Activist to speak at school debate

THE ABORIGINAL Tent Embassy will be the focal point of a debate to feature three Dubbo schools, as they challenge 11 other schools from the central west today.

Students from Dubbo College South and Delroy Campus, as well as Dubbo South Public School, will attend the finals of the Western NSW NAIDOC Public Speaking and Debating Challenge at the Bangamalanha Centre on Arthur Street.

The last remaining founder and the first Tent Embassy ambassador, Michael Anderson, will be a special guest.

Consisting of students from Bathurst South Public School, Bowen Public School, Calare Public School, Cowra High School, Cowra Public School, Forbes High School, Kelso High School, Lithgow High School, St Lawrence's in Forbes, Tullamore Central School and Wallerawang Public School, as well as those from Dubbo, the challenge has adopted the year's NAIDOC theme "Spirit of the Tent Embassy: 40 Years On".

The challenge will be made up of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students from each school team.

It calls for primary public speaking teams and secondary debating teams that are made up equally of students from Indigenous and non-Indigenous backgrounds.

The primary competitors will speak on themes based on the tent embassy.

Secondary debaters will argue whether or not the Tent Embassy should be abolished.

The Tent Embassy theme is particularly special for students from western NSW because, apart from Mr Anderson, other co-founders were Bert Williams, Paul and Isobelle Coe (all from Cowra) as well as artist Kevin Gilbert (Condoblin) and Pearl Gibbs.

They all played a significant part in the Tent Embassy demonstration in 1972.

Forty years ago, Mr Anderson and three others pitched a beach umbrella on the lawns of the Old Parliament House to establish the tent embassy.

Earlier this year, about 200 protesters trapped Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott inside a Canberra restaurant, before police arrived to clear a passage for the pair.

The protesters, from the nearby Aboriginal Tent Embassy, chanted "racist" and "shame" outside the restaurant.

Mr Anderson was one of the protesters.

Acitivists accused Mr Abbott of "inciting racial riots" with his comments, that made it clear he believed the Aboriginal Tent Embassy had to go.

"Abbott said the Aboriginal embassy had to go. We heard it on a radio broadcast," Mr Anderson said.

He said the protesters wanted the leaders to clarify their position and whether Mr Abbott was serious about removing the embassy, which is when the riots began.

anthony.cini@ruralpress.com

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