The quest for land rights for Indigenous people in Australia, the Torres Strait and around the world form ongoing and complex campaigns, unique to each situation. From Palestinian farmer’s wishing to harvest their olive groves on the other side of Israel’s wall, to Ethiopian farmland being bought up by multinational corporations, from West Papua’s quest for independence to local native title claims across Australia, the circumstances are complicated but all echo a similar sentiment. According to the ReconciliACTION Network:
“Land was and is central to Indigenous societies, cultures and religions. This land and its environment was managed, nurtured, protected and respected by Aboriginal people in a cyclical process of birth, death and renewal that is central to much of Aboriginal philosophy. For Aboriginal Australians the land is the core of all spirituality, identity and purpose. This relationship is central to all issues that are important to Aboriginal people today. Aboriginal people are part of this land and always will be.”
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms the rights of Indigenous people’s ownership and use of their land and we seek to stand with Indigenous people around the world in their quest for fair and equitable land use and sovereignty.
This is an environmental issue as well. Considering how traditional societies have maintained a much greater balance of land yield and land care compared to modern industrial society, there is much to learn from indigenous people. Given our rapidly declining rate of biodiversity, continuing land clearing practices and polluting industries, the need to retain the remaining tracts of natural landscape and restore the degraded areas is urgent and best integrated with the custodianship of traditional land-owners.
An inspiring example of this is in the South West of Western Australia with the Gondwana Link project which is seeking to restore a continuous band of native vegetation across the south coast. Working with local Aboriginal people has meant reconnection to traditional lands for some groups as well as a source of income from carbon offsetting programs (this is likely to expand under the federal government’s new carbon pricing mechanism). This is one example of many positive possibilities available in the realm of restoring aboriginal land use practices.