Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and Their Protests for Freedom and Rights for Themselves


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Throughout Australian history, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have persistently fought and protested for freedom and rights for themselves and their land that the British people had taken in 1788. Forms of depossession was taken upon the Aboriginals as the British people believed that the land belonged to no one, so they claimed it as British colony. The Lands Rights movement began in 1966 when mining had transpired on the ATSI land without their consent to do so. This lead to the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders starting campaigns such as the Wave Hill Strike, Tent Embassy and the Mabo and Wik case. The campaigns the ATSI had done led to Australia introducing the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1972.

In August 1966, The Wave Hill walk off took place at a cattle station in the Northern Territory. This strike was led by Vincent Lingiari who demanded to have better working state and pay conditions. One of the major issues were women being sexually abused by the white men who were working at the station. The campaign gradually became bigger and then led to Vincent Lingiari protesting that the land the British people had set up their company belonged to them and had a right to take it back. After many years of hard work and disagreement, Vincent Lingiari’s hard work finally paid off as he was granted back his people’s land in 1972 by the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. This campaign drastically benefited the ATSI as the protest led to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1972 which meant over 50 percent of the land in the Northern Territory was returned to the Aboriginals.

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In January 1972, four Aboriginal men had set up a tent outside the Parliament House in Canberra with a sign that read ‘Aboriginal Embassy’. The protest had gained so much attention that the government had to enforce a law claiming that camping on public land in the Australian Capital Territory was illegal. Months after the protest police were forced to take down the tents and was filmed for national television which led to many Aboriginal people and white Australians all over Australia to come together and rebuild the tents to continue the campaign. Police again took the tents down by beating and fighting anyone who would try and stand in their way of taking them down. Over 2000 people had gathered at the embassy on July 30th and the 13th of September 1972 it was permanently taken down. On Australia Day 1992 the embassy was running again.

In 1982, five Meriam men named Eddie Koiki Mabo, Reverend David Passi, Celuia Mapo Salee, Sam Passi and James Rice went to the high court of Queensland declaring rights to the Murray Islands. This was an important and a huge movement in history for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as it gave them legal rights to their own land. On the 3rd of June 1992 it was declared that the land had always belonged to the ATSI and should have never been claimed as terra nullius ‘land belonging to no-one’ which then meant that now the Aboriginals have ownership to the land that always belonged to them.

On the 23rd of December 1996, the Australian High court declared that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have authority to perform ceremonies and traditions while simultaneously not obstructing the farms that are there.

In conclusion, I believe that the Land Rights movement has greatly improved since the early 20th century, but I believe that this could have all been avoided if the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders were just given back their land that was theirs in the beginning. They deserved to be treated with fairness and justness just like another other Australian. I also strongly believe that no amount of land will ever make up for the way the British treated them when they first arrived in Australia and how they were treated when they were fighting for equality. Australia has improved since what is was back then but we still have a long way to go before there is not hatred nor racism in Australia.

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