University of Tasmania

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Indigenous self-determination : rhetoric or reality?

posted on 2023-05-26, 05:37 authored by Pedder, CR
This thesis is written with a view to incorporating Aboriginal oral history processes which insist upon beginning at the beginning: at the birth of the concept of self-determination. The thesis then traces the growing of international awareness of human rights beginning with the powerful emergence of notions of the Rights of Man in 1789, pausing briefly to outline the effects of those notions in relation to the European revolutions, moving forward to the effects of self-determination on the world during the two World Wars, touching upon the Versailles Conference (1919) and the impact of the conference on international understanding of self-determination and its potential implementation at that time in history. The thesis then takes an aside into the emergence of an international discourse on the definition of self-determination, including the United Nations attempts to support the growth of self-determination for all peoples and culminating in the end of colonialism and the eventual resulting realisation that Indigenous peoples' also have a right to claim self-determination. A section of the thesis highlights the empowerment of Indigenous peoples to outline their own distinctive self-determination aspirations resulting in the formulation and international acceptance of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The final chapters of the thesis focus on the aspirations of Aboriginal Australians, Australian government responses to those aspirations and the degree of difficulty Australian Aborigines (inclusive of Torres Strait Islanders) face in their respective attempts to maintain sovereignty and self-determination rights in view of government mechanisms which have proven to be consistently racist, xenophobic and dismissive of Aboriginal rights and aspirations. Finally, a brief comparison is made of Indigenous self-determination achievements in Canada, the USA and New Zealand as a means to highlight the unnecessary denial of Aboriginal rights in Australia. Posing the question that if other nations can afford inalienable Indigenous rights it must be asked why Australia consistently fails to achieve similar advances in ensuring the human rights of Australian Aborigines. In effect, this thesis argues that government support of Indigenous self-determination in Australia is largely rhetorical.


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