The Sacred Fire
THE SACRED FIRE AT CAMP SOVEREIGNTY
The Sacred Fire of Truth, Harmony, Peace and Justice at Camp Sovereignty honors the spirits of Indigenous ancestors who lie buried there, as well as hundreds of thousands of others lost across the land. This Resting Place, Mumajah, symbolises respect for traditional Aboriginal lore and is on the sacred grounds of an ancient ceremonial site. Long before the skeletal remains of 38 Indigenous tribes were rescued from museums and reburied in Kings Domain, the site of the Sacred Fire at Camp Sovereignty was a neutral meeting place of many tribes who came together for ceremonial corroborees, burials and business over hundreds of years.
A History of The Port Phillip District, Victoria Before Separation, by A.G.L Shaw states
“March 1839 saw the last big Aboriginal corroboree on the centuries old site by the Yarra where the Botanical Gardens are now. Here about four hundred from either four or five nearby tribes came to welcome their new Protector, George Augustus Robinson, appointed in an effort to prevent the disastrous racial conflicts that had been fought in the older colonies…..they kept coming back as they began to lose their land.”
While history repeats, even the city of Melbourne’s Visitors’ Center in Federation Square gives free tourist information supported by Aboriginal Affairs Victoria stating, “When ngamudji (white man) arrived at Port Phillip in 1835 they pushed aside the Kulin people and mission stations were built to ‘look after’ this now displaced society. The first reserve was located at an important meeting place beside Birrarung, where the Royal Botanic Gardens are now situated…All these special places are protected by State and Federal legislation.”
Imagine the government turning Pioneer Australia’s cemeteries and religious places into party stages and picnic grounds? What happened to the 5 Indigenous totem poles that used to mark the burial site in Kings Domain?
“The fire is recognised as the oldest religious ceremony on the face of the earth”, says Robbie Thorpe. “Our history dates back to the beginning of time. The Fire is sacred because it is the foundation of Aboriginal law and culture. It opens the door to learning the lore of the land and is our portal to the Dreamtime. We have this right. No courts in Australia can determine on the issue of Indigenous sovereignty. No one can take our sovereignty. We can only give it away. These fires are healing for our people and symbolise where reconciliation stands in this country. Don’t let this fire go out.”
The Sacred Fire and Camp Sovereignty site is protected by the Commonwealth Heritage Act to qualify for “Ongoing Declaration of Preservation” listing. The State government’s Department of Victorian Communities, Aboriginal Affairs Victoria, provides legal protection for all Aboriginal cultural property, including any places, objects and folklore that “are of particular significance to Aboriginals in accordance with Aboriginal tradition”.
The purpose of an Ongoing Declaration of Preservation is to maintain the sacred relationship between Aboriginal people and their cultural property, with local Aboriginal communities appointing honorary keepers or wardens to protect the site. Meanwhile authorities continue to remove “creature comforts” from Elders and Fire keepers at Camp Sovereignty while legal processes of recognition are still in place. Treating traditional owners like flora and fauna is yet another shameful example of the system’s failure to respect Indigenous people. Tearing down humpies exposes it’s ignorance that these Gunyahs are especially constructed shelters for the ancestral spirits buried in Kings Domain and are part of the Sacred Fire ceremony.
The Sacred Fire signifies the rebirth of aboriginal culture, embodying the spirit of reconciliation and must never go out.
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.