Activists orchestrated a sit-in yesterday in the Sydney Maritime Museum, opposing the planned circumnavigation of the HMS Endeavour around Australia. The Australian government has spent $6.7 million on the venture, which marks the 250th anniversary of the arrival of Captain Cook to the continent.
The sit-in, organised by the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Redfern, blocked the entrance to the museum, filling the lobby with chants of “always was, always will be Aboriginal land.” A number of community leaders gave speeches to the assembly, including Jenny Munro, a prominent Wiradjuri activist. Speaking to the group, she highlighted that colonists did not come here to negotiate as “there were no words when the bullet pierced the Gweagal shield.” The speech concluded, saying, “this is a pretend boat, going on a pretend voyage around a pretend country.”
Lizzie Jarrett, a Gumbaynggirr, Bundjalung, Dunghutti activist, also spoke to the assembly, questioning the reluctance of the museum to negotiate with First Nations peoples.
Police presence at the protest escalated rapidly during the peaceful sit-in. Within 15 minutes from the commence of the sit-in, the number of police quadrupled. By the end of the sit-in, eight police vans and nearly 25 police officers in riot gear were present, approximately one officer for every three protestors. The protestors were eventually forced out of the museum by a line of police officers.
Many First Nations communities and activist groups have condemned the planned circumnavigation, criticising it as celebrating the brutal colonisation and genocide of the continent.
The voyage was originally scheduled to begin “late February” but facing pressure from numerous activist groups the museum has delayed to the 28th of April. The ship is due to depart for its circumnavigation of the continent starting from Botany Bay, the site of the first Indigenous genocide.