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Placing Indigenous Rights to Self-Determination in an Ecological Context

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In this paper the author focuses on Australian land management and in particular on the environmental management issues that could have been prompted by the High Court recognition in 1996 (in Wik Peoples v. The State of Queensland) that native title to land and pastoral leaseholdings can co-exist. Drawing on themes of self-determination and co-existence, the paper looks at more specific topics such as aboriginal title to land—what has been called land rights or native title in Australia—and some implications of that for land, sea and resource management. Central to this analysis are competing theories of Aboriginal land management and links between Aboriginal traditional knowledge and conservation of species. These are illustrated through the marine mammal, the dugong. The Australian debates lead to the Canadian debates and then to Scandinavia and the role of the Sami people in protection and management of the Arctic region. Issues of indigenous self determination inevitably provide an overall theme to these discussions. As a matter of global concern, the paper asks, but does not decide, whether indigenous peoples may manage fragile eco-systems more effectively than outsiders. It maintains that what is important in this context is a broader question. This concerns how culturally inclusive land and resource management can emerge from recognition of indigenous land and human rights and how comparative developments can provide crucial cross-jurisdictional information for future developments and opportunities in the interests of environmental conservation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Queensland University of Technology, Australia [email protected]

Publication date: 01 June 2002

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