Land Rights and social justice

Land Rights and social justice Book Section

Our land is our life: Land Rights - past, present and future

  • Author(s): Dodson, Michael
  • Secondary Author(s): Yunupingu, Galarrwuy
  • Published: 1997
  • Publisher: University of Queensland Press

Abstract: Influential indigenous leaders provide analyses and reveal their passions for their people and land, and for the Australia we all want to call home. The book is inspired by the 20th anniversary of the Aboriginal Land Rights (N.T.) Act, and coincides with the final year for lodgement of claims. As the ground is shifting beneath indigenous Australia, in a political sense, there is an even greater need to stand firm on the central issue of land rights. To forsake our land is to deny not just ourselves but also the future of Australia, socially, environmentally and culturally.

Notes: The book's main focus is on issues surrounding Aboriginal Land Rights, however there are some relevant chapters including this one. The book is available in the Business Library at Reid, UWA. Author of this chapter = Dodson (the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner). Dodson provides an introduction by way of a brief summary of his view of social justice and then explains the connection between human rights and land in relation to Aboriginal Land Rights. He emphasises that to understand Aboriginal law, culture and relationship to the physical and spiritual world, one must begin with the land because everything about Aboriginal society is connected to the land. Culture is the land; the land and spirtuality of Aboriginal people. Cultural beliefs or reason for existence is the land and if you take that away, then you are taking away the reason for existence. Maintenance of culture needs the land...and Land Rights is a social justice issue because the result of not having access to your land is the destruction of culture, language and spirituality. Dodson briefly covers the internationalisation of human rights mentioning instruments such as 'the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights'. He then describes his submission to the Social Justice Package claiming that the rights of indigenous Australians are suffocating under discriminatory laws, confused and iniquitous administrative arrangements and a system that knows a lot about control but little about empowerment. He suggests 3 strategies to improve this: 1. Regional Agreements - where indigenous people organise themselves at the local or regional level to work out how the communities should operate and then negotiate arrangements with other players e.g. all levels of government, industry, environmentalists, etc. Organisation by indigenous people to support cultural and political systems rather than being broken up to suit the 3 tiers of government and various departments. Different types of funding would support such regional agreements. 2. Funding Agreements - funding from all sources should be pooled and provided directly to the regional or local indigenous authority which would then spend it according to locally determined priorities. This would allow the people ( not program specifications set down by governments) to decide where and how the money is spent. 3. Constitutional Reform - create a constitutional and legal framework that fully recognises the rights of indigenous Australians. (This idea was recommended during the time of the approaching centenary of Federation; the book being published in 1997). The author notes that in the original constitution,indigenous people were left out of it completely.

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Dodson, Michael, 1997, Land Rights and social justice, Book Section, viewed 06 December 2023,

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