noel pearson on native title and the reality of indigenous communities

10Feb10

In a speech in Sydney yesterday, before an audience of American lawyers, Noel Pearson of the Cape York Institute argued that the developments in recognising Native Title during the 1990s have left most Aboriginal communities no better:

Native title in this country is the sum total of whatever berry-picking rights Indigenous claimants might be able to prove by reference to their traditional laws and customs as they existed in 1788. […] So in the Australian law, the Indigenous hardly own the economic property on the lands they successfully claim. […] The Australian law on Native Title, since the original 1992 decision, has been an absolute travesty of misconception and intellectual shortcoming by the academics who contributed to the misconceptions, [and] the advocates who provided poor guidance to our federal and high courts in relation to these questions.

If I have interpreted Pearson correctly, he is calling for an Australian resurrection of the ideal of self-determination, but in a local format where the responsibility falls on the shoulders of Aboriginal communities and their leaders. Neither the government, nor any of its officials, has much of a role:

Part of the challenge of Indigenous recovery will be for the state to retreat while we build Indigenous responsibility and rebuild Indigenous people taking charge of their own lives.

For more, view the ABC’s report.




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