New life has been breathed into the iconic Lobby restaurant in Canberra after it was reclaimed by Ngunnawal people with the support of the Aboriginal tent embassy.
The peaceful takeover occurred earlier today in Canberra. The direct act of sovereignty has happened during a weekend of nation to nation treaty talks that has seen hundreds of Indigenous leaders travel across the country to meet on the grounds of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.
A minimal police presence has been monitoring the occupation of the former restaurant and negotiations are still underway in regards to finding a resolution. The negotiations at the moment involve getting water and electricity turned on at the premises. During the takeover, a demand notice was served to the National Capital Authority for rent to be paid for the time the restaurant has been in operation. The total of the rent from almost 50 years of operation is in excess of seven million dollars.
In the video below, Uncle Kevin Buzzacott said he sees the takeover as an extension of the existing tent embassy and he also made it clear that the rose gardens are part of the takeover too. He stated that he is hopeful that the building could re-open as a cafe run by the Embassy that would also offer roses for sale too. He also issued a call for calm from authorities. Authorities would be at risk of turning the situation into an international incident if they resorted to using force. He also issued a call for all Indigenous groups to be on stand-by should the authorities try to escalate the current situation.
Uncle Kevin Buzzacott speaking about occupation of the Rose Garden Cafe building in Canberra
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The Lobby restaurant made international headlines in 2012 when word got out that Tony Abbott was present at an official Australia Day/Invasion Day event at the restaurant. The protests eventuated in the famous missing shoe incident after Prime Minister Gillard was rushed out of the building by a security team.
Acts of sovereignty are a very sensitive issue in Australia as authorities soon realise they don’t have the authority to do anything. Indigenous people have never formally signed a treaty or made any agreements in regards to the occupation of Australia. For years the government has tried to use intimidation tactics or bargaining agreements to stop these kinds of protests as this type of protest would eventually lead to the government being forced to come to the fire and sort out the issue of sovereignty that has so far been ignored for 229 years.
This action will no doubt inspire attendees at the nation to nation treaty talks to take similar action on their homelands in towns and cities around Australia.