The Aboriginal Land Rights Movement

By Max Charlesworth | Go to book overview

This aspect of the land rights movement has been emphasised particularly in Canada and it is worthwhile citing here Mr Justice Thomas R. Berger in the Report of the MacKenzie Valley pipeline inquiry ( 1977):

All of our experience has shown that the native people are not prepared to assimilate into our society. The fact is, they are distinct from the mass of the Canadian people racially, culturally and linguistically. The people living in the far-flung villages of the Canadian North may be remote from the metropolis, but they are not ignorant. They sense that their determination to be themselves is the only foundation on which they can rebuild their society. They are seeking--and discovering--insights into the relationship between that society and their own. They believe they must formulate their claims for the future on that basis.

Mr Justice Berger goes on to speak of the need for 'new political institutions that will give meaning to native selfdetermination' within the constitutional framework of Canadian society.

So far in Australia not a great deal of detailed thinking has been done about what the Aboriginal demand for autonomy and self-determination might involve, nor about the kind of new political institutions that would be needed to make selfdetermination effective. In a recent essay Professor Colin Tatz has written as follows:

What Aborigines have not done yet--and one may argue that they shouldn't have to do it--is to enunciate an ideology of Aboriginality that is addressed to the white world, that expresses a coherent body of thoughts and ideas that embraces their interaction and involvement with our world. In short, there is as yet no intellectual and/or religious dynamism that conceptualises black consciousness and voluntary separation to the white world, perhaps even to themselves. And such is necessary if they are going to be perceived differently.

Tatz goes on to speak of the lack of direction in the land rights movement:

There are many forms of political nationalism and some are concerned with land as a base and as a basis. Simon Dubrow distinguishes three types of nationalism: tribal. politicalterritorial and, probably the highest form of all, culturalhistorical or spiritual (in the Zionist sense). At this stage I am not aware of any coherent expression of any of these landbased nationalisms: and such expression is necessary if Aborigines are to win the political battle for land concession.

'For now', Tatz concludes, 'the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders--as changed in name to the National Aboriginal and Islander

-45-

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The Aboriginal Land Rights Movement
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 3
  • Introduction 4
  • The Land Rights Movement 6
  • Who Owns Australia? the Legal Basis 12
  • Aboriginal and European Relations in Australia 16
  • A History of the Land Rights Movement 20
  • Traditional Owners 27
  • Land Rights: the Present Situation 41
  • Conclusion 45
  • Resource Materials 49
  • Select Bibliography 51
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