The Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy made national headlines earlier this year when hundreds of police descended on Musgrave Park, removing the campsite and arresting protestors.
Despite this, the embassy was re-established soon after. It remains peaceful but determined, and open to anyone who would like to learn more about Aboriginal culture and history. “Come in, sit down, have a cup of tea, have a yarn with us,” says Kargun Fogarty, who stays at the embassy full time.
The embassy is one of many set up across Australia this year to mark the 40th anniversary of the first Aboriginal Embassy in Canberra in 1972. Kargun’s mother, Cheryl Buchanan, was one of those involved. “They pitched a tent down there right in front of Parliament House, which is now Old Parliament House,” says Kargun, “Basically it started out as the forefront of our struggle.” It’s a struggle that continues today and Kargun says the Brisbane embassy acts as a visual reminder of that. “We’re still here. We’re not complacent. We still have a lot that we have to fight for.”
One of the main things they’re fighting for is land rights. Kargun says it’s an issue that tends to scare a lot of white people. “They think we want to take all the land and get rid of them you know, but what it comes down to is caring for country and creating a sustainable future for our children. That’s what our ancestors were all about.” He says that as a people, Aboriginal Australians have always been futuristic thinkers. “We’re always thinking down the track whereas a lot of the white fellas and the government, they’re only thinking for a short-term time and that’s the big problem with global warming and everything that’s going on … our people, we’re long-term thinkers. I’m already thinking about my great grandchildren because they are me; that’s our way, they become me, I become them, you know what I mean … so I need to secure that as well. That’s what we’re trying to do here; it’s all about maintenance of our country and looking after our sites.”
Natalie Lewis, who is a member of the working party at the embassy, says that in general, the government and the wider community need to learn more about Aboriginal culture. “I think that once they’ve learnt that, it may help us move forward together. But until people come with open minds and hearts, we’re still going to continue this fight,” she says.
As well as engaging with the wider community, the embassy is also strongly focused on strengthening and educating their own community, including their children and young people. “A lot of them, they’re still unsure about their Aboriginality, and their pride in themselves,” says Kargun. “Our people need to go through a lot of healing, we’ve been through a lot of torment … it’s passed through the generations.”
Words by Leah Carri | Images by Darlia Argyris