Australian Indigenous Dispossession: The Link between Land and Social Justice

Monday, 16 July 2018: 14:15
Location: Constitution Hall (MTCC NORTH BUILDING)
Oral Presentation
Margaret WALTER, University of Tasmania, Australia
Relationship with land is the foundation of Indigenous social order. Yet in 1788 the mere raising of the British Flag at Possession Island in North Queensland claimed the entire Australian continent. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were deemed without a sovereign or system of land tenure (distinguishable to British eyes) making the country un-owned (terra nullius). This legal fiction supported, despite the protracted frontier wars, the Euro-Australian myth that Australia was settled, not invaded. Terra Nullius was formally overturned in 1993 but the quest for Indigenous re-possession has been slow and resisted with the Australian nation state colluding to invalidate Aboriginal control of lands. Within this terrain of continued dispossession it is not coincidental that Indigenous people in Australia remain deeply socio-economically, political and culturally marginalised within their own lands. Past and present, Indigenous land justice and societal justice are co-dependent. This presentation uses national data to empirically link Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander socio-economic and political disenfranchisement with historical and contemporary dispossessions. Framed within Australian socio-cultural discursive realities, inclusive of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the 2017 Indigenous message to Australian political leaders, the strong relationship between ‘country’ and Indigenous well-being across multiple dimensions is established.