The paradox of Native Title

I just read this rather illuminating article by Aileen Moreton-Robinson about the High Court’s Yorta Yorta decision and I want to make sure I’ve got a couple of things straight.

So…if, as an Indigenous Australian, you want to make a claim to land under the Native Titles Act because you were dispossessed from that land under British colonisation, then in the very act of saying that you were dispossessed from the land you are disqualifying yourself from claiming that land because you have inherently shown that you haven’t had an ‘unbroken connection’ with it?

And if you can prove an unbroken connection to the land (by white definitions) by demonstrating use of the land, then this use of the land has to be ‘traditional’ – in other words it cannot (and you cannot) have changed or evolved since the beginning of colonisation 200 years ago despite colonisation forcing this change? And despite the ‘adaptation of white culture’ being ‘necessary for one’s survival’? So, Aboriginal people are never allowed to change or evolve their societal practices either voluntarily or involuntarily?

And if you’re of ‘mixed-race’ descent then your ‘Aboriginality’ is brought into question despite the fact that colonisation created such racial mixing both through rape and consensual relations? And also despite the fact that conceiving of ‘Aboriginality’ as inherently linked to skin colour rather than “history, socialisation patterns, knowledges and experiences” (Moreton-Robinson 2000, p.88) is a white conception of what it means to be an Aboriginal person by judging “cultural authenticity” by “racial purity”? (Moreton-Robinson 2000, p.88)

AND if you’re an Indigenous woman then your link to the land is further brought into question because according to white male anthropologists Indigenous men have a greater claim to the land?

Is it just me but does this not only punish Indigenous Australians for being the subjects of colonisation, but also punish Indigenous Australians for responding to colonisation?

Oh, it does?





Quotes from Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s Talkin’ up to the white woman (2000)


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