We have reached a pivotal time in Indigenous affairs when for
the first time, national attention is being paid to the horror of
Indigenous family violence in this country.
For the first time, an Australian Prime Minister has held a summit
in the national capital to listen to concerns and ideas on this
issue from a group of Indigenous leaders.
For the first time, we are reading editorials about the suffering
of Indigenous women and children in our newspapers. For the first
time, perhaps we have a chance to do something solid, sensible,
sensitive and coordinated to stop the violence that is destroying
So what does all this have to do with the fundamental issue of
What does it have to do with Indigenous governance?
To answer these questions, let me go back to the preamble to the
Native Title Act of 1993.
The people whose descendants are now known as Aboriginal peoples
and Torres Strait Islanders were the inhabitants of Australia before
They have been progressively dispossessed of their lands. This
dispossession occurred largely without compensation, and successive
governments have failed to reach a lasting and equitable agreement
with Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders concerning the
use of their lands.
It goes on to refer to the High Court's Mabo Decision and the
overturning of the myth of terra nullius. And then it shifts from
the language of fact, into a promising language of intent:
The people of Australia intend:
- to rectify the consequences of past injustices by the special
measures contained in this Act, announced at the introduction
of this Act into the Parliament, or agreed on by the Parliament
from time to time, for securing the adequate advancement and protection
of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders; and
- to ensure that Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders
receive the full recognition and status within the Australian
nation to which history, their prior rights and interests, and
their rich and diverse culture, fully entitle them to aspire.
This is an exract from a speech given to the 10th Annual Cultural Heritage and Native Title Conference, held in Brisbane on 30 September 2003.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.