Under the Aboriginal Lands Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 (ALRA) Aboriginal freehold land has always extended down to the low water mark. In a historic majority decision on 30 July 2008, the High Court of Australia ruled on appeal in the Blue Mud Bay case that, in effect, the ALRA also applies to the column of water above the intertidal zone. This paper contrasts settler Australian and Yolngu ways of conceptualising and giving meaning to the bodies of salt water that settler Australians call ‘seas’ and ‘oceans’. It explores elements of the Yolngu worldview in order to unsettle the foundations of the settler ‘political geographic imaginary’ surrounding concepts such as ‘ocean’ and ‘border’.
The paper appears in Dialogue, the Journal of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, 28 (1): 15-25.
[20 May 2009]
The Blue Mud Bay Case: Refractions through saltwater country [2.7 MB] in Dialogue, the Journal of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.