Wednesday, July 10, 2013

From little things

Canberra greetings during NAIDOC (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) week on the 50th anniversary of what many regard as the start of Aboriginal land rights, the Yirrkala Bark Petition.
This petition, protesting bauxite mining on the Gove Peninsula and signed by many Yolngu leaders, was not the first Aboriginal petition. Its significance lies in part in its being the first to employ the form and language required for parliamentary recognition - together with articulations of Yolngu law in the bark painting around it. Parliament recognized the petition - a first - and in so doing created an opening for recognizing Yolngu law as law. The particular claims, for their part, were rejected first by Parliament and later by the courts but the protests generated by these rulings helped speed recognition of land rights and the abandonment of the fiction of terra nullius. I gather the bark petitions are on display in Parliament House, which we're visiting tomorrow. Hope I get a chance to see them!

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