Canberra: Indigenous protesters occupy iconic restaurant after Government rejects treaty

Members of Canberra's Aboriginal Tent Embassy  have 'reclaimed' the iconic Lobby Restaurant

Members of Canberra’s Aboriginal Tent Embassy have ‘reclaimed’ the iconic Lobby Restaurant

6 Nov – Members of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra have ‘reclaimed’ a once-popular Canberra venue, moving into the iconic Lobby Restaurant on Sunday night

The venue is currently being peacefully occupied by a group of protesters lead by Nioka Coe, a member of the Ngunnawal people of the Australian Capital Territory.

‘There’s a conversation that needs to happen in this country around Aboriginal people and treaty,’ she told Canberra Times, adding that the protest was an act of sovereignty.

The famous Lobby restaurant is being peacefully occupied by a group lead by Ms Nioka Coe.

The restaurant, which closed suddenly in December 2016, has been empty until the group settled in the formerly bustling venue on Sunday evening.

At least thirty people are currently involved in the occupation, with Arabunna Elder Uncle Kevin confirming that more are on their way.

The occupiers have furniture, books and food donated by the community, and are cooking their own food including damper on the premesis.

 

Among their demands are that $7 million in rent on the site to be back-paid – at a rate of $3000 a week for the next 49 years.

The group issued the National Capital Authority (NCA), which owns the historic site, with an eviction notice, citing its ‘failure to seek permission … or sign a Treaty or Lease the land from Ngunnawal Traditional Custodians’ as the reason for the takeover.

In conjunction with Ngunnawal elders, the group is hoping to turn the site into a cultural centre operated by the tent embassy.

The group issued the National Capital Authority with an eviction notice on Sunday morning

The group issued the National Capital Authority with an eviction notice on Sunday morning

The occupiers inside the Lobby have furniture, books and food donated by local communities

The occupiers inside the Lobby have furniture, books and food donated by local communities

Overlooking the Rose Gardens of Old Parliament House, the Lobby Restaurant has hosted political heavyweights including Malcolm Turnbull – who scrapped plans for a ‘referendum to establish a new Indigenous advisory body’ in October.

After the move, conversations constitutional recognition for Indigenous Australians stalled, prompting a gathering of indigenous nations at the tent embassy on Sunday.

The Lobby Restaurant was also the site of the famous Aboriginal protest against racist comments made by the then-Opposition Leader Tony Abbott in 2012.

Canberra’s tent embassy was set up across the lawn from the restaurant by four Aboriginal activists in 1972 to demand land rights, and its fire has been burning ever since.

Canberra's tent embassy was set up close to the restaurant by four Aboriginal activists in 1972

Canberra’s tent embassy was set up close to the restaurant by four Aboriginal activists in 1972

A fire has been continuously burning in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra for 45 years

A fire has been continuously burning in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra for 45 years

The Canberra Times understands that National Capital Authority, along with police and Ngunnawal Elders, will meet at the tent embassy fire on Wednesday to discuss the occupation.

Ms Coe said that she hopes the electricity and water will be turned back on, and that ‘the government needs to be aware we ain’t going no here, we’re part of this country and its future as well’.

A spokesperson for National Capital Authority said, ‘[We] are working with authorities to ensure a satisfactory outcome for all parties.’

The Lobby Restaurant which closed suddenly in December 2016, has been empty ever since

The Lobby Restaurant which closed suddenly in December 2016, has been empty ever since

A spokesperson for NCA said, '[We] are working ... to ensure a satisfactory outcome for all'

A spokesperson for NCA said, ‘[We] are working … to ensure a satisfactory outcome for all’

 

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