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Centre for Research on Social Inclusion

The Tent Embassy, Aboriginal Sovereignty and the Politics of Reconciliation

An interdisciplinary workshop

Date: Monday, 17 August
Time: 3:30-6:30pm
Venue: C5C 498

Download poster here

About the Workshop

This workshop will examine the politics of reconciliation in the context of the movement for Aboriginal sovereignty exemplified in the Tent Embassy protest of 1972. While a treaty or 'makarata' was entertained by the Labor government in the 1980s, a ten-year formal reconciliation process was instead announced in 1991. This led to the reinstatement of the Tent Embassy by activists who opposed the reconciliation process as a betrayal of Aboriginal peoples' right to self-determination. In this context, the politics of reconciliation has widely been viewed as a nation-building exercise that evades the fundamental issues of Aboriginal self-determination, land rights, and reparations to the stolen generations. Despite this justified disenchantment with the politics of reconciliation, however, we might nonetheless consider whether an emancipatory politics of reconciliation would be possible, which took the assertion of Aboriginal sovereignty enacted by the Tent Ambassadors as a starting point for constituting anew the Australian polity. In short the workshop will examine both what is and what ought to be the relation between Aboriginal sovereignty and the politics of reconciliation.


3:30 Welcome to Darug country (from Uncle Kevin Simms) followed by screening of excerpt from Tent Embassy (directed by Frances Peters-Little)
4:10 Vicki Grieves (Sydney) 'Reflections on the Embassy from one that was not there: Aboriginal people and white politics in settler colonial Australia'
4:30 Paul Muldoon (Monash) & Andrew Schaap (Exeter) 'Sovereign Acts: The Tent Embassy and the National Apology to the Stolen Generations'
4:50 Break
5:00 Response from Dirk Moses (Sydney)
5:20 Discussion
6:30 Close

About the participants

Vicki Grieves is Worimi from the midnorth coast of NSW and a historian. She is currently an ARC Indigenous Research Fellow at the University of Sydney exploring conflict and violence in NSW Aboriginal society. Vicki's completed PhD thesis Approaching Aboriginal History: Family, Wellbeing and Identity in Aboriginal Australia presents a case for a new Australian historiography based on Indigenous knowledges approaches and explores mixed-race marriages in Worimi from this theoretical base.

Dirk Moses is Senior Lecturer in history at the University of Sydney. He is author of German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past (Cambridge, 2007). His current interests are in world history, genocide, the United Nations, colonialism/imperialism and terror, about which he has published a number of anthologies.

Paul Muldoon is Lecturer in political theory at Monash University. He specialises on the impact of the politics of identity and the politics of consumerism on democratic theory and practice. Paul is currently working on two research projects. The first seeks to shed light on contemporary debates about Indigenous citizenship by examining the principles and techniques of governance that have been applied to Indigenous people in colonial and postcolonial Australia. The second project looks at the turn to reconciliation in post-conflict and postcolonial societies and seeks to interrogate its status as a form of 'politics'.

Andrew Schaap is Lecturer in political theory at the University of Exeter. He is author of Political Reconciliation (Routledge 2005) and editor of Law and Agonistic Politics (Ashgate 2009). He is currently working on a book that examines how Hannah Arendt's notion of the 'right to have rights' has been taken up in contemporary political theory.