Solidarity with Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy (SPATE) — 19 to 27 November 2004

Curators: Rudi Vos and Jo Holder
Installation in Shopfront, Glebe Point Road, Sydney


The Kuradji/Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy (SPATE) is a rallying point in the debate about urban development in sensitive coastal environments with significant Aboriginal heritage. There has been a decade of protests and a picket and Aboriginal tent embassy on the site on the Illawarra coast between the villages of Thirroul and Bulli below Sydney.

Coordinated by south coast artist Dootch Kennedy, this installation of works by Simon Blau, Sue Barnett, Sue Blanchfield, Jelle van den Berg, Debra Dawes, Richard Hook, Tony Hull, Karen Hook, Juan den Pourg, Jacky Redgate, Steve Smith, David Manks and Toni Warburton expressed solidarity with SPATE. Funds raised were presented to Kuradji Sandon Point Foundation to help pay for material costs and rebuilding after the embassy was 'mysteriously' firebombed and destroyed.

This land was once pubic land and land zoned for mining and industrial use. It is a major headland and wetland corridor, containing 27% of the remaining coastal wetlands of the Illawarra. The land was zoned for development in 1995 and sold to the developer Stockland. It includes a burial site dating back 6,000 years.

The embassy is accompanied by Bulli Community Picket, set up by Northern Illawarra Residents Action Group Inc (NIRAG) and local trade union members in response to the misinformation and dubious dealings of Wollongong Council, Sydney Water, DLWC and Stockland Trust Group in March 2001. Members of the community staffed it 24 hours 7 days a week until late 2006. The picket is supported by the tent embassy.



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Senior Yuin Lawman, Uncle 'Guboo' Ted Thomas, at 93 years of age joined the community blockade in early 2002. In the words of then Senator Aden Ridgeway: 'Guboo symbolises all of the struggles for Indigenous people about a need to sustain a connection back to the Dreaming. Most of all he showed us the way to protect, nurture and feel something about these things that inspire and give sustenance to the idea of the Dreaming, and what it means to be able to protect them in the contemporary world'.

The hope for the reconciliation embodied in these words inspired the Illawarra community. For over 200 years Australian Governments, participated in, or allowed, acts of genocide against Aboriginal People. The collective struggle of the Sandon Point Aboriginal Tent Embassy and local Indigenous Elders affirms the dynamic nature of Indigenous culture.

Just before Christmas 2006, state Planning Minister Frank Sartor announced approval for the remaining Stockland and Anglican Church developments. The 2003 Commission of Inquiry found the development was totally inappropriate and the proposed development is even bigger than the initial plan of 2000. The embassy has not moved.