Words and Silences: Aboriginal Women, Politics and Land

By Peggy Brock | Go to book overview

6
Aboriginal women and the
Commonwealth
Government's response to
Mabo—an international
human rights perspective
HANNAH MCGLADE

Aboriginal women throughout Australia come from nations which value and respect the woman's role, rights and responsibilities in their cultures and communities. This is particularly so in relation to the land, which is often described as our ‘mother’. Aboriginal women have their own women's business and sacred sites.

Today, Aboriginal women are an important part of the land rights movement and some of these well-known ‘fighters’ 1 include: Bonita Mabo, wife of Eddie Mabo whose case before the High Court resulted in the recognition of native title in Australia; Yvonne Margarula and Jacqui Katona who opposed the Howard Government's plans for uranium mining at Jabiluka in the Kakadu National Park, the traditional lands of the Mirrar people; Gladys Tybingoompa from the Wik people who also helped set important legal precedent in land rights and whose celebratory dance outside Parliament House lifted many hearts.

For most of Australia's history Aboriginal people's struggle for land went unrecognised by the colonisers, their governments and the judiciary. This denial was based on an international law doctrine known as terra nullius, meaning ‘empty land’ or land occupied by people without rights because

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