Sunday, September 30, 2007

Arnhem Land and the permit system

I was researching a new post on Arnhem Land for the Regional Australia blog with the aim of encouraging people to visit. Then I came across the permit system.

I had not focused on this issue before, although I had noted it in the context of the discussion about the NT intervention. I must say that the Arnhem land material made me very uncomfortable.

Look, I may be wrong, but I just don't think that such rigid rules are appropriate in a country like Australia. Have a look and tell me what you think. In the meantime, I think that I will put the post aside.


Lexcen said...

"The most important proof of Aboriginal ownership of land will be the right to exclude from it those people who are not welcome."
One country and two separate cultures. One country and two sets of laws, two groups of people - the white fella and the black fella. I wonder if the aborigines need a permit to leave Arnhem Land?

ninglun said...

I haven't really focused on the issue either; I guess current developments have foregrounded it. I think we must bear in mind the complexity of the issues here: the past not so glorious pattern of Indigenous and Settler relations in the rest of Australia, the quite amazing recency of significant contact in these more remote parts of Australia, often really only starting to bite in the 20th century. I think talk of "one nation" and "two laws" is superficial and highly emotive. Missions in earlier years often imposed their own "permits" in the interests of protecting their clients from the worst kinds of exploitation, for example. There have been cultural, economic and social chasms, not just gaps, to be negotiated. The real question is what solution serves the welfare of all parties best. Yes, this is being re-examined currently. Meanwhile, look at such documents as the history of Gunbalanya and a letter from the Rirratjingu Clan, Yirrkala.

Jim Belshaw said...

What pulled me up, Neil, was the scale of the restrictions.

My impression is that the permit system began, I have not checked my facts, in part as a control/protection system. I think that in the Arnhem land case, it has been in place for a very long time. Now the pendulum has swung because it provides local control.

The problem with the letter you cite is that the permit system goes well beyond the property rights/controls referred to. Even here with existing rights, I get extremely uncomfortable with current developments such as "gated communities".

I accept that the issue is a complicated one. Here I both agree and disagree with Lexcen. Agree in that a dual system makes me uncomfortable,disagree in that i think that the Aborigines and especially those in more recent contract are in fact a special case.

Blowed if I know. I will sit down and properly analyse the restrictions at some point taking Arnhem Land as a case study.

Lexcen said...

Ninglun, is it possible to be sensitive and non-emotional at the same time?

Jim Belshaw said...

I should let Neil answer this. But, butting in, absolutely.In fact, I would argue that in some cases you have to be!

ninglun said...

Good answer, Jim. Perhaps as a teacher one is called on to achieve that rather frequently... (Not always successfullt of course.) Doctors too no doubt.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Neil. Lexcen's question actually goes to the heart of a significant professional issue that is well worth pursuing in a post at some point.