Indigenous peoples and reshaping Australian institutions: two perspectives

Author/editor: Pearson, N, Sanders, WG
Year published: 1995
Issue no.: 102


Noel Pearson's 'An Optimist's Vision' sees becoming a Republic as a major opportunity for Australia to move away from its colonial, mono-cultural past. The paper conceives of three population movements in Australian history which raise issues for this process: the original Indigenous occupation; the colonial occupation; and the new post-war movement of immigrants to Australia from diverse backgrounds. The paper examines these movements in relation to the past, the present and the future. The past is regarded as something with which all Australians need to come to terms. It is argued that only in the last couple of decades has a willingness developed to challenge and deconstruct the rosy historical panorama of the colonist. Reconciliation in the present can only be achieved by repudiating colonialism's continued operation and legacy. The challenge for the future is to create a society which respects cultural diversity and achieves national cohesion, while guaranteeing equality. The movement towards a Republic is proposed as a central vehicle for institutional and constitutional renovation. In 'Finding a Path' Will Sanders surveys some of the key institutional changes that have occurred over recent years in relation to Indigenous people. The paper identifies a first wave of institutional reforms in the 1950s and 1960s that set out to break down the colonial legacy that excluded Indigenous people from the mainstream provisions of the Australian state. These reforms were typified by the conferring of equal individual rights. A second wave of reform from the 1970s to the present has focused on group rights and has been more problematic and contested. Issues examined include land rights and native title, self-determination and self-management, the establishment of distinct Indigenous political institutions, reconciliation and proposed constitutional reform. The paper considers international forces in other settler-majority societies that are influencing institutional change in Australia and vice versa. It ends by anticipating some institutional changes that might lie ahead as the processes of internal decolonisation inevitably continue and as Australia approaches the centenary of federation.

ISBN: 0 7315 1776 8

ISSN:1036 1774

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