Aboriginal sovereignty claims: contemporary voices in Australia

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Pelizzon, A 2014, 'Aboriginal sovereignty claims: contemporary voices in Australia', Settler Colonial Studies, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 368-381.

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On 26 January 2012, at the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal tent embassy in Canberra, a number of Aboriginal activists from across Australia re-asserted the uninterrupted continuity of Aboriginal sovereignty in Australia. New tent embassies appeared in various urban centres (such as Brisbane, Perth and Moree) and on 24 May 2012 at Sandon Point a number of activists discussed the establishment of a National Unity Government. This paper will explore both the broader political context within which Aboriginal sovereignty claims are voiced – by looking at the growing number of similar assertions across Australia – and the legal documents and doctrines involved in such claims – such as, for example, the Pacific Islanders’ Protection Acts (1872 and 1875) and the Doctrine of Discovery – and their implications for any hegemonic assertion of sovereignty. A distinctive feature of contemporary claims to Aboriginal sovereignty is the inscription of such claims within arguments fully articulated in the colonial legal language. While this strategy is constitutive and productive of actions that are intrinsically shaped and determined by the colonial event, the strategic choices independently adopted by Aboriginal sovereignty advocates also create intersecting spaces that constitute a creative terrain for a meaningful dialogue about post-colonial identity.

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