chapter  50
11 Pages

Indigeneity and citizenship in Australia

ByMaggie Walter

Indigenous 1 Australia is inequitably and differentially positioned from the Euro-Australian majority within contemporary nation-state citizenship. This disparity emerges from two sources. The first is the colonial legacy of the direct denial of citizenship rights. When Cook raised the British Flag at Possession Island in 1770, he did so in disregard of the continent’s peoples. From a social Darwinism perspective, the Aboriginal inhabitants, deemed as being without a sovereign or system of land tenure (distinguishable to British eyes), were determined not to have progressed to a recognizable level of civilization (Moreton-Robinson 2009 ). Therefore, the country was legislatively unowned ( terra nullius ). Belief in a naturally occurring racial hierarchy meant that the social, political, and civil marginalization of Australian Aboriginal peoples in the new colonies was deemed the natural outcome of the evolutionary racial order. Until it was overturned in 1993, the legal fiction of terra nullius supported, despite the protracted violent interaction between Aborigines and settler colonists, the Euro-Australian myth that the continent was settled, not invaded, and Aboriginal peoples included, not dispossessed.