Self Determination of Indigenous Australians

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“Self determination is a principle of International Law and it must be the basis of social and political organisation” (Mazel, 2009, 150). This is an important principle in the acknowledging of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' rights. Self determination allows Indigenous peoples to independently determine their political status and gives them the freedom to economically, socially and culturally develop as according to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Maguire, 2009, 2). Acknowledging this fundamental right is essential for Indigenous Australians to be able to preserve their culture, dignity and independence. Therefore, political, social, cultural and economical independence and freedom need to be granted to the Indigenous peoples.

Arguably, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) was politically a step forward for Indigenous self determination and autonomy. ATSIC was established in 1990 and allowed Indigenous Australians, via a number of councils, to effectively govern themselves. This gave them the opportunity to take care of their own land, education, economic development, laws and justice and a number of other issues. “Aboriginals must be recognised for what they are, a peoples in their own right with their own culture, history and values” (Djerrkura and Herron, 1999). Since ATSIC was abolished, the Indigenous peoples have even less political representation and their infrastructure has worsened.

To maintain the traditions and culture of the Indigenous Australians, they need to be able to have the strong connection to the land that is such an integral part of who they are as a people. The Aboriginal Land Rights legislation is a positive step forwards in this way. Also, socially there needs to be more recognition in the white Australian community of the damage that was done in past generations and there needs to be more respect for the land's original owners. As more responsibility is...
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