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Indigenous Movements in Australia Author(s): Francesca Merlan Source: Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 34 (2005), pp.

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Indigenous Movements in Australia


Francesca Merlan
School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National ACT 0200, Australia; email: Francesca.Merlan@anu.edu.au University, Canberra

Annu. Rev. Anthropol. 2005. 34:473-94 The Annual Review of Anthropology is online at

Key Words relations, action,socialtransformation Indigenous-settler politics,


religion, reconciliation

anthro.annualreviews.org
doi: 10.1146/

Abstract
The metaphor of "movement" has been applied in limited measure to indigenous action inAustralia, andmore to recent events (~ 1960s and afterwards) than to earlier ones. This review characterizes move ment in social-semiotic terms that allow consideration of such a no tion over a longer time span and range of social circumstances than is usual inAustralianist literature. Examination of a limited number of relatively well-documented cases from differing times and places reveals differences in the grounds of action and kinds of objectifica tion that movements appear to have involved and also a continuing shift toward shared indigenous-nonindigenous understandings and forms of activism in the face of persisting social differentiation. The arguably limited impact of indigenous movements needs to be con sidered in the light of systematic constraints on them.

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Contents
INTRODUCTION ................. 474

MOVEMENT?

IDEAS ABOUT

INDIGENOUSRESPONSE .... 475 MOBILIZATIONS: CASES IN


TIME AND
Kurangarra Jinimin-Jesus

tion ofinauthenticity of action on this account (see e.g., Goodall 1996, p. 274), I take these kinds of interaction as central subject matter inmy account of indigenous mobilization and the moral and political terms inwhich it has

SPACE .............
...................... .....................

476
476 477

proceeded. Any properly analytical treatment of


movement must show how that notion is re lated to broader concepts of social action and what is particular about it. Movement is not, in the first instance, a category of critical social analysis but a term of everyday language famil iar to us from our social experience (women's movement, peace movement, etc.). It focuses attention on social change and transformation as purportedly distinct from ordinary social reproduction. It overlaps in social science lit erature with such categories as protest, mo bilization, collective action, and many oth ers. Given our familiarity with movement as a term of ordinary language, some of this liter ature presupposes a great deal about the na ture and objects of social movements (for im portant accounts, see Blumer 1951, Calhoun 1993, della Porta & Diani 1998 and ref erences therein, Gusfield 1981). Considera tion of what may usefully be included in the

THE ADJUSTMENT MOVEMENT INARNHEM


LAND ........................... 477

TO FROMPROTECTIONISM PROGRESSIVISM: INDIGENOUSACTIVISM IN


THE AFTERMATH OF THE

DISPOSSESSION".. 478 "SECOND LAND DISADVANTAGE,


TENURE,
JUSTICE RECONCILIATION CONCLUSIONS...................

AND DEFERRED
....................... ............... 482 485 488

INTRODUCTION
indigenous people of Australia include Aborigines and Islanders (of the Torres Strait). Together, they comprise an estimated 2% of the total population. Although indigenous people are a small minority, Australian indigenous issues tend to have a high profile nationally and internation ally. Have "movements" been a form of ac tion over which indigenous actors exert con trol, through which indigenous interests are defined and satisfied? The aim of this review is to illustrate the range of action that might be considered movements, before a return is made to this question in conclusion. Indigeneity (like all identity categories) does not designate a fixed entity but sug gests processes of interaction and differen in Australia tiation. Indigenous mobilization has involved not only indigenous but also, in fundamental ways, nonindigenous actors and forms of action. Rejecting any imputa
474 Merlan

The

of indigenous movements,however, category cannotpresuppose suchfamiliarity.


Movement is taken to involve (a) interac tion among a plurality of actors and types of actors (variously dispersed or solidary); (b) el ements of meaning and action that are to some extent grounded in, but also differ from, ex isting cultural norms and ordered forms of social behavior (see Gusfield 1981, p. 325; Burridge 1969; also della Porta & Diani 1998, p. 51); and (c) a focus on action as out of the ordinary in contrast with the everyday, under stood as such by participants (and often, also action by others). Such out-of-the-ordinary is inherently associated with efforts to build up a shared space, or common vantage point (Taylor 1985, p. 273), across felt, sometimes explicitly identified discontinuities. Move ment thus involves an orientation of a commu nicatively purposive kind. This is not to assert that actors have a sovereign self-consciousness

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concerning what they are doing and their con ditions. Nor need we suppose that the under

reducedeverywhere dramatically by disease andviolence),and technological disadvantage

anddescriptions nec meant that, considered in broad terms, Abo standings guidingactors notions of achievingspecific riginalpresenceoffered limitedimpediment essarilyinvolve
kinds of change or transformation; in partic ular, that action should be undertaken in re lation to some objectified notion of society or social order. In some cases, this may be true; in other cases, it is not. Extraordinary, com to settler occupation of the continent, com pared with, for example, the occupations of North America and New Zealand. In many ways, Aborigines rendered considerable assis tance to settlement and not only opposition. Consistent with the third emphasis, so cial anthropologists' attention devoted to tra ditional life and institutions until recently took precedence over any explicit scholarly

municativelypurposiveaction may be based


in awide range of modes of objectification of the self and of situation.

MOVEMENT? IDEAS ABOUT INDIGENOUS RESPONSE


Until fairly recently, many views of Aus

developmentof understandings concerning


interactions in the indigenous-nonindigenous colonization and settlement of the continent. There were some notable exceptions. Elkin's (1951) phase model of Aboriginal response to

tralianindigenous people and their cultures tended to overlook or downplay degrees settlement(approximately contemporaneous
of creativity in their responses to colonization and continuing settlement such as might be implied by the notion of movement. Several factors appear to explain its limited applica tion. First was awidespread view of Aborigi nal social orders as crushed by colonial impact with similar acculturation models elsewhere, e.g., in Americanist anthropology) at least accorded significance to interaction between settlers and indigenous people, and thus im proved on the prevailing romantic dualism be tween the preservation of traditional life ver sus destruction of it.Hartwig's (1965)Marxist account of Central Australia shed light on the interaction. conditions of Aboriginal-settler Berndt (1969) reflected on "The Concept of 'Protest' within an Australian Aboriginal Context." He posited not the continuous existence of protest but rather its gradual and late emer gence in Australian Aborigines' responses to change and disorder resulting from the im pacts of outside settlement. He found that "external intervention and stimulus" (1969, p. 39) had everywhere been fundamental to protest and described Aborigines as heard in directly, their voices amplified through exter nal agents (p. 40). Noting great situational dif ferences in the terms of Aboriginal people's socialization and understanding, he charac terized some more-activist Aborigines as "for all practical purposes Australian-Europeans," seeking common identity in the Aboriginal

(Sharp1952;Burridge 1969, p. 39;Rowley


1970; McMichael 1984, p. 42). Second, and in with the above, contradiction seemingly were notions of social orders as unchanging [Charlesworth (1986 [1984], p. 383) terms this the "standard view"] (Bos 1988, p. 423). Third was the valuation of social orders mainly to the extent that they are thought to remain tra ditional or distinct from the dominant soci ety and its subcultures (Jones & Hill-Burnett 1982, p. 228;Merlan 1998; Povinelli 2002). Consideration of the social complexity of

haseventually shownthe response indigenous of resistance inadequacy any simple position


in response to earlier views of societal collapse (compare Lippmann 1981; further on the in adequacy of traditional models of resistance, see Merlan 1978; Rowse 1987; Cowlishaw 1999, pp. 67-71). But there is no disagree ment about the drastic character of long-term outcomes of settler colonialization. Loose,

noncorporate Aboriginalsocialorganization, past, this trend itself a "kind of social move limitedAboriginal numbers (undoubtedly ment" (p. 41). He concluded that once people
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"see themselves in relation to others, once they are in a position to compare, the way be comes wide open for the kind of protest I have

were interior desert. Wooden ochredboards transferred (seePetri 1954, pp. 256-68, and Lommel 1969,pp. 165-78, for a detailedde
scription of ritual). A final dance featured a white desert ghost figure called Djanba. He was understood to be Leprosy, and the ku rangarra boards in general to be charged with

been talking about"(p.42). Berndt saw "non-Westernized" Aborig


ines as unable to express opposition to eco

andcultural nomic, racial, oppression directly


andAborigines who had become activist as in authentic. Both positions would attract con siderable criticism today. However, a sym

the powerfulnew ailments,such as leprosy,


syphilis, and other venereal diseases, thatwere

Djanba ravagingtheAboriginalpopulation.
was said to live in a corrugated iron house and to be able to infect people with syphilis and leprosy by means of little sticks that had lain in weeds near it. People who have ku rangarra boards are also able to infect others, whereas kurangarra initiates were thought to gain immunity. The distribution of boards was imagined to be carried out using airplanes and steamers. The ghost asked for remuneration in sugar and bread (not indigenous foods) for showing the boards to other ghosts. Cult activity was carried out in pidgin En glish. Place-based like other ritual, kurangarra differed in that it had to be performed in the

pathetic (perhapsanachronistic) readingof his Berndt way: might refigure argumentthis


that protest emerges not simply asmeans to a set of ends in the defense of Aboriginal inter ests, but as part of the very substance of social transformation of Aborigines' situation and

self-objectification. Aboriginalprotest arises


from the felt burdens of marginalization and oppression particular to indigenous social sit uations, but styles of activism and ideas that inform it arise in interaction with, and come to sharemuch with, forms of thought and ac tion central to the Australian socio-political
mainstream.

Itsorganiza vicinityof Europeansettlement. MOBILIZATIONS: CASES IN TIME AND SPACE


A few relatively full descriptions suggest in digenous modes of address to settler occupa tion, disease, and disorder framed (and de scribed) more as ritual action (cult) than as ethical or practical rationalist discourse and action (protest). With some caution, the in stances of Kurangarra and Jinimin-Jesus may be taken as exemplary. tion was modeled on European practice: di rected by a boss with powers to infect aswell as heal, the boards were stored by a clerk, feasts announced by amailman, and order and discipline were maintained by policemen. Re gional myth variants emphasized a reversal of the position ofmen andwomen and the arrival of the eschaton as the result of transmission of kurangarra boards by Djanba's wife (Lommel

1950,p. 24).
Kurangarra was not overtly hostile to whites. It did not explicitly propose revitaliza tion of Aboriginal practice. It objectified de cline dramatically (in the dances), not verbally (as far as evidence goes). It was not infused with any Christian elements. Like many Abo riginal rituals, it connected people over long distances. No explicit notion of an imperme able boundary between Aborigines and whites was evident. Elements of settler culture, both material and social, such as these which had been apprehended were incorporated into the ritual. (For reports of the fate of kurangarra,

Kurangarra
The most portentous events of the first pre World War II period of fieldwork in north western Australia of German ethnographers Helmut Petri and Andreas Lommel (Lommel 1950, 1952, 1969; Petri 1954; Petri & Petri Odermann 1970, 1988; Beinssen-Hesse 1991 on the facilitating Frobenius Expeditions and contrasting emphases in the resulting studies) involved the arrival of kurangarra from the

476 Merlan

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see Lommel 1969, p. 178; Wilson 1961, p. 47; Swain 1993, p. 244.) In these various respects, kurangarra may be briefly contrasted with the

plex, balanced by a hopeful imageryand


rhetoric. There is also imaginative appropri ation of valuable things for an Aboriginal fu ture.At the foot of a mountain range southeast of Fitzroy Crossing was said to be a large

Jinimin-Jesus complex. Jinimin-Jesus


In September 1963, Petri learned that a cult complex known as wanadjara had been brought to the border area between Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Here, itwas said, Jinimin (also called Jesus) had ap peared to Aborigines about to conduct ritual on amissionary station. Petri & Petri-Odermann (1988, p. 394; 1970) characterize this complex as millenar ian in aim, syncretistic, and with distinct re vitalistic and aggressive nativistic tendencies, emergent in a culture-contact situation and in comparable to, for example, movements

stoneshipsentbyJinimin-Jesus fromheaven.
Informants said the ship had been in this place since the Dreaming (i.e., attributed the same constancy to it as Aborigines typically do to other meaningful features of landscape). Af ter the annihilation of Europeans, this ship was to serve as an ark for Aborigines. Filled with gold and crystal, itwas to be the basis of

theirfuture well-being.
Petri & Petri-Odermann (1988, p. 394) suggest that a transition to an aggressive mood may be associated with the fact that the Aus tralian state as well as mission policies to ward Aborigines had begun to be liberalized. The leaderswere young andmiddle-aged men who were tradition conscious and attempted to respond actively to their experiences with

Melanesia (Worsley 1957).


Jinimin-Jesus was said to have both black and white skin. He proclaimed the leveling of difference between black and white Aus tralians: Before he ascended to Heaven, he

outsiders(1988,p. 391).
Though there are differences between ku

promisedpeople that,followinga successful


fight with the whites, they would be cleansed by holy water and become light-skinned. For

andJinimin-Jesus, the communica rangarra


tive mode of both (as we can understand it from the literature) is largely dramatis

this to happen,Aborigines must keep their


law (uphold ritual and its practice as a cen tral source of value). He also declared Aborig ines owners of all the land (contra their actual

tic. In Jinimin-Jesus,sensuous explicitness


(e.g., in the imagery of black and white skin) is, however, linked with articulated notions of overcoming difference and the necessary persistence of Aboriginal law.

of displacement). experience
TheJinimin-Jesus complex is less fatalistic than kurangarra. Though matters are partly couched in amythic idiom, there is also con scious articulation of the situation as oppo in kurangarra the differ sitional. Whereas ence between black and white appears to be a given of the ritual enactment, expressed by elements associated with settlers in the cult, in the Jinimin-Jesus complex this difference is explicit, embodied in the difference be tween black and white skin and also couched in the rhetoric of conflict and postconflict equalization. Limitations of local power seem to be rec ognized explicitly in the Jinimin-Jesus com

For anearlier, pastoral-area geographically


expansive cult movement overtly hostile to whites (Mulunga), see Kolig (1982), Swain

(1993,pp. 227, 230), and thepossiblyderived


but "less radically antiwhite" (Swain 1993, p. 232) Red Ochre cult. For discussion of recent Christian religious revivals, see Bos (1988) and for changes in Aboriginal ritual

practice,seeKolig (1981). THE ADJUSTMENT MOVEMENT IN ARNHEM LAND RonaldBerndt(1962) became Anthropologist
aware of an "adjustment movement" in north eastArnhem Land in 1958, and on subsequent * Indigenous Australia 477 www.annualreviews.org

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inBerndt 1962, e.g., the sermonreproduced p. 77). Indigenous peoplewere increasingly whites (including local Methodistmissionar realizingthe existence of diversity within the ies of a Pentacostal bent) for a number of settlersocialorder (Berndt1962, p. 79).An decades. socialand moral order,previously However, thepresenceof outsiders indigenous had not been numerically is still clearlyassociated with overwhelmingas self-sufficient, in some other parts of Australia. Aborigines notionsof positivevalue,but alsowith social had been deeply affected by the fact that and jealousy. Itsunificationis fragmentation the American-Australian Expeditionof 1948, conceivable in the context of a twinned or
revisits. Aboriginal people in this area had ex perienced and participated in the activities of which had visited various parts of Arnhem had filmed their sacred emblems, or Land, der, involving "two Gods," "two races, one dark and one white" (1962, p. 78). (Formore

Several with men, closelyinvolved key rangga.


the mission but also active in indigenous rit ual life, urged others to come together and put their rangga on display, creating amemo rial next to theMethodist Church at Elcho

on the adjustment McIntosh movement, see 1994, Morphy 1983.)


There is evidence of Aboriginal social or der objectified and contrasted with a settler

Island(now Galiwin'ku).
From Berndt's accounts of the leaders' comments and sermons, we learn of some of the meanings these activities had locally. Par ticipants understood themselves to be honor ing themissionaries and expressing thanks for the things they had brought them, and also,

order(alsosuggestedin inimin-Jesus). A new


position on something like a social order (or, as Aborigines might say, a law) comes about in its relativization to another.

given thinking about as) "graven images." They also hoped to gain wider access to the valuable things they perceived whites having to offer

FROM PROTECTIONISM TO PROGRESSIVISM: INDIGENOUS IN THE AFTERMATH ACTIVISM in displayingtheir most valuedobjects,tran OF THE "SECOND scending their attachment to (what the mis DISPOSSESSION" sion and Bible had them a means of
The turn of the twentieth century and sev eral decades thereafter saw increasing indige nous activism in the more densely settled parts, the urban fringe, of the continent. Al

etc.). (schools,training,
Among difficult issues they seemed to be working through in attempting this display were changes in gender relations (Berndt

most everywhere, drasticchanges in popu


lation structure had become apparent in the first half of the nineteenth century, includ ing an absence of babies and young children.

1962, p. 67); achieving unity among them


selves about and through the display ofrangga; and imagining a future course for themselves that would involve their participation inwhat they could see of white society without loss of autonomy. Although the leaders attempted to unite and persuade, some men refused to dis play their own clan emblems, and it became apparent that even the leaders were holding highly valued decorated objects in reserve. The imagining of two forms or ways, dis tinctive indigenous and nonindigenous laws, was perhaps only implicit for many partic ipants but seems to have been articulated clearly by at least some of the leadership (see,

Subsequently, remaining Aborigines,gener


ationally differentiated but at least some of whom were survivors of these first shock waves, were brought together from their ex posed position into nascent communities and settlements. Often, though they were notion ally under the control of a protectorate, they had been moved about a great deal and were destitute. The establishment of missions and other communities was subject to the political battles of land use regulation in the colonies, the needs of Aborigines were a low For detailed regional accounts of priority. communities and the relations between their in which

478 Merlan

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residents and officialdom or management, (1998); for the Torres

see

ment policy (e.g.,Goodall 1996, p. 118),


thus (inadvertently, from the government

Haebich (1992),andBarwick Biskup (1973),


Strait, see Beckett

(1987).
The later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw the tightening of welfare mea sures and increasing close regulation of Abo

perspective) laying some groundwork for laterpan-Aboriginal identification & (Jones Hill-Burnett 1982).
somewhat differing times in various of Australia (usually compelled by leg parts At

The efforts of government were, rigines'lives.


or became, protectionist and transformative, generally aiming at assimilation (of those for whom this was deemed possible) to a homo geneous Australian mainstream, conceived as composed of persons of shared civic, cultural, and racial character. Different practical, im mediate possibilities were seen as appropri ate depending on the character and poten

islativeenactments), many people of mixed


descent left established communities to earn a living in rural labor, or somewhat later, in cities. The well-documented instance of the main Coranderrk, government station in serve as an Victoria, may example of the estab lishment and disestablishment of a commu nity (Barwick 1998). As a result of Aboriginal persistence and the assistance of awhite man ager, Coranderrk was established (aftermany earlyvicissitudes) in 1863; by 1870, therewere well-built houses and a farm. By 1884, the

tialofAboriginalsubjects, understoodlargely
in racial terms. The power of racial notions,

andespeciallythe ambiguity, and complexity,


obsessive character of dominant-society at titudes toward persons of mixed descent throughout the nineteenth and twentieth cen

originally temporary reservation of land was made "permanent." But by 1886, "half-castes" were excluded, forced to leave to earn a living for turies,and the implications regulatory, elsewhere. In 1893, 2400 acres, nearly half of the acreage earlier achieved, was excised. In tutelary, and legislative schemes directed at Aborigines, should not be underestimated 1924, the station was closed andmost remain (e.g., Haebich 1992, pp. 47-51, 260-67; ing inmates compelled to move. In 1941, the last resident died, and in 1948 the reserve was Biskup 1973, pp. 89, 42-44, 143-46; Bennett revoked. 1989, pp. 51-52, 58-59, 112; Beckett 1988, pp. 196-200; Goodall 1996, pp. 118-19, 127 Although communities formed and re formed until after World War II, in the south Peterson & Sanders 29; 1998, pp. 4-14). in a few had for the instances east, important implications pro They by around World cesses of subject formation and potential for War I, but in greater numbers by the 1950s mobilization. Inmany places, e.g., Western and 1960s, at least some of their residents envisioned harsh Australia,policy legislative (as above, often the "half-caste") were ei controls and segregation of the (generally, ther exiled to impoverished rural locations more or forced to resettle in the vicinity of cities full-blooded) phenotypically Aborig inal remote reserve and settlement popu likeMelbourne (Haebich 1992; Read 1988; lation from the wider community but ab Goodall 1996, pp. 149, 238-39 writes of a "second dispossession" with reference to the sorption into the white population of the or those of color skin "coloureds," lighter expulsion of residents from communities, re (Haebich 1992, p. 316). The oppressive char acter of state controls may have encouraged passing into the mainstream population for some who could do so, i.e., a process op posite to conspicuous mobilization. In con trast, it sometimes prompted identification of people with others of varying degrees of descent against the grain of govern of children, and persistence of ap palling health and livelihood conditions in New South Wales). moval From the youthful generation of indige nous people whose families had been exposed directly to these closures, exiles, and con trols came a remarkable cohort of activists, in "settled" Australia, particularly from the late
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AAL: Aborigines Advancement League

... ........................................................................................

1920s and the 1930s. Largely known and in some cases related to each other over partic ular regions, these men and women rose to prominence in the pursuit of better condi tions and opportunities for their people. On the north coast of New South Wales, the first

along with others, established and financed the firstAboriginal-controlled newssheet, the Australian Abo Call (Goodall 1996, p. 238). Many of the indigenous leaders came from diverse ethnic and racial origins, often in

cluding some other component considered


"nonwhite" Mauritian; in Australia Goodall of the time (e.g., 1996, p. 150), as well

tocreatefor political organization Aboriginal


mal links between communities over a wide area took shape in the early 1920s, headed by Fred Maynard (who was influenced, asMay nard 2003 shows, by Garveyism). William Cooper (Attwood & Markus 2004, Markus 1986) was a generational exception in the ad vanced age (around 70) at which he left the in Victorian community of Cumeroogunga 1932 forMelbourne, where he was a prin cipal founder of the Australian Aborigines'

as fromAnglo background(Haebich1992, p. 270). Such personalhistories combined


feeling for and understanding of racially based discrimination and also tended to be asso ciated with higher levels of education than

had, anunderstanding many other Aborigines


of the workings of Australian institutions, and an ability and propensity to express and shape dissatisfaction in activism and protest. Ethnic

1965,p. 91;Aborigines and racial diversity became part of the new in League (AAL)(Clark or Advancement League 1985). Doug Nicholls, digenousembodiment, especiallyin settled
born at Cumeroogunga in 1906, left the com munity at age 14,worked, and became a noted Melbourne, then pastor, Aborig sportsman in inal activist, and eventually the appointed gov ernor of South Australia. William Ferguson of Dubbo, New SouthWales (Homer 1974), and Jack Patten, like Ferguson a leader in theAbo rigines Progress Association inDubbo, orga nized aDay ofMourning to be celebrated in protest of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the landing of the First Fleet in 1938. In 1926,William Harris founded the Western Australia (Haebich Native Union in 1992, p. 269). These and many others in volved themselves in activism and the de velopment of organizations dedicated to im with nonremote Australian contexts and brought it important stimuli to the sensibilities and organization of political activism. An im

portant element of thiswas the conceptualiza tion of a category of "Aborigine" or "native" beyond the local or regional scene-a reflex ive view of an inherently contradiction-laden category of persons, originary and now sub ject to the state. Localism and the divisive ef fects of government policy had meant that it was by no means inevitable that indigenous people think of themselves as a single kind: In many instances, degree of caste or color, so emphasized administratively, acted as a dif 1961, ferentiating force. (See, e.g., Wilson p. 41, on the refusal of "light coloureds" to support strike action undertaken by mainly see also Markus "full-blood" Aborigines;

2003, provingthe lotofAborigines(Attwood


Attwood & Markus 1998, Maynard 2003,

McGregor 1993).
All the principal activists had formative re lationships, not only within indigenous fami lies and social networks, but alsowith whites as employers, interested activists, and re] resen tatives of supportive and sympathetic groups [such as churches, unions, the Communist party, Freemasons, and feminists (Broome 1989; Goodall 1996, pp. 186, 203-4, 232 36, 273-77; Lake 1998)]. In 1938, publisher and right-wing nationalist P.R. Stephensen,

Cowlishaw 1999,2004.) 1994;


indigenous leaders of the drive for recognition and societal participation dif fered on the question of the desirability The involvement in their activist cam paigns. Charges of isolation and separatism were sometimes made by groups with prin cipally white membership, like the Commu of white nist Party of Australia (Goodall 1996, p. 234). the In the case of particular actions-like in 1938-some of Mourning Aboriginal Day

480 Merlan

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insisted that the planning and themeeting of

it

to weld disparateprogressivegroups into


a council the Commonwealth. that could represent them all to Prominent and distin

self be open only toAboriginalparticipants.


state-mandated, nationalist (Occasions as the Day of Mourning celebration-such in 1938, the Cook Bicentennial in 1970, the and Bicentennial of the First Fleet landing in

white advocates, church, professional, guished

and union groups, academics, and left par ties lent support to the establishment of such a 1988-have typically in broad body. The Aboriginal Advancement spurred oppositional action some collective and digenous Leagues of Victoria, South Australia, and garnered from Western Australia came together to form the ac the wider support public.) Aboriginal tivistsmade use of methods including the for Federal Council for theAdvancement of Abo mation of leagues and groups, and networks rigines, which held its first meeting in Ade of contacts amongthem, publicity campaigns, laide in February 1958. The Council's basic and dramatic public actions including strikes,

FCAATSI: Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders

petitions, and deputationsof protest.The


ideas and vocabulary of such campaigns and actions are indicative of shifts in indigenous

aspirations were equal citizenship with other Australians forAborigines; an adequate living standard; equal pay and industrial protection; free and compulsory education for "detribal ized" Aborigines; and the absolute retention of remaining reserves, whether in communal or individual ownership. Renamed the Fed eral Council for the Advancement of Aborig ines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) in

and framesfor action. political subjectivity


Most assumed the efficacy of greater involve ment of Aborigines in government: One of the first (but unsuccessful) petitions of the Aus tralianAborigines League was to be presented to King George asking for direct Aboriginal representation in the Commonwealth Parlia ment. Broome (1982, p. 167) characterizes the aims of these groups as "citizenship and assim ilation into the wider community" and posits that they "largely accepted absorption as their fate and some even welcomed it." (On citizen ship, see Peterson & Sanders 1998; Beckett

1964 (Bandler 1983), thisgroup successfully


lobbied the federal government to conduct a referendum to give the federal government powers to legislate on behalf of Aborigines

and to census them federally (Bandler 1989). (On the Referendum, seeAttwood et al. 1997, Attwood & Markus 1998; for regional differ ences and conditions on the vote, see Bennett 1987,pp. 172-76).Suchactionsalso typically 1989, pp. 53-54; and on the growth ofnational assumed the greater supportiveness and effi representation with respect to the Torres Strait, see Beckett 1987, pp. 79, 171-201.) cacy of higher levels of governance, first the Commonwealth as compared with the States, In the mid-1960s, as a national indige and more recently, international as com nous body was taking shape, the conduct of pared with national institutions (Chesterman protest became influenced by American civil 2001a). rights and Black Power styles and activism. In this era inwhich Aboriginal affairswere Most indigenous activists rejected violence, and some accepted the help of concerned managed by the states, awidely shared objec tive of indigenous activism was the assump whites (Burgmann 2003, p. 58; Chesterman tion of oversight of Aboriginal affairs by the 2001b; Foley 2001; McGuinness 1971; Read federal government. In the early twentieth century, proposals for constitutional reform to confer responsibility for Aboriginal affairs on the federal government were prompted by fear of Australia's being considered interna tionally backward (Paisley 1998; for efforts toward a national policy in the 1930s, see Goodall 1996, pp. 238-46). Activists worked 1990; Turner 1975; on the relation to the women's movement, see Burgmann 1982; on the influence of Black Power on elites in Papua New Guinea around this time, see Hannett 1971). A Freedom Ride (Curthoys 2002), based on U.S. civil rights activism, was organized in 1965 to demand change di rectly in discriminatory practices in towns of
wwvv.annualreviews.org * IndigenousAustralia 481

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ruralNew South Wales. Those

involved were

mainlywhite Sydney studentssupported by churchleaders, andothers. politicians,


By the end of the 1960s, the federal gov ernment clearly had a mandate with respect to Aboriginal affairs. As a result of the 1967 respect to them, sharing and negotiat

World War II period, but especiallyfrom


the early 1970s, as indigenous difference it self was revalued in the wider society and be came a focus of indigenous activism, in the Australian context many issues that had their

over inequality, disadvan originsin struggles Referendum,it assumed powers to legislate tage, and powerlessness,includingrelations
with From to land, were transformed in ways that fore

with stategovernments. grounded notionsof indigenous culture. One ing themhenceforth


the early 1970s, there was a shift in both formal and informal policies and prac tices. After decades of efforts aimed at assim could at least partly interpret this shift as in volving the containment of these issueswithin

schemes,their regulatory working outmade


possible within
dominant society.

underwrit ilation,thereemerged(especially
ten by the Labor side of politics and supported by intellectuals and some other segments of the middle class) a federal policy of self determination. Increased globalization (aswe now call it) of the economy and of cultural politics in the aftermath of World War II had created a new countercurrent, an orienta tion toward difference, which began to make con itself evident in the now-nationalized duct of indigenous affairs. (There are paral lels elsewhere, for example, inNew Zealand, where there was a new surge in Maori politics in the 1970s and theWaitangi Tribunal was created by 1975; see Moran 1998 on "indi genising nationalism.") The Australian Labor government elected in 1972 brought into be

the procedural

terms of the

First, the ways in which syndicalist mod els of struggle informed action before indige nous difference was placed center stage will be briefly illustrated from episodes in the Torres Strait and Western Australia. Second, the transmutation of issues of disadvantage and inequality into ones framed by questions of in digenous culture can be illustrated by consid ering some of the main events generally seen as contributing to the development of anotion of land rights as an indigenous issue. The strike was explored as a medium in the depression years in of mobilization the Torres Strait Islands, among Australia's other indigenous minority. Colonization and Christianization began together there in the and a resident gover 1870s. Missionaries nor were principal sources of authority until 1904, when the Strait came "under the Act" (the Queensland Aborigines Protection Act of 1897), with its draconian controls. Torres Strait Islander pearlers and divers, aggravated by oppressive work conditions and the eco nomic downturn of the 1930s, went on strike for four months in 1936. Probable sources of this form of action included unionists on the mainland, perhaps even master pearlers them selves, and models in the 1920s and 1930s of strike action by Japanese divers and inter national seamen (Beckett 1987, p. 53). As a result, the Islands were granted a consider able degree of local-government autonomy, including control over island police and courts (Beckett 1987, p. 54).

corporate government body, ing a revamped


theDepartment of Aboriginal Affairs.Jones & Hill-Burnett (1982) capture many of the de of this period in terms of a no velopments tion of "ethnogenesis" and discuss the diver gence of "political" and "cultural" emphases in the uneven emergence of a pan-Aboriginal identity and movement.

DISADVANTAGE, LAND TENURE, AND DEFERRED JUSTICE


Whereas assimilation was the key concept in government policy into the 1960s, the main goals of indigenous mobilization included im

proved conditions, recognition of equality and the rights of full citizenship, and concomitant dismantling of discrimination. In the post

482 Merlan

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In remote areas, just as in themore settled ones, Aboriginal activism of the early andmid

twentieth inprotest centuryfirstcrystallized


against dismal social conditions. In 1946, a new community arose in the Pilbara Dis trict of northwestern Australia from a strike movement that spread among the Aborigines who had been native labor on pastoral sta tions (cattle ranches) (Wilson 1961, Palmer & McKenna 1978, Read & Coppin 1999). Don McLeod, awhite miner-prospector and contractor with trade union experience in troduced the idea of strike action and group bargaining for wages (Wilson 1961, p. ii) among Aboriginal people of the area.Though McLeod was clearly the central activator of the movement, he worked closely with se

March 1967, they 1986, CH Berndt 1950). In "walked off' and established their own town ship atWattie Creek, advised and assisted by activist Frank Hardy (Attwood 2003, pp. 187-90, 260-82 on Hardy's cen trality to the protest actions; Hardy 1968). Their earlier central demand for improved Communist

to contemporary wages (related investigation


of a pastoral Award or minimum wage, and its

which ultimately from 1968, implementation


resulted in the displacement of thousands of Aborigines) was complemented by a demand for a portion of land from theWave Hill lease, on which they planned to establish their own

cattlecompany.
In 1975, the federal government granted the Gurindji only leasehold interest in just 25 of the 500 square miles they had claimed, leaving the rest within the Vesteys lease

nior indigenousleaders, forminga group,or

Pindan, as the community came to be called, 2003, p. 71).Despite thispaltry economically based mainly on the min (Burgmann of mineral "return" concentrates. Aims of the of land to the Gurindji, in the result, ing movement the symbolic form of Prime Minister Gough included achievement of better wages, andmore broadly, economic and social Whitlam funneling a trickle of dirt into the hand of leaderVincent Lingiari, has remained self-sufficiency. a key media image, often replayed on televi The movement fostered many new aware nesses and practices among Aborigines of the sion (reproduced in Peterson 2000, p. 624). area. But issues including capitalization ver sus immediate consumption, privileges and prominence of leaders in a context of egali tarian expectations, and the fractious leader ship style ofMcLeod, which some Aboriginal The to im original claims by Aborigines conditions were of their provement living transmuted into a much broader demand

alien, people foundunyieldingandculturally


led to the development of factions. These fac

tionsdeepened,disrupting kinshipand cere


monial ties and dividing the social movement into two communities with only limited ties between them. Initially comparable in many ways to the Pindan movement, but unlike it now, often cited as a key episode in the development of land rights, were the occurrences atWave Hill in the northwestern Northern Territory

(see Attwood 2003, p. 263) which, though it resonated strongly with Gurindji under standings, was in conception and organization partly of outside origin. Events at Yirrkala in northeastern Arnhem Land are also invariably seen as precursors to further development of land rights as a na tional political issue. In 1968, following five years of fruitless protest against the federal government's decision to allow mining explo ration on what they considered their lands

Williams 1986), theYolngu (Morphy1983,


(people) of Yirrkala brought a case against

Middleton 1977). themining company Nabalco and the federal (Doolan1977, Hardy 1968, had been Gurindjipeople dependent pastoral governmentbefore theNorthern Territory
labor atWave Hill, a property of more than 12,000 square kilometers of the English com pany Vesteys, since the 1880s, residing in de supreme court, with assistance from support ers (including the Methodist mission). The decision handed down in 1971 found (among other things) that there was no doctrine of * IndigenousAustralia www.annualreviews.org 483

& Berndt plorablelivingconditions(Berndt

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communal native title in Australian that although

the Yolngu had complex

law and re

with its base in the inner-Sydney Australia,


suburb of Redfern, the other two being the establishment in Redfern of the first Aborig inal Legal Service in 1970 and antiapartheid demonstrations in response to the tour of the

with land, their rightswere not lationships


proprietary. The court was also not satis fied that the group relationships to land had

of SouthAfrican Springbokrugbyunion team persistedunchangedsince the declaration British sovereignty overAustralia, which the in 1971. (See also Turner 1975 and Spoonley
presiding justice held to be a necessary con dition for finding in favor of the Yolngu 1995, p. 100, on later protests inNew Zealand

(Williams1986).This long-running dispute much immediate provoked response,aswell


as relationships of later significance.

SouthAfrican rugbytours.) Aborigi against


nal and wider activism around land rights had become a feature of the national political land scape, and determination to advance a land

From the mid-nineteenthcentury, Aborig


inal leaders in "settled" Australia had been asking for portions of land as theirs by right, but also as the basis of livelihood, often farm

was shared rightsplatform bymajor political


parties (Maddock 1983; Peterson 1985, 2000;

Peterson & Langton 1983; Rowse 2000b, pp. 34-52).


The transformation of Aboriginal music by a growing number of indigenous bands (No Fixed Address, Warumpi Band, Coloured Stone), the rise of awave of settlement bands, and the expression of more assertive indige nous consciousness in drama, film, and other forms of art must all be considered forms or that accompanied the aspects of movement intensification of indigenous activism in the 1970s and 1980s (Macgowan 2000, Rowse

were pairedconsid and land ing; livelihood


erations. The various elements of land rights in its current acceptation-as an aspiration to the preservation of a distinctive Aborig inal way of life, grounded in forms of tra ditional relationship of Aboriginal people to specificareas and less directly grounded in not come together issues of livelihood-did until the 1960s. Wave Hill and Yirrkala pro vided objects around which broad national mobilization could be imagined, national im ages of traditional indigeneity reinforced, and the concrete grievances and local aspirations of remote-area indigenous people shaped and

Walker 2000). 2000a,Sykes2000,


All these kinds of action seem to have been important media of the transformation and

with developing politicalthematization joined


of land rights at the national level. In 1972, when Coalition Prime Minister McMahon confirmed government policy as allowing a grant of exploration licenses and tenements on reserves (Burgmann mining 2003, p. 72), Aboriginal activists erected the Tent Embassy outside Parliament House in Canberra (Foley 2001, Lippmann 1981, Robinson 1994). Their enunciated land rights

For of indigenoussubjectivity. confirmation


some, especially urban Aboriginal people who had been made to feel remote from publicly valued sources of indigenous identity, involve ment in protest action became away of "be

coming"experientially Aboriginal, a center


around which identity could be reconstituted. To forms of land rights implemented in some states from the mid-1960s (e.g., the Aboriginal Lands Trust Act of South Australia 1966, the Aboriginal Lands Act 1970 of Victoria, both recognizing indige nous ownership of reserved Crown land), was added the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, a benefi cial federal statute that emerged, in good part, in reaction to the unfavorable Yirr kala decision. Under its traditionalizing, reli giously framed requirements, claims to land

program includedprovisions formonetary


compensation for land, indigenous ownership of areas in cities, as well as ownership of re serves and settlements and title to minerals (Attwood & Markus 1998, pp. 257-58). Foley (2001), himself a key participant, regards the Tent Embassy as one of three seminal events in the rise of the Black Power movement in

484 Merlan

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have resulted in nearly half the land area of the Northern Territory becoming Abo riginal land under inalienable, group-based

ing tendency of that class to become absorbed

In like man intogovernment. professionally


ner, land rights became institutionalized in the form of land councils and related policies and CAR: Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation

freeholdtitle.
More recent findings of a high court case Mabo v. Queensland (2), brought by the Meriam people of the Torres Strait (cul than continental turally more Melanesian Australian), have been that "native title"may survive the extension of British sovereignty over Australia and that native title is recogniz able at the common law.This was the product not of indigenous social movement, but of fo cused collaborations between indigenous so cial actors and others who, aware of national and international developments, believed it was possible to revise the Australian situa tion with respect to land rights (Bartlett 2004; Sharp 1996, pp. 22-3). The high court deci sion left the government, and the public, un prepared. In itswake, the federal Native Ti tle Act (1993) was rapidly formulated, which in the national post-Mabo anxiety, was struc tured to protect and give "certainty" to other interests as much or more than indigenous
ones.

has accompa programs.Institutionalization


nied the development of native title processes in the form of the National Native Title Tri bunal, its linkage to the federal court system, and an enormous proliferation of Aboriginal

associationsand corporations. Correspond


ingly, land rights is now not so clearly amove ment as a consolidated complex of interlock ing institutions and types of actors (Blumer 1969, p. 99). Local voices and senses of in digenous priority and need, such aswere per Wave Hill, must deal ceptible inPindan and at with and through these.

RECONCILIATION
The years 1991-2000 were a decade of rec onciliation. Under this rubric is understood the aim of creating a new relationship be tween settler Australia and its indigenous peo

ples. Reconciliation was characterized by the deputy chairman of the Council for Aborigi From the 1960s, increased positive valu nal Reconciliation (CAR) as "quintessentially ation of cultural difference ushered in an era a people's movement" (Nossal 2000, p. 17). of "indigenizing" national management of in What sort of movement is, or (perhaps) was, it (Brennan 1994, de Costa 2002, Dodson digenous affairs (Moran 1998). One manifes tation of this was emergence of land rights as 1993, Reynolds 1996, Tatz 1998, Tickner a recognizable 2001)? Its diffuse and populist nature il category. A more favorable(though stereotyped) lustrates (as does land rights in a different view of Aborigines based on positive valua way) difficulties of policy and practice in tion of their cultural difference came to under integrating moral vision with a substantive lie the land rights agenda, offering one public treatment of issues (de Costa 2002, Short alternative to the always-present "problem" 2003). orientation inAboriginal affairs. Truth commissions, tribunals, and in the in ac benefits countries in roughly occurred Despite quiries undoubtedly many the a on land as to and this hieved, emphasis response period injustice, rights vi rights its proceduralism must also be evaluated as the narrowing and institutionalization of the olations, and sometimes acknowledged mass atrocities (Ellis 1997, Ensalaco 1994, Minow

of an oppressed Jones& struggle population.


Hill-Burnett (1982, p. 224) remark on the

1998, Short 2003,Wilson 2001).Although


situations differed, common attempts to build a culture of rights may perhaps be under stood as part of a sea-change in global pol itics (Wilson 2001, p. 1) and the rise of hu man rights as the language of democratic
www.annualreviews.org * IndigenousAustralia 485

growthof governmentsupportand funding


for indigenous affairs generally in the 1970s as accompanied by the emergence of an in digenous middle class, and on the overwhelm

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transition and reconstitution. the

All

these at

tempts inevitablyconfronted questions of


HREOC: Human Rights andEqual Opportunity
Commission

sion (HREOC)inquiryintopractices, which


had continued The HREOC into the 1970s, of remov "Stolen Generations" report

interpretation of history and vari addressed issues of responsibility and ably to be drawn. consequences Precedent struggles inAustralia to the rec onciliation eramay be briefly mentioned here, between Australia and other Commonwealth countries has been the absence of any treaties

ingAboriginal childrenfrom their parents. Them Home" was tabledin "Bringing May One of its recommen 1997 (HREOC1997).
dations was that a formal apology be made by of children (Haebich 2001). The new Liberal

One pointof constantcomparison all Australian forforcibleremoval following. parliaments with its indigenous peoples.By 1979, in the
context of waxing land rights, there were calls (largely from a social and academic elite) for a treaty (Brennan 1994; Coombs 1979;

National Coalition government (elected in


1996) took the view that people of today who had no part in the removals (and other el

ementsof what historianGeoffrey Blainey,


and later, Prime MinisterJohn Howard, have dubbed a "black arm-band view of history") should not be made to accept blame for them (Manne 2001). Apology has remained an un

Harris 1979; Rowse 2000b, pp. 174-92;


Wright 1985). There were also proposals of substantive measures to be taken by the fed

eralgovernment, of resolvedissue,and some indigenousspokes amongthemrecognition of the continent people have concludedthatno apologywill prior indigenous occupancy be forthcoming. and the payment of compensation for land and Thus, many contentiousis
damages. Both demands had been put forward by the occupants of theTent Embassy in 1972, and subsequently also by the first indige nous member of Parliament, Senator Neville Bonner of Queensland in 1975. The report of the Royal Commission into sues have continuously been laid on the pub lic table and have made evident different

views of history, responsibility, justice,and reparation.


By the early 1990s, the public contention

Deaths inCustody (1991),formed Aboriginal


to investigate the disproportionate deaths of

regardingtreaty,such statementsas Keat


ing's, the spectre of forms of compensation, and other matters had begun to be chan neled into bipartisan consultation on the es tablishment of a statutory body to promote reconciliation. A formal process was inaugu rated with the passage of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation Act (1991). Estab lished as a statutory authority, the CAR was charged with the task of improving the rela tionship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and thewider Australian com

events which prisonersincustody, indigenous


themselves often give rise to community level mobilizations, was important in bring of the acceptance ing about national institutionalization of reconciliation. Although a renewed federal Labor party initiative on national land rights was soundly defeated in 1984 (Rowse 1988), inAustralia's BicentenaryYear, 1988, Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke was still talking not treaty, but agreement (in the Barunga statement of June Northern Territory 12, a declaration made at a

munity (Counc. Aborig.Reconcil.Act 1991).


It was to educate the nation on indigenous nonindigenous relations and bring it to a new level of tolerance and inclusiveness. Prepara tion of the public was felt to be the only basis mooted on which future changes-including constitutional amendment, sation, and others-might Correspondingly, the focus shifted from investigation of treaty, compen be undertaken. of reconciliation the social history

Aboriginal community;seeMorphy 2000,


pp. 100-2; Tickner 2001, pp. 40-41). In 1992, in a now-famous speech in Redfern, Labor Prime Minister Keating delivered a state ment of settler responsibility for indigenous oppression and disadvantage. also established Keating Rights and Equal Opportunity the Human Commis

of disadvantage and questions of institutional

486 Merlan

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reform to mobilization of change in national attitudes. Issues of the role of government

were increasingly sidelinedfrom the debate


(de Costa 2002, p. 52). Council activities tended to promote goals of understanding and community-level projects of facilitation: a "people's movement." By its sunset date in 2000, CAR estimated that there were 396 lo cal reconciliation groups andmore than 1500 local study circles guided by "learning cir cle kits" (CAR 2000, Ch. 6) and such pro grams asAmbassadors for Reconciliation, in tended to prompt prominent Australians to speak for reconciliation and other awareness campaigns. Investigators have analyzed me dia documentation of local groups, reveal ing the extent to which their operation was double-edged, both raising awareness of dis crimination but also giving it a new location inwhich to surface (de Costa 2002, pp. 109 19).The general public was confused and per haps resistant about linking reconciliation to other contentious issues, such as ongoing de bates concerning native title and the "Stolen

tional Aboriginal owners" of the locales where events are held have become nearly manda tory on certain occasions and in certain envi

ronments andgovernmental (e.g.,educational institutions). More broadly, however, despitethegrowth


of these observances and some support for the

ATSIC: Aboriginal andTorres Strait IslanderCommission

notion of reconciliation within the popula little collective will tion, there is apparently
for major institutional change (Short 2003). The Council had engaged in a large-scale civic awareness campaign in terms of what was, after all, a binary conception of citizen

andnonindige subject positions:indigenous


nous. Like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa (Wilson 2001), its activities were partly grounded in Chris tian notions of reconciliation, forgiveness, and atonement. More recently, Australia appears to have entered a phase of redoubled neo-liberal con servatism with such emphases much reduced. The four terms of the Liberal-National Coali tion government, 1996 to the present, have been characterized by the hardening of a distinction between symbolic and practical reconciliation, an indigenous identified with rights agenda and the latter the former

Generations."
On May 28, 2000, in CAR's final year, the People's Walk for Reconciliation saw a quar ter of a million people crossing the Sydney Harbor Bridge on foot, following a major public event called Corroboree 2000. CAR produced its final report in December 2002, asserting, "Reconciliation has begun to enter the hearts and minds of the Australian peo ple creating one of the most determined and vibrant people's movements ever seen in the history of the nation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians are in

with socioeconomic improvements, largely


to be delivered by a "mainstreaming" rather than "special" approach. The government an nounced its intention to close down ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Com

mission), the corporatebody of indigenous


affairs, in April 2004. Its personnel has been folded into mainstream departments. ATSIC has been replaced by an indigenous advisory body, a move that marks a return to advi sory status of peak indigenous bodies (Bennett 1989, pp. 37-41; Jones & Hill-Burnett 1982; Weaver 1993).

creasingly working togetherto recognizeand


help heal thewounds of the past and move on together." This reportwas not accepted by the

federal government.
After 2000, Reconciliation Australia be came a nongovernment, not-for-profit foun dation. Sorry Day has become an annual event in some places, commemorating the tabling of the "Bringing Them Home" report by the signing of Sorry Books. Initial declara tions of recognition and thanks to the "tradi

Proposals emanatingfrom the reshaped


federal ministry, which now includes indige

nous affairs(Immigration, Multiculturalism,


and Indigenous Affairs), are that agreements be made between indigenous communities and government and service providers on a ba sis of shared or "mutual" responsibility. This
www.annualreviews.org * IndigenousAustralia 487

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idea is perceived by some as a return to as similationist policies of the past and, by oth ers, as amore meaningful step forward toward practical reconciliation (Altman & Hunter

The kind of historical change that is ob servable in themovements discussed above is not one from the "pre" or "nonpolitical" to the "political." Rather, it is a shift in the terms of

and in the andobjectification, 2003). The government view (apparently understanding of is action and that forms that come about identity policies widely shared) indigenizing in mobilization.Earlier,objectifications aris of the past have failed. The government is from the frustrated and embarrassed about this fail conjuncture ing settler-indigenous
ure and together with the public is newly resolved to be more skeptical about sup tended to be cast in terms of the endogenous

repertoireand life-world(with imaginative


its ritual and other forms of action). In the latermovements, action and aims are increas

porting socialpracticesand culturalconcep


tions divergent from, or in opposition
mainstream.

to, the

inexogenousterms, which,how inglyframed


ever, become at least partly indigenized in the
process.

CONCLUSIONS
This discussion of movements in Australia

has necessarily been selective,concentrating


mainly on better documented ones. In all of them, problematic relations between in digenous and nonindigenous peoples are a principal source of activism. They span geo graphical locations ranging from what may be considered "remote" Australia (from the per spective of settler occupation) to urban ones. Each setting deserves a fuller description of the conditions limiting and stimulating mo the considerable bilization. Notwithstanding differences among them, all the actions dis cussed meet the broad criteria of movement set out above. Distinctions have sometimes been made between ritual-expressive and political mobi lizations, or between "prepolitical" and "po litical" terms of reference of social agitations 1963, p. 2, who de (see, e.g., Hobsbawm fines the "political" as the emergence of a "specific language" inwhich aspirations about the world are expressed; see also discussion of Berndt 1969 above; compare Fields 1985). Here I find such a distinction unhelpful. One reason is that it falsely suggests that move ments inmodem society are devoid of ritual elements. More generally, it ismisleading to categorize social action in such away as to iso late its ritualized or formalized aspects from its political ones, aswell as itsmaterial from immaterial ones. 488 Merlan

Innovation, shifts in forms of action and understanding, may arise from any interac tion that provokes significant relativization

of perspectives. Differences inunderstanding, andrepresentation, which his objectification, torically distinguishedindigenousand non
indigenous actors, can be reduced without

particu removingthe grounds for activism,


larly as long as social difference and inequity

with settlers, remain. Prolonged interaction de with it oppressionand insistent bringing


mand that indigenous behavior and see their lens of understandings tion pressed on them, people modify their situation through the and templates for ac were stimuli to mo

bilization, often galvanizedby nonindige nous people. Prolonged interaction(even if


unequal) leads to a greater sharing of the grounds of social action despite social and af fective distance. Already in the 1860s, occu pants of Coranderrk had come to understand the institutions and importance of contract (Barwick 1998, p. 39). Given prolonged ex posure tomissions, settlement administrators, and other regulatory institutional actors, we find indigenous activists of the 1920s and 1930smobilizing in terms of notions of equal

of their ity,denouncingthe unacceptability


conditions, inways that share ever more with differentiated sectors of wider Australian so ciety. This, in itself, does not erase the dif ference between indigenous and nonindige nous social actors and forms of action. But

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this enculturation involves indigenous recon stitution. Such forms of action reach awider audience and at times permit wider mobi

One of the greatest constraints on indige nous mobilization (which, as we have seen,

lization. They serve to solidify indigeneity


as a distinct identity but inevitably do so in terms that are grounded within a wider

has always involved nonindigenouspersons


and institutions) has been conceptualization in terms of an antinomy of indigenous same ness in relation to a "mainstream" ("as similation") or difference from it ("self

international national-and, increasingly,


public sphere. Such shared terms of refer

sameness and difference seems limiting with respect to an internally diverse minority contrary,they serve to highlight inequali whose "difference" will not be sundered from ties thatpersistin indigenous-nonindigenousbroader questions of justice and openness to relations. different conceptions of the social good. the indigenous and nonindigenous. On the

ence do not presupposeequalitybetween

determination"). Categoricalthinkingabout

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
For comments on drafts of this paper, my thanks go to Jeremy Beckett, Paul Burke, Ravi de
Costa, Les Hiatt, Ian Keen, Tim Rowse, and Alan Rumsey.

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