent Embassy: are we looking at it the wrong way?

Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Parkes ACT
Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Parkes ACT

Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Some reflections for Reconciliation Week 2012

Last Sunday, about a week out from Sorry Day 2012, I had a not-so-chance interaction at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns of Old Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, Australia.

It galvanised for me two of the things that are most core to my being:

1. My favourite word in the English language (and several others I either speak or have some capacity with) is ‘diversity’.

Diversité. Diversiteit.

We can identify, celebrate, and understand our differences.

The more we can resist saying, ‘I don’t understand’, and the more we can say, ‘Help me to understand’ when it comes to differences, the better off we can be.

In my very humble opinion.

2. Never assume. I offer this as a serving suggestion. You can do whatever the hell you like. I suggest that to assume anything is to cut off so many fruitful opportunities.

The older I get, the more I have grown to dislike the word ‘assume’ and all the connotations around it and others like it.

‘I assume, I presume, Obviously, As you are aware’: they’re all illegal in my book. It’s like aversion therapy just being on the planet some days, hearing these repeated ad nauseum. Keep some tally marks today as they’re trotted out around you.

I can hear the words of my late father ringing in my ears: ‘Don’t jump to conclusions, Billy; you’ll break your leg’.


On Sunday evening 20 May 2012, I was walking back from Manuka qnd Forrest, after catching up with some friends. It was one of those wonderful, clear, crisp Canberra nights in late Autumn when the air is still; and so long as you have a warm jacket on (preferably in an outrageous 1950s pattern) and an over-sized beanie, you’re sound as a pound.

Sorry Day Bridge Walk poster. I tried to ressurrect it but couldn't find anything to hammer it into the ground with. Sorry.
Sorry Day Bridge Walk poster. I tried to resurrect it but couldn’t find anything to hammer it into the ground with. Sorry.

As I walked through Parkes (the Parliamentary Triangle) and passed the statues of former Prime Minsiters Chifley and Curtin, I got to thinking about reconciliation, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, and the coming Sorry Day.

Earlier, while walking from the city out to Manuka, I’d happened upon a sign advertising the Bridge Walk this Friday and had spent some time (ultimately unsuccessfully) trying to re-plant it by the side of the road.

So this was all buzzing around as I approached the tent embassy along King Georges Terrace at about 8pm. I could have stuck to the path and the streetlights and headed off towards Commonwealth Avenue, but something drew me towards the ceremonial fire and I’d just descended one or two steps when a resident called out from the shadows:

‘Hey, where are you going? What are you doing?’ Continue reading