The land rights debate in the 1970’s was a tough and hard-fought journey for the Aboriginal people. In the 1967 Referendum, Australians showed their support for the Aboriginals, by voting to change the Constitution to include the indigenous in the Census and giving overriding authority to the Commonwealth government regarding Aboriginal affairs. Ralph Hunt, of the National Coalition Party and Federal Minister in 1971 stated ‘To just set aside land because Aboriginal groups and tribes believe they have a special right to it tends to only perpetuate the tribal system’, explaining that Indigenous people did not have the power nor authority to regain land that they believed belonged to them. However, by this stage, Aboriginal people were ‘less inclined to have white politicians deciding upon their best interests’. The quotation particularly reflected the ‘Assimilation’ policy in reference to the Indigenous people. In 1970, the Aborigines Advancement League had sent a petition to the United Nations, requesting that the union use its powers to uphold Aboriginal rights to the land. This strategy also failed. On Australia Day 1972, Prime Minister McMahon also supported Hunt’s views in publicly stating that Aboriginals did not have a right to any land or compensation, while also declaring that mining was permitted on Aboriginal reserves. On that same day, an Aboriginal ‘Tent Embassy’ was established on the front lawn of the Parliament house, protesting to secure land rights. The embassy became the focal point for protests against denial of rights for Aboriginal people. Regaining control of the traditional land was crucial to the Aboriginal people, as all means of their identity, spirituality, and the Dreaming shared an inextricable link with the land. The government was surprised by the amount of public support for the Aboriginal cause. A significant point in the lands right debate eventuated following the Labour Party’s Gough Whitlam’s reign as Prime...
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