Australia’s Indigenous Peoples and Politics

Peter Jull, Adjunct Associate Professor
School of Political Science & International Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Q. 4072, AUSTRALIA.

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Indigenous experience in Australia, Russia, USA, and Canada has been similar in many important ways. The 19th century brought settlement, farming or pastoralism, and industrial expansion in an apparently unstoppable force transforming vast territories into supports for modern industrial states. Europeans pushed into the ancient homelands of indigenous peoples, pushing them out of the way with greater or lesser direct violence, as well as with disease, ethnocide, and devastating social change. National majority peoples, whether Slavic or AngloCeltic, have remained studiously ignorant of most of this hardship until very recent times thanks to lack of indigenous expression in forms or forums accessible to Europeans. With rising general education levels, new communications technology – especially TV and computer means of transmitting documentaries and information – and explorations in national history, plus more organised indigenous political and cultural activism, it has been harder to remain uninformed.

Since 1945 the era of ‘welfare colonialism’, to use a term of Beckett (1987), has been in full bloom. From the 1960s we have seen a new phase emerging as the process of frontier or hinterland development has generated new questions and values. This era has recognised the limits and costs of blind industrialisation, and has recognised regional social, cultural, and political values. This trend has not replaced industrial expansion or unquestioning resource extraction, but in some places has modified old habits. Respect for environmental and ethno-cultural diversity increasingly occupy national governments and world opinion. However, until recent years hinterland peoples – and non-indigenous persons governing them – were too little aware of similarities and common patterns, or potential benefits in sharing ideas and experience to solve common problems across national borders or different continents (Jentoft et al. 2003; Jull 1999a).

Indigenous peoples with ancient traditions and languages have been sometimes trading partners, sometimes exploited labour, and sometimes merely pushed aside or even killed while their lands or seas are taken by others. Religious and political missionaries have come among them, often with dire results, but sometimes affording some protection. More recently the peoples of these huge regions have also had ‘law and order’, or welfare colonialism, and new forms of political organization imposed on them as governments have attempted to ‘normalise’ the last remaining hinterland territories under firm nation-state control (Stokes 2002). But this belated legal and political assimilation has not always gone according to plan, and recent indigenous-white, indigenous-government relations have become a frontier along which many indigenous achievements, including a renaissance of indigenous self-determination, have been possible (Jull 1999b; 2001a; 2001b; 2002; 2003a).


In October 2003 the President of China surprised Australia’s Parliament and public by telling them that the Chinese had explored and settled the north of their country from the 1420s and established racial harmony there
(FOOTNOTE 1). Very few Australian historians would accept this view. However they recognise that from the early 1500s the ships of Portugal and Holland, and later Spain, and finally France and Britain, visited these shores, occasionally with dramatic results (e.g., the Batavia shipwreck of 1629, see WAM 2003). The usual founding date for modern Australia is 1770 when Captain Cook visited Botany Bay before sailing north along the east coast naming various places until claiming the whole continent for Britain on an uninhabited island in Torres Strait before returning to England. The written records of this voyage, especially writings by Joseph Banks on flora and fauna of the ‘new’ continent, created a sensation in Britain and Europe. Indeed, right into the present the exotic marsupials like Tasmanian devils, wombats, and kangaroos have fascinated Europeans.

The British began to settle in 1788 when the first boatload of prisoners in chains arrived in what is now Sydney harbour from London (Atkinson 1997. Unprepared intellectually or emotionally for Aboriginal culture and the Australian environment, the British soon brought European livestock (notably sheep and cattle), grains, and other plant life. The white population, although small, spread rapidly over the continent (Day 1997; Reynolds 2001). This often brought environmental and social disasters whose impacts are only now being fully understood. Today many Australians are trying to recover the continent’s natural heritage, while the Howard government and a small band of Right-wing ideologues fight against recognition and respect for indigenous human heritage (Macintyre & Clark 2003; Markus 2001: Rundle 2001). The Right wish to see Australia as a small pure recreation in the Southern Hemisphere of high British Empire values, culture, and triumphalism. Needless to say many contemporary Australians think that the Right vision is anachronistic and ludicrous.

Australia today is a continent with 30 million inhabitants, most of whom live in an arc of urban settlement stretching around the south-east corner from Adelaide in the south to the Queensland coast north of Brisbane, most heavily settled in the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra triangle. Another area of close settlement is in the south-west, around Perth. The total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was estimated to be 460,140 in 2001. Although most Aborigines now live in cities and towns, they are proportionately large elements in the population of many remote and rural areas. Traditionally indigenous Australians lived in distinct local language and culture groups closely related to the immediate environment – marine or desert, rainforest or light bush – although inter-group relations and even long range cultural ties, e.g., ‘songlines’, were well established. It is generally agreed that Australian Aboriginal cultures are among the oldest cultures on earth (FOOTNOTE 2), for which reason museums like The Hermitage in St Petersburg pay great respect to their works.

Dispossession, Blemishes, Policy

Many of the British, but by no means all, convinced themselves that Australian Aborigines were so primitive and unorganised that they could neither be called a human society nor have any political rights (Russell 2004; Reynolds 1987). They did not appear to cultivate the earth or recognise private property, so in the tradition of the philosopher Locke they were said to have no rights. For many settlers, and some British at home, these Aboriginal lives and lands were not worth saving, while others believed the British Empire should at least bring them Christianity and ‘civilisation’, turning them into black-skinned British. The result of all this was that unlike New Zealand, USA, or Canada, Australia did not have recognised treaties or any other lasting political or policy framework for European-Aboriginal relations (Jull 1998). Nor were the land or water use or territories of Aborigines recognised or respected. Inevitably this resulted in a constantly moving frontier of greater or lesser violence as the White Man moved across the continent, followed by the collapse of previously self-reliant indigenous groups into marginalised or dependent urban people clinging to what bits of land and culture they could retain. In many cases their struggle and remarkable success have been truly heroic. Only in remote or sparsely settled areas did nations or peoples of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders retain much territory, often ‘sharing’ it with extensive cattle pastoralism (Peterson 1985; Downing 1988).

Although recent Australian historians, most notably Henry Reynolds, have highlighted the many enlightened and liberal acts, words, and hopes of some settlers, some British governing personnel, as well as priests and community leaders, such efforts largely failed to spare or protect indigenous lives or lands (Reynolds 1987; 1995; 1998). The progressive revelation by Reynolds and other historians of the pain and violence of the frontier and of ongoing white-black relations has prompted a major political and cultural crisis in Australia today. Many of the same Australians who say Germany and Japan have not done enough to acknowledge their violent mid-20th Century histories are unable to accept the ‘blemishes’ (FOOTNOTE 3) of their own history, with denialism now a major strain of contemporary public and political discussion (Manne 2001; Rundle 2001; Macintyre & Clark 2003). Many of us would have thought this impossible in an affluent peaceful ‘first world’ country with near-universal education, literacy, radio, and TV, but the dispute unfolds daily in the major news media as well as learned and not-so-learned journals and books.

In 1901 ten years of argument ended in the joining of the six Australian colonies into a single federation. Two levels of government, federal and state, each has its own constitutionally protected powers which the other cannot override or ignore. The courts, and especially the High Court, are the umpire between these levels of government. However, the six states in this union retained their colonial powers in respect of Aboriginal peoples, and indeed, the national Constitutional specified that the federal government must not make law or policy relating to indigenous peoples or even count them in the census. (A national referendum in 1967 removed these constitutional provisions, giving Aboriginal peoples and Islanders formal equality with whites.) A major motive for federation was fear of Aborigines and other non-white peoples of the Pacific and Asia. Immediate actions of the new Australia were the White Australia Policy whose purpose was to control or remove non-whites from the country and to bar such immigrants in future. As Reynolds has shown in a new book, North of Capricorn (2003), Aborigines and a variety of Pacific and Asian peoples had been instrumental in developing the communities and economy of Australia’s Tropics, from the Queensland Pacific coast around the top of the continent and down the Indian Ocean coast of Western Australia. But now they were systematically discriminated against, and removed. Australians are largely unaware of this whitewash and Reynolds’ book should stir new thinking, especially in the Northern Territory where an attempt is underway to devise a new political structure embracing the region’s Aboriginal and other ethno-cultural diversity (Rothwell 2003; Jull 2003b).

After the conquest of the country, the White Man adopted a policy of generally ignoring or closely controlling Aboriginal peoples. They might live in camps in rural or remote areas, safe enough if left alone by whites and white police, or be kept in tightly supervised ‘settlements’ which more often resembled concentration camps (Kidd 1997; 2000). The latter policy in Queensland until recent times has resulted in social problems of all sorts and high levels of violence within the indigenous community. In their officially-run camps the Queensland Aborigines were segregated and regulated like children in a boarding school, while being systematically under-nourished (or almost starved in some cases) and denied basic medical and shelter needs. At the same time they were forced to work long hours for little pay, which pay, mirabile dictu, was discreetly embezzled by the state government. Now in 2003 a generally progressive Queensland state government is trying to force surviving Aborigines to accept a very minimal payment in lieu of their life’s wages!

In much of the country Aborigines were administered by officials titled, in Orwellian style, ‘Protectors’. These persons were products of their times, some of them at least ‘well-meaning’ – never a sufficient or reliable quality in those who administer people denied real social and political equality! Today the Protection era is largely remembered for the policy of removing children, especially but not only lighter-skinned children from their mothers and moving them to state- or church-run orphanages, denied further contact with home, and trained to become menial workers in the White Man’s society. Some of the luckier ones ended up in good homes, well looked after by adoptive white parents, while many others suffered emotional and physical abuse. These so-called Stolen Generations revealed themselves at last through a Human Rights Commission public inquiry in the mid-1990s. The report, Bringing Them Home, was published in May 1997 and created an immediate furore (Wilson et al. 1997). Howard and his ministers sneered at the report’s findings, denied that many Aborigines has been affected, launched a smear campaign against the report’s principal author, a respected former judge, and even argued that the children taken from their mothers and denied family life had benefited from this. (Statistical tables in the report disproved this latter notion.) The report unwisely said that Australia had committed genocide in removing children. While technically true, as the report shows, no word in today’s world is so emotionally charged. For most people ‘genocide’ means forced rounding up and extermination of persons of an ethnic group, most notably the Holocaust in 1940s Europe, or Srebrenica and Rwanda in the 1990s. It became too easy to dismiss the whole report as extreme or hysterical. Nevertheless, many Australians took it to heart, especially the painful personal stories it told, while the movie Rabbit-Proof Fence has taken the subject to the world. In the mid-1930s, long after the policy had begun, the federal and state governments met and agreed to the nation-wide principle of continuing to remove indigenous children until the Aboriginal race were extinct through miscegenation – except for some few remaining ‘pure’ or ‘tribal’ groups who, it was reasonably expected, would soon become extinct in any case. Even today some Australians continue to believe that Aboriginal cultures have nothing to offer the modern world except some survival skills, and that Aborigines are genetically unsuited to the modern world.

Constitutional Reform

The British and Australian failure to sign national or regional treaties, and the lack of similar constitutional formulas, has been a disaster for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders (see more below). Prime Minister Howard refuses to consider treaties, and even threatened to ‘tear them up’ if signed when his political opponents were in power. Despite the fact that all other English settler countries have such treaties, he claims that the concept is impossible. (He also made a great show in the late 1990s of office in refusing to meet Aborigines alone, only meeting them in racially mixed groups. This fastidiousness does not prevent him from frequenting events at whites-only clubs and organisations, of course.) Furthermore, the power of colonial and then state governments to determine Aboriginal policy while their revenues and voters’ interests demanded land, water, and resources development and sale at the expense of the indigenous users and occupants, meant that state governments had little reason to consider Aboriginal needs.

This combination of near invisibility in constitutional or treaty frameworks, and social attitudes towards Aboriginal ‘primitivity’, produced not only legal but moral terra nullius. Under this doctrine a country is legally and morally uninhabited if its people lack basic recognisable (i.e., to Europeans) structures of government and law. Modern Australia failed its first legal test in 1971 when a court found in Milirrpum, ‘the Gove case’, that Yolngu east of Darwin, despite the strength of traditional law in their society, had no legal rights in relation to land or resources (or land and resource exploitation by others). The International Court of Justice had dismissed the notorious notion of terra nullius in the Western Sahara case, 1975, but it survived in Australia until 1992 when in Mabo the High Court recognised that the islanders on Mer in eastern Torres Strait had their own rights and property system which continued in effect until or unless specifically overridden in law by an Australian government, or removed in fact, e.g., being built on (Sharp 1996). Later, in Wik, 1996, the High Court further found that such ‘native title’ could coexist with property or pastoral rights on leases, a matter of importance as so much of Australia is covered by pastoral leases. That is, huge areas of land are leased to an owner or company who then graze sheep or cattle, often needing vast areas (‘larger than Belgium’ in some cases) to keep a few animals in arid or even near-desert conditions and through droughts. The tremendous swings of climate change in everyday Australia have made pastoral and cultivation activities a grim and often ruinous business. Well-organised white hysteria greeted Mabo and Wik, despite the principles involved being calmly workable in USA, Canada, and New Zealand, and tremendous campaigns to overrule the courts with new laws, scrapping the national Race Discrimination Act, and converting leases to absolute property rights for their holders. In 1993 the Keating Labor government negotiated a national Native Title Act with Aboriginal leaders which created, inter alia, the National Native Title Tribunal to help mediate and otherwise resolve land claims settlements around the country, especially in Western Australia and Queensland. (An attempt by the Hawke Labor government to enact national land rights after it came to power in 1983 had been wrecked by state Labor politicians and the mining industry, but a strong system brought in by Whitlam Labor and Fraser Coalition governments for the Northern Territory in the mid-1970s has worked well enough.)

The Howard Coalition (i.e., Liberal and National parties) in power since 1996 took a tougher line towards native title after Wik, diluting the Keating law and keeping the country in uproar for 18 months. That is, many whites, stirred up by lying or misleading political leaders, feared that Aborigines would take over their backyards and swimming pools, or take over their land and resource businesses, or even their cities. Claims in Brisbane and other cities created much excitement, although all that may result in such cases are some Aboriginal-held bits of now-unused land and a share in management of some parks. To many Australians the 1992 recognition of indigenous rights seemed only small and belated fairness, while it generated outrage and anxiety among many others.

The underlying issue, of course, is the place of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia. Many or most of them, if they had the courage to say so out loud, would prefer to be self-governing or self-administering cultural and political communities. This is quite practical in rural and remote areas, of course. But even in cities there is no reason why the large Torres Strait Islander or Aboriginal populations in Brisbane or Cairns or Sydney should not have their schools and other public services, the more so in light of the failure of ‘mainstream’ Australian public administration to meet their needs. Howard and others regard such ideas as dangerous separatism, and have no desire to understand how such approaches work here or elsewhere. Howard and his ilk, however, talk of Aborigines as outsiders who, unlike most immigrants, have failed to ‘fit in’ and be assimilated – reason enough for a nice sensible treaty, one would think! (For Howard see, e.g., ‘PM’s reconciliation [sic] hopes’, The Australian, 6-5-2002.) Of course, it is important for political populists like Howard and Pauline Hanson to claim to be the real and defining Australians by denying the moral authority, rights, and even ethno-cultural authenticity of the real first Australians (Jull 2000).

In June 1993 a national constitutional conference of experts and practitioners met in Canberra. A consensus emerged that indigenous peoples are distinct political communities with unique needs, and, processes should be established as soon as possible for them to work out the nature and details of their constitutional place in Australia. The February 1998 Constitutional Convention recommended several items in its final statement which presupposed a similar process. The Federalism Forum, October 2000, called for wide-ranging national debate within the framework of the reconciliation process about the representation of Australia’s indigenous population. In this context, Australia should consider as one option the recognition within the structure of the Australian federation of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations.

Aboriginal leaders are generally agreed on such needs, and have a reasonable and moderate approach which would not frighten intelligent white leaders. However, the governing élite in Australia today neither hear nor listen.

Northern Territories: Torres Strait & N.T.

The Torres Strait Islands lie between the north-eastern tip of Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG), created when rising seas covered a large Ice Age land-bridge between Australia and PNG (Lui 1994; Mulrennan & Hanssen 1994; Shnukal 2001; Beckett 1987; Jull 1997; Singe 1989). These small islands and reefs are home to Torres Strait Islanders, a Melanesian people living in some 19 communities. Torres Strait has c. 8000 people of whom c. 6000 identify as indigenous Islanders. Most non-indigenous people live on Thursday Island, the regional centre, itself as racially and culturally diverse with South Pacific, Asian, and European origins as any imaginable. Most of the early pacification, colonisation, Christianisation, and British Imperial incorporation of the region was conducted by a mix of South Sea Islanders who brought Britain’s religion and Pacific shelling economy (Ganter 1994). Torres Strait Islanders were ferocious head-hunters who slaughtered whole shiploads of Europeans unlucky enough to wreck on the reefs in the 18th and 19th centuries, so British and Queensland governance was an early priority. Recently the islands had all but slipped away into a South Seas dream of long hot days and a bit of subsistence fishing until fear of Asian diseases and insects, drug-running, illegal immigration, and unrest on the Strait’s north shores in Indonesia and PNG steadied Australian attention. Since the late 1980s the Islander leaders have talked about creating regional self-government to better manage public services, job creation, environment protection, and the passionately felt Islander commitment to their traditional sea rights (TSRA 2001). The lack of a clear plan or persistent advocacy by Islanders has delayed progress, while federal and state governments blow hot and cold on the project (Groves 2001; Jull 1997). In 2003, however, a series of local Torres News essays on self-determination or autonomy, and ‘decolonisation’ as the United Nations uses the term, are providing a valuable focus for action. Australia is a country which badly needs an indigenous success story to show a sceptical world who know only two things about the country – the existence of kangaroos and racism – so it is surprising that governments have not already made make Torres Strait and its amiable people a showcase of well-being and self-governance.

The Northern Territory, or NT, is a self-governing region with powers like those of Australian states in most respects. In this central slice of the continent, there were c. 200,000 inhabitants in 2001, of whom some 25% were indigenous. The White Man’s NT seems to consist of a red line on the map, the Stuart Highway, running approximately along the line of the telegraph line which in the 19th century linked Australia to London, with the four predominantly white towns of Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, and Darwin along its route from south to north. Today the NT is a patchwork of Aboriginal lands (about 50% of the total) won under 1976 land rights legislation, these mostly former Aboriginal reserves and large swaths of arid land unwanted by the White Man, the rest being mostly large cattle stations of very mixed productivity (Downing 1988). The populist Right government in power in the NT from the beginning of self-rule until 2001 believed that if only it could gain control of the Aboriginal lands from the national government and from the Aboriginal land councils it would suddenly produce wealth as if by magic. As usual in such regions, vehement populist free-enterprise rhetoric among settlers is in inverse proportion to the dominance of government spending in the economy (Crough 1993). There has even been a frank belief that indigenous languages can be simply forgotten and English installed as a cure-all in the NT by government for Aborigines (Nicholls 2001).

NT constitutional change or graduation to statehood is a power of the federal Parliament, requiring approval of both the elected House and Senate. In other words, it will be an important test of Australia’s democracy and maturity, and of learning from the experience of more than a century of bad national policy, to renew or recreate an NT which is suited to all its people (Jull 2003a; 2003b). That is, the NT is primarily a region of large Aboriginal territories with a few predominantly white towns whose population enter and leave the NT so quickly that the 5-yearly census barely begins to count them. Should the permanent Aborigines not design the government under which they must live as much as highly transient tourists and short-term workers visiting for quick money or exotic experience? The new Labor government under Ms Clare Martin sees the opportunity and the difficulties clearly (Jull 2003). For the moment both whites and blacks are dissatisfied with the political system, so that may provide a basis for agreement on a new approach (Pritchard 1998). The experience of indigenous governments in Alaska, the rest of USA, Canada, and Greenland provides good precedents (Nettheim et al. 2002; Jull 1998; 199b; 2001a; 2001b; 2002; 2003a).

Prospects and Possibilities

Despite a flurry of activity abroad by Australian Aboriginal notables in the 1970s, part of the first wave of indigenous internationalism, in more recent times there has been too little such activity (Jull 1999a). Like most other Australians, indigenous people have been insular and sceptical about the value of overseas contact, activity, and travel. This is unfortunate because the practices of various other countries, and the developing standards of international bodies like the UN provide much inspiration and example. Not only has the Howard government treated international human rights standards with disdain but has publicly bullied UN leaders like Kofi Annan and told them not to discuss such matters. In 2003 the Australian government put in an unhelpful paper to the new UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and then tried to prevent national indigenous ATSIC leaders from attending its meetings. At the same time the government stripped ATSIC, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, the national indigenous administrative body, of its powers, most of its budget, and remaining credibility. Since coming to power in 1996 Prime Minister Howard has made attacks on indigenous leaders an important part of his political program, a rhetoric and program designed to humiliate those peoples and direct public anger and worry about the effects of economic globalisation at Aborigines, refugees, Asians, Muslims, et al. (Rundle 2001; Markus 2001) The world caught a glimpse of this in 2001 when Howard used the navy to brutalise and risk drowning desperate refugees trying to reach the north Australian coasts in small fishing boats, then and now violating international law and practice in such matters (Marr & Wilkinson 2003). Throughout his political career Howard has opposed ethno-cultural diversity and tolerance, even while endlessly claiming that Australia is ‘tolerant’ and ‘compassionate’, words he invariably uses when announcing some new measure which is intolerant and uncompassionate.

However, Australian scholars and research institutions, notably the universities and scientific bodies, as well as many artists and writers and other intellectual workers, and the interested public, have a record of interest in and commitment to indigenous culture and rights perhaps unequalled by any other country. Every bookshop has excellent specialist and popular works on indigenous topics. Yes, there is a loud body of racist rant and Euro-centric foolishness unknown in other ‘first world’ countries, but No, that is not the whole story. Foreign visitors and tourists are amazed to see elderly Australians driving thousands of kilometres through deserts and 40°C temperatures to visit Aboriginal ‘sacred sites’ and to hear Aboriginal guides explain rock paintings, traditional environmental knowledge, and unique cultures, ceremonies, and traditions. In spite of Howard the public and public bodies are becoming more receptive to Aboriginal and Islander culture and social prerogatives. The stage is set for major debates and discussions for reform across party lines when the present far Right Howard government goes into oblivion.

Meanwhile Australia has achieved an ‘ideal’ White Man’s policy. The government plays up the worst indigenous violence and poverty as a living lesson for the Howard government’s moralising smugness about self-improvement. That is, material improvement, because Howard and Co. seem uninterested in mind or spirit. With help from a cabal of Right commentators in the media, the official view is that these awful black people deserve their own misfortune, that we would be quite wrong to feel badly for them or to provide them with more financial resources to help, and the best we can do is to remind them of their own fecklessness and scold them for having deceived us over past decades into pretending to deserve our tax dollars. In short, having crushed the life out of Aboriginal Australia for over 200 years, we whites are now blaming the victims for their own problems. Howard talks of ‘practical reconciliation’ by which he tries to take credit for those government programs like schools and hospitals which are merely universal features of modern ‘first world’ nation-state administration (except in USA).

Unlike experience since 1945 in USA, Canada, and New Zealand where Aboriginal socio-economic conditions have been much improved, Australia remains mired in very poor statistics. Of course there is nothing like North Norway which leads the world. The shared experience of disadvantage and discrimination, together with learning how to use the White Man’s law, technology, languages, and politics to good effect, has meant that indigenous peoples have become a significant cultural and political force in many countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and USA. (For Canada’s experience parallel to Australia’s in this paper see, Jull 200-.) In hinterlands, Outback, or ‘northern territories’, indeed, the very determination of powerful nation-states to assimilate indigenous peoples and ‘unify’ – really to make uniform rather than unify! – their national political structures has produced the precise political force to prevent it – the ethno-cultural consciousness and political mobilisation of the local peoples. This is true of Nenets, Sami, and Inuit no less than of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. State governments, such as Queensland with Aboriginal communities on the great Cape York Peninsula, Australia’s north-east point, are devising pragmatic service delivery improvements an forms of local government. So far governments in Australia have not been very bold – not like proposals in Russia or Canada – thanks to the Australian penchant for keeping tight control which is so at odds with the need for indigenous liberation. As Peter Russell has noted, the struggle to come to terms with Aboriginal and Torres Strait history and peoples is the defining political and constitutional challenge of Australia and will determine much else (Russell 2003; 2004).

There is indeed a social crisis in Black Australia. The level of violence within that community is tremendous. Unless problems are solved that violence will be turned outwards against whites. It cannot be solved only by more expensive social programs, or only by constitutional and political reforms, but any solution must include both of those elements. If Howard and the Right want indigenous people to find solutions of their own, unaided, he should not be surprised when those solutions which bubble up are so hostile, as they surely will be, to 1940s fantasies of white hegemony and social peace. Reconciliation, the term used in Australia for the goal and various projects to achieve social and political equality, as a form of cultural respect, social equality, and political partnership had been the approach of national government and élites before Howard, and it is the only workable way after him (Jull 1998; 2003a). That will necessarily involve local and regional self-government by indigenous peoples in the north, west, and centre of Australia, and encouragement, including financial and legal empowerment, of the many indigenous community and functional bodies elsewhere. The only alternative – the Howard style of smalltime Anglo cultural isolation – would leave Australia an oversized touristic curiosity in the Southern Hemisphere like the Falklands, or Easter Island, or parts of the Hebrides in the North Atlantic.


Footnote 1
Hu Jintao, 24-10-2003: ‘Back in 1420s, the expeditionary fleets of China's Ming Dynasty reached Australian shores. For centuries, the Chinese sailed across vast seas and settled down in what they called “Southern Land”, or today’s Australia. They brought Chinese culture to this land and lived harmoniously with the local people, contributing their proud share to Australia’s economy, society and its thriving pluralistic culture.’ BACK

Footnote 2
E.g., compared with the English whose founding document is Bede’s history written c. AD 730 and the epic Beowulf composed c. AD 700 using oral materials from the Continental prehistory of the Nordic peoples who made up the early English (or constituent Angle, Saxon, and Jutish) nations who invaded Great Britain, c. AD 400-500. BACK

Footnote 3
This is Prime Minister John Howard’s habitual euphemism for massacres, etc. BACK


REFERENCES and suggested reading:

Annual reports on Australia are found in The Indigenous World, published by the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen.

Atkinson A, 1997: The Europeans in Australia: a history, Vol. 1, The Beginning, Oxford University Press.

Beckett J, 1987. Torres Strait Islanders: custom and colonialism, Cambridge University Press.

Crough G, 1993. Visible and Invisible: Aboriginal people in the economy of Northern Australia, Australian National University North Australia Research Unit, Darwin.

Day D, 1997: Claiming a Continent: a new history of Australia, Angus & Robertson (HarperCollins), Sydney.

Downing J, 1988. Ngurra Walytia: Country of My Spirit, Australian National University North Australia Research Unit, Darwin.

Ganter R, 1994. The Pearl-Shellers of Torres Strait: Resource Use, Development and Decline, 1860s-1960s, Melbourne University Press.

Groves, Christie. 2001. Indigenous Self-Determination in the Torres Strait, Honours Thesis, Department of Government, University of Queensland, Brisbane. Online

Jentoft, Svein, and Henry Minde, Ragnar Nilsen (eds). 2003. Indigenous Peoples: Resource Management and Global Rights, Eburon, Delft (and Centre for Sami Studies, University of Tromø).

Jull P, 1997. 'The political future of Torres Strait', Indigenous Law Bulletin, Vol 4, No 7 (November 1997), 4-9. Online

Jull P, 1998. Constitutional Work in Progress: Reconciliation & Renewal in Indigenous Australia and the World (A background paper for Indigenous Law Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney), University of Queensland, Brisbane, August 11, 1998, 62 pp incl. ‘exec. summary’. Repaginated version online

Jull P, 1999a. ‘Indigenous Internationalism: What should we do next?’, Indigenous Affairs, 1/1999 (January-March), International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copen-hagen, 12-17. Online

Jull P, 1999b. ‘New Deal for Canada’s North’, North, 1/1999, Vol. 10, published by Nordregio, Stockholm, 5-10. Full draft online

Jull P, 2000. ‘Hansonism and Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders’, The Rise and Fall of One Nation, ed. M Leach, G Stokes & I Ward, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 206-219.

Jull P, 2001a. ‘”Nations with whom We are connected”: Indigenous Peoples and Canada’s Political System’, 3rd ed., Discussion Paper, School of Political Science and Interna-tional Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Sept. 15, 2001, 55 pages. Online

Also, abridged in Australian Indigenous Law Reporter 6(2) & 6(3), 2001.

Jull P, 2001b. ‘Negotiating Nationhood, Renegotiating Nationhood: Canada’s Nunavut and Nunavut’s Canada’, Balayi: Culture, Law and Colonialism, Vol. 3, 2001, 67-86. Full draft online

Jull P, 2002. ‘The Politics of Sustainable Development: Reconciliation in Indigenous Hinterlands’, Paper for international research project, Indigenous Peoples, Power and Sustainable Development in the Global World, University of Tromsø, Norway, 11 October 2002, 29 pp. Online

Jull P, 2003a. ‘Reconciliation Constitutions: Canadian & Australian Northern Territories’, Indigenous Issues and the Nation, being Australian Canadian Studies, Vol. 21, No. 1, 37-73. Online

Jull P, 2003b. ‘Why the Northern Territory matters’, Arena Magazine No. 66, August-September 2003, 24. Full draft online

Kidd R, 1997. The Way We Civilise: Aboriginal Affairs – the untold story, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane.

Kidd R, 2000. Black Lives, Government Lies, Frontlines series, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 65 pp.

Lui G, 1994. ‘A Torres Strait perspective’, Voices from the Land: 1993 Boyer Lectures, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney, 62-75.

Macintyre, Stuart, and Anna Clark. 2003. The History Wars, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Manne R, 2001. In Denial: The Stolen Generations and the Right, The Australian Quarterly Essay, Issue No. 1, Black Inc/Schwartz, Melbourne.

Markus A, 2001. Race: John Howard and the remaking of Australia, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Marr D & M Wilkinson, 2003. Dark victory: the military campaign to re-elect the Prime Minister, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Mulrennan M & Hanssen N (eds), 1994. Marine Strategy for Torres Strait: Policy Directions, Australian National University North Australia Research Unit, Darwin, and Island Coordinating Council, Torres Strait.

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European Network for Indigneous Australian Rights
Reconciliation Australia
Torres Strait Regional Authority
Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission