Mabo and Reconciliation

By Brunton, Ron | IPA Review, January 1, 1993 | Go to article overview

Mabo and Reconciliation


Brunton, Ron, IPA Review


In his powerful essay 'The New Sovereignty', the black American writer Shelby Steele discusses the way in which the noble goals of the civil rights movement became corrupted by ideas of a collective entitlement to compensation for past injustice. sup 1 He decries the attempts by black and other minority organizations to perpetuate their influence and position by fostering a perpetual sense of grievance, and remarks that their agendas have often been determined more for their grievance potential than for the improved welfare of their supposed constituency. Steele notes that the points at which there is the greatest resistance in the wider society to the group's demands "will usually be made into top priority issues, thereby emphasizing the status of victim and outsider necessary to sustain the sovereign organization." He also comments that it is no surprise that the beneficiaries of the separatism this inevitably entails are usually the people who least need help.

Steele's observations have long had some relevance to the way in which Aboriginal issues are dealt with in Australia. The Federal Government is likely to make them even more relevant by attempting to make such a strong link between its response to Mabo and the broader issues that are being addressed by the reconciliation process. Its Mabo Discussion Paper raises the possibility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-government, and a compensation package for all Aborigines to make up for past dispossession. The Government is raising Aboriginal expectations well beyond anything that could be justified by the High Court's decision, or that is likely to be politically acceptable to the majority of Australians.

Objectively, the terms of the High Court's decision suggest that few mainland Aborigines will be able to claim native title successfully. Nevertheless, there are great uncertainties about the circumstances under which extinguishment may have taken place and a number of other crucial matters. The moral indignation which seems to have animated some of the judges - at least if their language is any guide - could lead to radical decisions in native title cases that may come before it in the future. It should also be noted that the apparent inability to assign any rights and interests "outside the overall native system" (in the words of Justices Deane and Gaudron) would make it extremely difficult to obtain direct economic benefits of any magnitude from land held under such title.

The Government also recognizes that a prerequisite of success in its reconciliation process is the realistic promise of an end to the social and economic disadvantage that many Aborigines suffer. This is going to be very hard to achieve, because despite all the resources that have been directed towards improving Aboriginal welfare in the past two decades, there are few signs of substantial progress.

So it would be wise to keep the complicated and uncharted questions of native title as separate as possible from the seemingly intractable problems that surround reconciliation. Otherwise both issues are likely to turn out badly; grievances will multiply on all sides; and the prospect of achieving anything worthwhile from the reconciliation process will recede ever further beyond the horizon.

The Government would probably respond that it has no choice, that the two issues have been linked from the start. Its Discussion Paper on Mabo asserts that dispossession from their land is "central to the social, economic and physical problems experienced by Aboriginal people since colonization." Certainly, the claim about dispossession is made frequently by supporters of land rights and echoed by government reports such as the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. But where is the rigorous evidence that would support this claim? Where is the research that demonstrates that Aborigines who have been granted land rights have better health and fewer social and economic problems than Aborigines who lack these rights?

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Mabo and Reconciliation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.