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Protesters set Australia's old parliament on fire

December 30, 2021 5:37 pm
The fire occurred as protests for indigenous rights ramped up in the capital city of Canberra [Source: EPA VIA BBC]

Australia’s former parliament building in the capital Canberra was briefly set alight by protesters during a demonstration for Aboriginal sovereignty, police said.

No-one was injured in the fire, which engulfed the Old Parliament House’s front doors before it was put out.

It follows a fortnight of protest activity at the site, police said.

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Protest violence on this scale is rare in Australia, though flare-ups have become more common during the pandemic.

On Thursday, workers inside the heritage building were quickly evacuated once the fire broke out.

The current residents of the building, the Museum of Australian Democracy, had on 20 December shut its doors after indigenous protesters held a “peaceful sit-in”. It has not yet addressed Thursday’s protest.

Indigenous campaigners have been holding demonstrations in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the former parliament’s front lawns.

The tent embassy was a protest occupation site that launched national discussion about indigenous land rights. It has been a permanent fixture on the lawns outside Old Parliament House since 1992 but is not always occupied.

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Police said activity had escalated at the site in recent weeks.

Australia’s parliament moved to a new building a short distance away on Capital Hill in 1988, but the Old Parliament House has remained as a museum and national heritage site.

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