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Aboriginal Tent Embassy camp shines light on frontier wars

Australians need to know the truth about the frontier wars before the country is able to heal and move forward peacefully, the convener of an Aboriginal Tent Embassy camp says.

The Frontier Wars Story Camp starts at the tent embassy on Thursday and runs until Anzac Day, when hundreds of people are expected to march to the Australian War Memorial in recognition of the Indigenous people killed in conflicts during the settlement of Australia.

Those conflicts, known as the frontier wars, are not recognised by the Australian War Memorial and the exact death toll is unknown, but camp convener Chris "Peltherre" Tomlins said millions of Aboriginal people were "wiped out" defending Australia against the settlers.

Mr Tomlins, who has travelled to Canberra from Yambah in the Northern Territory, said he hoped to see people of all races at the camp.

"People talk of peace, but you can’t have peace unless you know what happened in the past," Mr Tomlins said.

"It's really important for people of all races because it's not about discrimination, it's about unveiling the truth of what happened in this country so black and white Australians can walk together."


Encouraged by the support Indigenous people received this year in the campaign to change the date on which Australia Day is celebrated, Mr Tomlins said he believed they were closer to gaining recognition of the frontier wars.

"What I saw on Australia Day was utter confusion," he said.

"I think we're creating a lot of awareness of Aboriginal issues and people are asking the question, 'What is an Australian'? Nobody knows, because most Australians are walking around not knowing about the terrible things that happened here.

"Trying to build a future without a past ... it's impossible."

During the camp, Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe will lead free storytelling sessions each day at 10am and 4pm, while floral activist Hazel Davies will tell the creation story of the desert pea as an indigenous blood flower, the native equivalent of the red poppy.

Ms Davies will also make a desert pea frontier wars wreath, which she will consecrate at the tent embassy's sacred fire before taking it to the Australian War Memorial on Anzac Day.

Mr Tomlins said more than 100 people from around Australia, plus a few from the US, had already indicated they would attend the camp. He expected "a few hundred" in total throughout the week.