Aboriginal Tent Embassy activists distance themselves from Old Parliament House fire

Updated: Jan 8

By Katina Curtis and Rachael Dexter December 30, 2021


Aboriginal Tent Embassy activists have moved to distance themselves from a fire that damaged the 100-year-old front doors of Old Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday and drew strong criticism from federal politicians of all stripes.

Five fire crews and about 50 police officers were called to the historic building on Thursday morning after the doors and portico caught alight, with flames burning above the roof height.

“Although we support the concept of non-violent direct action, we do not condone the destruction of public and private property,” Aboriginal Tent Embassy

Protesters have been occupying the steps of Old Parliament House, which houses the Museum of Australian Democracy, over the past fortnight. They include well-known influencers from the “freedom movement” who oppose vaccine mandates and lockdowns, as well as people claiming to be sovereign citizens who believe federal and state governments are invalid.

Although many appeared to be staying at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, which has swelled in size in recent days, the embassy condemned the actions of protesters on Thursday.


“Although we support the concept of non-violent direct action, we do not condone the destruction of public and private property,” it said in a statement.

“The actions of such protesters conducting a ‘smoking ceremony’ was done so without the knowledge, consent or mandate of the Embassy Council and Traditional Owners responsible for the regulation of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.”



Firefighters responding at the fire-damaged front entrance of Old Parliament House following a protest in Canberra on Thursday.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN


Indigenous activist Albert Hartnett, who has a long association with the Tent Embassy, said he was worried it would be blamed for the fire damage.


“All we do here is provide an action space where we take these actions to the front doors of this Parliament House,” he said in a video posted on Facebook.

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