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Handy search techniques

Windows based systems – desk tops / laptops:

This site’s in-built search utility (the green magnifier symbol found on the top RH corner of the graphics area) only searches for whole pages, within this site, which relate to the search term, but does not directly locate the specific subject matter. To locate the specific information use the traditional windows search command as follows:

  1. Having navigated to the relevant page (e.g. Australian Politics and Government) position the cursor over the graphics area and click the left mouse button. This places focus on the page.
  2. Press the ‘F’ key while holding down the ‘Ctrl’ key – this is the standard Windows text ‘Find’ command which causes a search input field to appear on, or below, the ribbon at the top of the screen.
  3. Type your search term (for e.g. ‘preferential’) in the search field which has opened at the top. As you type the word or phrase, the interactive search begins highlighting the relevant results as they are found throughout the page. You can try it now, as you read this page. Search for the word ‘preferential’ and you will see the ensuing results as you type. Ultimately the total of the instances found is shown to the right of the search field. You can use the up and down arrows, adjacent to this result, to cycle up or down through the instances found.

Searching web pages on Digital Devices – iPads, etc

With IOS based devices the search is invoked differently:

  1. From within the (Safari) browser, locate the page required for the search (e.g. Australian Politics and Government).
  2. Type the required search term (using the same e.g. – preferential) in the URL locator field at the top of the browser page. This will cause a ‘results’ window to drop down as you type. The top section of this drop down window is populated by the search engine results from across the web. Beneath these results there is a section headed ‘On This Page’. This section returns the result for the current web page. In our example (Australian Politics & Government page) it shows –  On This Page       Find “preferential”     44 matches
  3. Tap on the highlighted ‘On This Page’ text
  4. The system jumps to ‘1 of 44 matches’
  5. Use the left or right arrows at the bottom of the screen to scroll through to the next result


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Site Map


Rock Art gallery

I have created a new page for Indigenous Art. This is a place where I hope to create a gallery of Rock Art as I encounter and record some of its images, and also, perhaps, some exciting contemporary artwork, even as it is created. I am ‘opening the gallery’ with some of my photographs from Arnhem Land.

Click here to access: Australian Indigenous Art

Click here to access: paintings and stories from the Western Desert

Click here to access: images from the Tanami Desert

Click here to access: images of Yuendumu, home of the Warlukurlangu Artists

The Australian Archaeological Association response to the WA Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014

I have posted the response by the AAA to the proposed WA amendment act. The Association has some very serious concerns for what, in my opinion, are very good reasons. I’d be most interested in your opinion, too. Please comment.

AAA Response to WA Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014Posted: 11 Sep 2014 12:52 AM PDTThe AAA response to the WA Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014 is copied below for the information of AAA members. Alternatively you can download the entire statement as a pdf via the following link: AAA Response.

Re: Response by the Australian Archaeological Association to the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014

Thank you for providing an opportunity to offer feedback on the proposed legislative changes to the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.

The Australian Archaeological Association represents over 1,000 Members

The Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) is the largest archaeological organisation in Australia, representing a diverse membership of professionals, academics, students, Indigenous stakeholders and others with an interest in archaeology and heritage management. AAA has over 1,000 Members many of whom serve as heritage policy makers, consultants, researchers and educators across the nation. Some of our members also serve as international experts to UNESCO, ICOMOS, WIPO and the World Bank. Consequently the AAA believes it has both the breadth of expertise and mandate to comment on substantive issues associated with the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 and the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014.

Summary Response of the Australian Archaeological Association

The Australian Archaeological Association notes that the Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014 has been drafted in response to the perceived need to improve heritage management in WA, including:

1) enhanced electronic Register with improved tracking of decisions;
2) increased provisions for prosecutions and penalties for breaches of the Act; and
3) prescribed processes aimed towards greater certainty and transparency.

The AAA believes that the import of the substantive changes to the Act will not become clear until the regulations that will inform how the changes are implemented are drafted. We request that when these regulations are drafted they are released for review. Members of the AAA Executive have been assured by both Dr John Avery (external consultant to the WA Government) and senior staff of DAA (e.g. Dr Kathryn Przywolnik) that the amendments are unlikely to reduce existing site protection or management regimes. There have been assurances that the role of heritage professionals will continue. This appears to be contrary to recent statements made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

Significant concerns of the AAA Membership include:

1) the basis on which the CEO/Officers of the Department would determine the values and significance of sites when issuing Site Impact Avoidance certificates (i.e. what are the specific triggers and threshold for determining “significance to the State”?);

2) the pejorative casting of heritage professionals as ‘intermediaries’ by the Minister in the heritage evaluation process and the apparent wish to remove the skills of those professionals;

3) the lack of review/appeal to decisions made by the DAA by Stakeholders who are not proponents; and

4) the diminution of the normal precautionary principle that lands designated for future use would receive at least summary surveys, the recording of places, not to mention assessments of stratified sites and likely social significance.

The AAA argues that most major land users and managers in Western Australia have invested heavily in Cultural Heritage Management Systems that have overall worked well; which have responded to the post-native title arena; and which are benchmarked and audited regularly as part of their compliance frameworks. There are heritage performance indicators which are regularly reported on to boards, shareholders and the broader community. The AAA believes significant Indigenous capacity-building investments have made by these parties and is curious as to why ‘a framework of risk’ would now be introduced in the assessment of Aboriginal sites. Contrary to the view that heritage practitioners are intermediaries, the majority of our members are engaged in numerous initiatives that benefit both Aboriginal communities, developers and the people of Western Australia; and have a deep and long-abiding commitment to both the protection of Aboriginal heritage and the welfare of the State.

The overwhelming concern of our membership in Western Australia is that the administration of the Act has been opaque in effect and that this might not improve with future amendments.

The AAA has been provided with documentation that shows that assessments over the last two years of both s18 and s16 applications by the DAA appear to be inconsistently determined and have acted to diminish both the significance and effect of the protection of Aboriginal sites. It is inevitable that the proposed changes to the Act are viewed as a strategy to cut regulatory red-tape and reduce land-use costs rather than the protection of sites or the documentation of places that will be destroyed by development.

The AAA is concerned that the major investment its members have made to work effectively with proponents and also ethically with Indigenous communities, councils and corporations is undermined by these changes to the administration of the Act. There is the very real possibility that this capacity and knowledge will be lost. This could come at a real cost to timely heritage evaluations and effective management and result in increased risk and uncertainty to land-users.

Some serious omissions to the Amendments that the AAA would like to see addressed include:

1) A clearer set of provisions for the s16 process – which provides the authority for researchers to carry out strategic research and always in some kind of collaboration with community. This is not just a permit to carry out research but actually the provision of the Act to allow the strategic identification and authentication of sites by archaeologists at the regional and national level. Without the multi-year recording, dating and analysis programs carried out by researchers, in collaboration with Traditional Owners and custodians, most of the wider frameworks for assessing archaeological site significance in WA would not now exist.

2) Inclusion of provisions for dealing with site complexes and landscapes. While the site-based approach may have a certain appeal in some situations – it does not allow for mapping and registration of large contiguous landscapes; the assessment of cumulative impacts; nor provide for the effective management of significant complexes such as rock art galleries and ethnographic nodes; and

3) The phenomena of potential archaeological deposits (PADs). Many significant archaeological features do not present themselves on modern surfaces. In both rockshelters and open contexts much/all of a unique regional record may be in a buried context – and require sub-surface testing as is done routinely throughout Australia and internationally. The omission of this category in the AHA and Aboriginal Heritage Amendment Bill 2014 means it is out of line with other Australian heritage instruments and hampers the rational and scientific assessment of significance values.

Specific submissions of the Australian Archaeological Association

1) Section 5 of the AHA is being interpreted in new ways by the DAA. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has reportedii that between January 2011 and June 2013 there was a change in the proportion of places assessed by the ACMC to be sites from 80% to 23% (Figure 1). The AAA believes this major change has occurred due to new guidelines being applied to s5 of the Act. Seven threshold criteria are noted on the DAA website under s5a with ‘critical’ site descriptors including: intactness, temporal context, complexity or diversity, relationship between objects and the place, rarity and uniqueness, context to other places, contribution to research. These criteria would appear to derive from other instruments such as the Burra Charter. Their accurate assessment both in Australia and internationally has relied on the technical expertise of heritage practitioners and submissions from Traditional Owners/custodians and their counsel.

The AAA is particularly concerned that the proposed provisions for assessing significance, or conversely the lack of sites, by the CEO should require a level of knowledge of the cultural assets of a property which can only be known through regional assessment of sites and skilled technical evaluations. To proceed without this data is to risk both the status of heritage sites, which may be unrecorded or buried, and the presumed certainty of the resulting compliance for proponents.

The evaluation role of the ACMC has been effectively removed and there is no longer a provision for a heritage professional to sit on this committee. Therefore, site significance will be largely moderated by the DAA. Given that most of the cultural assets of WA have not yet been systematically mapped (including the most prominent regions with a history of industry use – such as the rock art of Burrup or Murujuga), the risk that evaluation of site significance cannot be benchmarked at the regional, let alone State level, is profound. The AAA believes that the DAA is not adequately resourced to deal with the scale of these complex benchmarking exercises. A simple comparison in the biodiversity realm would be the agreed need for proponents to seek advice on their impacts on rare and endangered species on a property. The difference, however, is that heritage sites are finite and non-renewable.

2) The AAA believes the government is missing an opportunity to better define ‘significance’ or offer better definitions of sites under section 5. The published criteria, noted on the DAA website, do not provide a transparent framework for heritage parties as these are heritage principles and not assessable criteria under the AHA.

3) The AAA notes the move towards increased transparency in the form of a register of decisions. The rationale for site assessment and significance assessments, however, will not be logged. These details are required if heritage professionals and stakeholders/proponents are to understand and comply with the new regulations. Proponents may also wish to revisit earlier assessments for acquired projects.

4) The AAA notes over 1000 cases where the ACMC has determined that sites are eligible under the AHA, but have then been the subject of a successful section 18 application. They have now been moved by the DAA from the Register of Aboriginal Sites to the Other Heritage Places list and labelled Stored/Not A Site. The DAA define the Stored/Not A Site category as “the place has been assessed as not meeting Section 5 of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972”. This is clearly incorrect and is misleading. These places should remain on the Register of Aboriginal Sites with an additional category added to accommodate sites/places that have been impacted.

5) Another serious omission in relation to the due process of decision making is the absence of a statutory right of review for heritage professionals or Aboriginal persons. While Section 19D(2) provides for review of decisions by the State Administrative Tribunal, this should be expanded to “Any person, including any Aboriginal person, whose rights or interests may be affected by a decision under subsection (1)”.

6) The AAA has concern over the function of Other Heritage Places (OHP) and future Heritage Information Submissions (HIS) of the Register. Under the Public Records Act and the newly drafted s50 and s68, this site information should be made available. It is crucial that DAA maintains proper records of all assessments and that the rationale for assessments is clear and acceptable to experts and non-experts.

7) Section 50B(3) ought to be amended to oblige the CEO, when deciding whether a place or object is one to which the AHA applies or whether it should be added to or deleted from the Register, to consult with and obtain and accord primacy to the views of the relevant person(s) of Aboriginal descent or Aboriginal community.

8) The DAA has concerns regarding inefficient practices and market failure and has drafted the Amendment Bill to include the ability for the DAA to charge for the completion of preservation, restoration, and conservation of Aboriginal heritage. The AAA would suggest that this is not an efficient use of DAA resources and that they should consider an accreditation process (such as that used by Heritage Victoria) for heritage professionals as part of best practice and the raising of standards of work.

9) To aid in transparency Parts IV and VIIA should be amended to include a provision for the publication of reasons for any decision made under those Parts relating to authorisations, declarations and permits and the registration of the same.

10) Permits should have expiry dates without the possibility for permits to be passed on and held active after expiry indefinitely – s182a, s19A3 and 4, s19C4 and 5. The significance of archaeological sites (and other heritage places, or stretches of landscape once thought to be void of sites) may change over time with new research, destruction of other examples, landscape erosion and fires. Rock art galleries may only be adequately recorded as new image enhancement software and recording tools become available. Permits cannot pre-empt new technologies, knowledge states or future acts.

11) There is no stipulation as to where the ‘historical record’ of deleted information will be stored or how it can be accessed – s50E4.

12) Previously all sites were protected whether they were registered or not. Under s7A a dichotomy now appears in that ‘a person, court or tribunal’ may have need to consider whether a place or object is a site and yet in effect the CEO can only make that determination. In practice ad hoc decisions will be made in the field as to whether something is a ‘site’ (under the Act) or an ‘other heritage place’ (undefined).

Concluding Statement

The AAA believes that the diversity of land tenure and heritage management regimes that have developed in WA, as well as the diversity of heritage sites in this State, requires flexibility, extensive knowledge and understanding by heritage professionals which cannot be fulfilled by a limited number of Departmental Officers in the DAA. The intent to streamline process is admirable, but the likely volume of assessment work required will be more than can be handled in house. Similar initiatives in other jurisdictions, (such as the Part 3A process in NSW) have not succeeded and have been abandoned. ‘One-stop-shops’ appear attractive but they do not provide legal certainty as the substantive issues requiring detailed site documentation and significance assessment still exist.

The AAA encourages the State to work closely with heritage professionals, Indigenous parties, land-users and land-managers. These groups have invested in long-term cultural heritage management systems that have demonstrably resulted in better compliance and reduced risk throughout the State.

Yours Sincerely
Fiona Hook
President, Australian Archaeological Association

Australian Politics and Government

I have created a new page on Australian Politics and Government which also provides access to to the Australian Commonwealth Constitution Act, and Quick and Garran’s Commentaries on the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia (from the University of Sydney library). It includes my comprehensive notes on Dr. Nick Economou‘s illuminating Monash lectures on Australian Politics.

This page has a fully inter-active table of contents, and is fully searchable from within by using the usual ‘Control F’ find function. This is particularly useful when searching for all instances of an idea (such as ‘separation of powers’ for example). Check it out: from anywhere within the Australian Politics and Government page, press the ‘Ctrl’ + ‘F’ keys and then type “separation”

Click here to access Australian Politics & Government

Freud and Jung and their attitude to myth and religion

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) are undoubtedly regarded as founding giants in the development of the theory and practice of psycho-analysis. A complex and dynamic association with mythology and religion underlies the extraordinary and ground-breaking work of both men. Their attitude to these systems, and the reciprocal attitude of religious institutions to their work, may well be viewed as a fascinating synopsis of the competing differences in their individual natures. Complex and intriguing, contrasting the linguistic with the visual and the empirical with the abstract, and undergoing constant reassessment throughout their fascinating lives, their fluid, and often contrary, interpretations and applications of these systems are inextricably bound to the shifting attitude to, and apprehension of, each for the other.

As the founding father of psycho-analysis at a time when science had relatively recently come to be regarded with a certain sense of reverence, Freud was a purist in his belief in, and adherence to, scientific principles. He was strongly opposed to anything that, in his perception, might detract from the integrity of man’s pursuit of truth[1], the ultimate goal of which was a profound knowledge of himself. His declared opposition to the idea of religions based in ‘faith’, rather than fact, and on humanity’s unconscious desires, rather than empirical and objective observations, was, perhaps, at the root of his reputation as a noted atheist. Jung, however, took a different view. Initially a follower of Freud, he took a divergent trajectory when he went on to develop his own theories based on the premise of humanity’s fundamental connection through a universal mythos, a concept that he called the collective unconscious. Carl Gustave was strongly inclined toward the spiritual and ethereal expression of religion and religious mythology.

Many of Freud’s underlying ideas draw on classical Greek mythology. In 1899, he introduced the concept of the Oedipus complex in his major work, Die Traumdeutung (Freud, The interpretation of dreams 1976). In the Oedipus complex, Freud posits the idea of the child’s repressed desire for the parent of the opposite sex, with a corresponding sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex. The name is derived from the Theban hero, Oedipus, of the ancient race of Cadmus. In the tradition represented by Sophocles, Oedipus unwittingly slays his father and marries his mother (Grimal 1991). Although traditionally a male phenomenon, Freud extends the concept to encompass the female variation. The latter variation is sometimes described as the Electra complex. In Freud’s theory, the Oedipal Phase is the third of the three early phases of sexual development, following the oral and the anal.

For Freud, the story of Oedipus encapsulates the most basic law of Western civilised society – that of the taboo of incest. He deals with the significance and evolution of this taboo in his seminal text,  Totem and Taboo, the preliminary chapter of which is entitled ‘The Horror of Incest’ (Freud 2001). Although deeply flawed by his anachronistic and often ill-informed reading of the culture of the Australian Aborigines[2], the aspects, in this chapter, relevant to his basic thesis were sound – the Aboriginal ‘totem’ clans did indeed exercise a strict control over persons of the same totem having sexual relations with one another, responding to transgressions with the most severe of punishments. Corresponding expressions of such laws are ubiquitous in the teachings of world religions.

Freud makes further use of Greek mythological allusion in the expansion of his Oedipus complex when considering the aspect which he refers to as the castration complex. In describing male children’s fear of being devoured by, and “fear of being robbed of their sexual organ by their father” (Freud, The Essentials of Psycho-Analysis 2005, p. 31) he recalls the image of the Titan god, Kronos, who had swallowed his children, emasculated his father, Uranus, and was, in his turn, emasculated by his son, the Olympian god, Zeus. In association with the castration complex, Freud attributes to girls a feeling of inferiority due to their deeply felt lack of the male organ, which he refers to as ‘envy for the penis’ (Freud 2005, p. 32). Perhaps we can also view castration, in this context, as metaphoric for the deprivation of the child’s exclusive relationship with the mother, the loss of the symbiotic relationship between mother and child; a relationship also found as fundamental to the tradition of Christian religions.

Considering these aspects of the early sexuality of children, Freud approaches an interesting point of accord with Jung’s later development of the principle of the collective unconscious when he proposes the view that the same archaic factors generally dominant in the primaeval days of human civilisation might be detected in the mental life of modern day children. “In his mental development the child would be repeating the history of his race in abbreviated form” (Freud 2005, p. 31)

Freud also devoted considerable time in directly addressing that which he saw as problematic in religion. R. Z. Friedman[3] describes Freud’s last book on the subject, Moses and Monotheism, as also being his most controversial. Friedman sees it as a critique of traditional Judaism, a defence of modern humanistic Judaism, and “a bitter critique of Christianity”. Friedman thought that the book also revealed “a dogmatic Freud defending a critique of religion that is intellectually flawed and politically misdirected  (Friedman 1998, p. 135)”.

Curiously, Seward Hiltner[4] takes an entirely different approach to that of Friedman. He questions the popular image of Freud as atheist by expounding on what he described as important coordinate points between religion and Freud’s philosophy. He considers that any philosophy or theology of relevance to man’s insight of himself and his universe should incorporate Freud’s basic beliefs  (Hiltner 1956, p. 9). Although conceding their many differences, Hiltner sees both religion and psycho-analysis as therapeutic processes, intended to help or to heal. He counters Freud’s criticism of religion as an institution founded on ‘an illusion of pseudo-knowledge’, for its belief that it possessed a ‘cosmic insurance policy’, and for its guidance on human behaviour based on authoritarian ethics rather than empirical observation, by emphasizing the amount of attention which he had paid to it (Hiltner 1956, p. 12). The implication is that such extensive consideration was indicative of Freud’s appreciation of its power and its efficacy in striving for similar goals to his own.

In agreement with Hiltner, we find Paul C. Vitz[5], who introduces his book on Sigmund Freud’s Christian Unconscious by describing it as an “essay on Sigmund Freud’s little known, life-long, deep involvement with religion, primarily Christianity and in particular Roman Catholicism”. Like Hiltner, Vitz acknowledges the conflict between psychology and religion, and Freud’s image as an enemy of religion: “Freud is commonly viewed as a secularized Jew who accepted his Jewish ethnic identity but rejected all things religious, including and especially Christianity; he is seen as a pessimistic free-thinker, an unrepentant atheist, a scientist-humanist, a sceptical realist” (Vitz 1988, p. 1). However, in this biography, Vitz undertakes his own analysis of Freud in an attempt show how his anti-religious beliefs should be considered in light of his own unconscious needs and traumatic childhood experiences. Vitz considers Freud’s thesis “that the psychological needs served by religious beliefs make such beliefs no longer believable” to be a double-edged sword that cuts more deeply into the roots of atheism than those of religion (Vitz 1988, p. 221). He points out that at no time did Freud use psycho-analysis to prove that anyone’s belief in God was a consequence of neurotic childhood experience. On the other hand, Vitz presents detailed clinical evidence to show that rejection of God can be a consequence of unconscious neurotic needs. By using standard Freudian concepts, he interprets Freud’s atheism as “involving derealisation, repression, projection, and fixation”, and concludes that “the interpretation of atheism as unconscious Oedipal wish-fulfilment is one that comes from the very centre of Freudian theory” (Vitz 1988, p. 221)

While Freud draws from the Oedipus myth in Interpretation of Dreams, Robert A. Segal[6] tells us that the task of pioneering the psychoanalytic interpretation of myth was left largely in the hands of followers such as Karl Abraham, Otto Rank, and Géza Róheim. Carl Jung, however, embarked on his own pioneering journey in which his work abounds with the invocations of global mythology (Walker 1995, Editor’s foreword). He saw myth functioning as a means of bringing to consciousness previously withheld aspects of societal and individual personality, thereby promoting balance or wholeness.

The concept of image is fundamental to the Jungian approach to mythology. Where Freudian, Lacanian, and other psychologies emphasise the interpretation of the language of the unconscious, Jungian psychology differentiates itself by emphasising the image over the word. Urtümliches Bild (“primordial image”) was the term initially used by Jung in describing what he eventually called an archetype of the collective unconscious (Walker 1995, p. 3). The archetypal motifs, or elements, of mythology are taken from this vast library of archetypal images. When these motifs are linked in a sequence, whether it be visual, dramatic, musical, or verbal, they combine to form a myth.

According to Steven Walker[7], “C. G. Jung was never more insightful and intriguing and at the same time more baffling and outrageous than when he discussed mythology” (Walker 1995, introduction). Jung, however, lacked the polemicist’s touch of Freud, so that the casual reader might find much of his writing more difficult to grasp. Even so, Walker reminds us of Jung’s poetic nature, his disdain for ‘rational scientific language’, and his preference for a dramatic, mythological approach. Jung, he says, operates as a mythological thinker, demonstrating not only empathy with an archaic, mythological world view, but also an ability to operate within it, adopting it as his own. Walker attributes this empathy in part to a fatalistic streak in Jung’s character. Having experienced two world wars, the Holocaust, and the advent of nuclear weapons, an understandably pessimistic Jung saw modern man as “being operated and manoeuvred by archetypal forces instead of his ‘free will’ … He should learn,” wrote Jung, “that he is not master in his own house and that he should carefully study the other side of his psychic world which seems to be the true ruler of his fate.” (Walker 1995, p. 17)

The “other side” was informed by that which Jung had described as the collective unconscious. In the study of its archetypes, he found mythology invaluable, referring to it as “the textbook of archetypes”. He thought of mythology as representing the unconscious psyche in pictures, as a storybook rather than a rationally elucidated explanation. He considered this the more faithful representation of the “living processes of the psyche” (Walker 1995, p. 17). Jung wrote that:

Myth is the primordial language natural to these psychic processes, and no intellectual formulation comes anywhere near the richness and expressiveness of mythological imagery. Such processes are concerned with the primordial images [Urbilder = archetypes], and these are best and most succinctly reproduced by figurative language. (C. G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy 1968)

The corollary of Jung’s partiality for visual imagery is his fascination with symbols. This fascination is evident throughout the corpus of his work. In his article on Individual Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy (C. G. Jung 1976, pp. 323-455)  he considers symbols, and particularly what he calls ‘mandala symbolism’, in the context of dream interpretation, and in the context of his understanding of alchemy. Jung was struck by the similarity of dream images described by schizophrenic patients, ancient myths, and images he had discovered in journals of mediaeval alchemists. Some of these journals were rife with mysterious drawings of mystical symbols and fantastic creatures. Jung’s affinity for these colourful creations becomes evident with an examination of his own illuminated manuscript to which he gave the title Liber Novus (New Book), and which became known, and was ultimately published, as The Red Book[8]. Jung perceived alchemy as a symbolic, spiritual exercise. For him the alchemists’ search for the means of transformation of base metals, such as lead, into the purity of gold, was a metaphor for the human struggle to transform basic existence into complete spiritual harmony, graphically represented by the symbol of the mandala. For him this symbology, although essentially religious, was not constrained to the specific Eastern religions, from where it derived, but was universal and ubiquitous.

In his book Jung on Mythology[9], Robert Segal observes that Jung, like Freud, takes dreams as the analogue to myths. Jung saw both myths and dreams as emerging from the collective unconscious and acting as a prompt for one to pay heed to it. However, he saw dreams as differing from myths in that many dreams originate in the personal unconscious, where all myths are derived from the collective unconscious. Even though their meaning may be unconscious, myths are in part consciously created, whereas dreams are unconsciously created. Despite the possible repetition of their contents, dreams are private, whereas myths are public, although personal myths may also occur (Segal, Jung on Mythology 1998, p. 101).

As an underlying premise of his thesis, Jung was particularly concerned with accounting for the similarity between myths. Segal outlines the two possible explanations: diffusion and independent invention. With diffusion, myths spread from one society to another, whereas with independent invention each society invents its own. The main argument of the ‘diffusionists’ is that the similarities are too striking for them to have originated independently. The main argument for the ‘independent inventionists’ is that they are too far flung geographically to have originated from a single source (Segal 1998, p. 13). Jung falls firmly into the latter category, believing that there is no evidence, or possibility, of contact among all societies with myths in common. He frequently cites the case of the ‘solar phallus as origin of the wind’ in support of this (C. G. Jung 1976, pp. 36-37). Interestingly, a recent article on Aboriginal rock art in an Australian newspaper provides more local and contemporary support: Journalist Greg Pemberton reports that “policeman W. A. Miles asked in an article published in 1854 “How did the natives of Australia become acquainted with the demigods and demons and with the superstition of the ancient races?””, and adds that “in 1892 Kimberley pastoralist Joseph Bradshaw said: “One might almost think oneself viewing the painted walls of an ancient Egyptian temple”” (Pemberton 2011).

Jung believed that, traditionally, myth and religion were complementary. On one hand, myth is preserved in religion (he saw Christianity as interpreting and assimilating many pre-Christian myths), on the other, religion is sustained by myth  (Segal 1998, p. 35). Rather than seeing science as directly opposed to the Bible, he considered it as providing impetus for reconsidering the way in which it should be interpreted. In his eyes, the Bible’s true meaning was not literal but psychological. He saw true inspiration for Christians in Jesus the symbol, rather than Jesus the man. Jesus was symbolic of various archetypes such as those of the god, the god/man, and the saviour (Segal 1998, p. 215).

Although Freud and Jung shared common ground in their view of the importance of the function of myth as symbolic representation, they disagreed on its origin and interpretation. Where Freud often recognised the expression of an individual’s repressed sexual wishes, usually stemming from childhood, Jung was likely to see evidence of pre-existent forms emanating from a collective psychic system which is not developed individually but is inherited[10].

Regardless of their differences, the work of both these remarkable individuals consistently drew from, and was inextricably entwined with, both myth and religion. In turn, the passage of time has shown the profound influence that each has had, not only on the theory and practise of psycho-analysis, but on modern day religious thinking.



Beardsworth, Sara. “Freud’s Oedipus and Kristeva’s Narcissus: Three Heterogeneities.” Hypatia vol. 20, no. 1 (2005): pp. 54-77.

Freud, Sigmund. “Obsessive Acts and Religious Practises.” In Collected Papers, II. London: Hogarth, 1924.

—. The Essentials of Psycho-Analysis. Edited by Anna Freud. Translated by James Strachey. London: Vintage Books, 2005.

—. The future of an illusion. Edited by James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 1962.

—. The interpretation of dreams. Translated by James Strachey, Alan Tyson and Angela Richards. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976.

—. Totem and Taboo. Translated by James Strachey. London: Routledge, 2001.

Friedman, R. Z. “Freud’s religion: Oedipus and Moses.” Religious Studies (Cambridge University Press) vol. 34, no. 2 (1998): pp. 135-149.

Grimal, Pierre. The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology. Edited by Stephen Kershaw. Translated by A. R. Maxwell-Hyslop. London: Penguin Books, 1991.

Heydt, V. von der. “Jung and Religion.” Journal of Analytical Psychology, 1977: 175-183.

Hiltner, Seward. “Freud, psychoanalysis, and religion.” Journal Pastoral Psychology Vol. 7, no. 8 (1956): pp. 9-21.

Jaffe, Aniela. Was Jung a Mystic? and Other Essays. Translated by Diana Dachler and Fiona Cairns. Einseideln, Switzerland: Daimon Verlag, 1989.

Jung, C. G. “Jung vis-a-vis Freud on Myth.” Chap. 1 in Jung on Mythology, edited by Robert A Segal, pp. 49-60. London: Routledge, 1998.

—. Psychology and Alchemy. Translated by R. F. C. Hull. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1968.

—. The Red Book – Liber Novus. New York: The Philemon Foundation and W. W. Norton & Co., 2009.

Jung, Carl Gustav. The Portable Jung. Edited by Joseph Campbell. Translated by R.F.C. Hull. New York: Penguin, 1976.

Pemberton, Gregory. “Painting the big picture.” The Weekend Australian, 14-15 May 2011: ‘Inquirer’ p. 8.

Segal, Robert A. “Introduction.” In Jung on Mythology, by C.G. Jung, edited by Robert A Segal. London: Routledge, 1998.

Segal, Robert A. “Jung as psychologist of religion and Jung as philosopher of religion.” Journal of Analytical Psychology (Blackwell Publishing) Vol 55, no. 3 (2010): pp. 361-384.

—. Jung on Mythology. London: Routledge, 1998.

Vitz, Paul C. Sigmund Freud’s Christian Unconscious. New York: The Guildford Press, 1988.

Walker, Steven F. Jung and the Jungians on Myth. New York: Garland Publishing, 1995.

[1] ““Freud was always a fighter. About his own work he thought very modestly indeed. Once he wrote, ‘I am no more than a scientific investigator who by a remarkable concurrence of circumstance have succeeded in making a discovery of particular importance. My own merit in this success is limited to the unfolding of otherwise not frequently practiced characteristics, such as independent thought and love of truth…’” From the address on “Reflections on Freud’s One Hundredth Birthday” by Dr. Felix Deutch, an intimate friend of Sigmund Freud, given at the 1956 Annual Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.” (Hiltner 1956)

[2] In describing the Australian Aborigines, Freud makes numerous observations, many of which are factually incorrect, and some of which are abhorrent in today’s more enlightened era. He portrays Aborigines as “the most backward and miserable of savages”, stating that “we should not expect that the sexual life of these poor, naked cannibals would be moral in our sense or that their sexual instincts would be subjected to any great degree of restriction”. He writes “it is highly doubtful whether any religion, in the shape of higher beings, can be attributed to them” (Freud, Totem and Taboo 2001, pp. 1-5). These patronising and offensive observations have been shown to be patently incorrect, driven as they were by the Eurocentric and colonial attitudes of the time. Today’s anthropologists and ethnologists, and most certainly today’s Aborigines, strongly reject such notions. Even a fiercely independent and free thinker, such as Freud, was capable of influence by some of the less salubrious notions prevalent in his day. This is also evident in some aspects of his writing regarding the role of women in his society.

[3] Zev Friedman is Emeritus Professor at the University of Toronto. His research interests include the philosophy of religion and moral philosophy.

[4] Seward Hiltner is Professor of Pastoral Theology at the Federated Theological Faculty of the University of Chicago

[5] Paul Vitz is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at New York University.

[6] Professor Robert Segal is the Chair in Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen.

[7] Steven F. Walker is Professor in Comparative Literature at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

[8] The manuscript for The Red Book was written in calligraphic text and illustrated by hand. Jung created it using a technique which he called active imagination. It contains mythic and dream-like imagery which Jung considered products of the collective unconscious rather than of his own experience (C. G. Jung 2009).

[9] Jung on Mythology is a rich source of both primary and secondary reference material. A comprehensive selection of key readings on mythology by Jung, it is edited and introduced by Robert Segal, Reader in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Lancaster. Segal, who has written and researched extensively on mythology, provides perspicacious thematic insights at the beginning of each chapter.

[10] Jung provides a specific and detailed example of this difference of interpretation in his account of Freud’s discussion of da Vinci’s painting, ‘St. Anne with the Virgin Mary and Christ-child (C. G. Jung 1976, pp. 62-65).

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Terra Nullius

On the 18th January1788, when Captain Arthur Phillip stepped off HMS Supply and on to the beach at Botany Bay, he took the first physical step in the application of the doctrine of terra nullius in Australia. The pernicious application of that notion was instrumental in usurping the land of the Indigenous owners of this vast country, while simultaneously attempting to assuage the legal, ethical, and moral conscience of its British invaders. For more than two centuries since, a series of Commonwealth governments have done little to redress this shameful injustice; some have attempted to set the ground work for limited reparation, albeit mostly symbolic, while others have deliberately and methodically obstructed such attempts.

The seeds of this fallacious interpretation of terra nullius had been sewn by botanist Joseph Banks in a report which he made to the British Society when, in 1771, he returned from a ‘scientific expedition’ to the south Pacific Ocean aboard HM Bark Endeavour, captained by James Cook (Banner 2005, p. 99). Subsequently, in 1779, while providing evidence before a House of Commons committee, Banks recommended Botany Bay as a suitable destination for the transportation of convicts. The British government was desperate to relieve a penal system which had become excruciatingly overloaded due to the cessation of trans-Atlantic transportation in the wake of the private slave trade between Africa and North America, and the ongoing battle for independence by the North American colonies.

Terra Nullius is a Latin term, derived from the principle of res nullius established in ancient Roman law; it literally translates as being ‘earth of no person’ or ‘land belonging to no one’. The term is used in international law to define territory over which there has never been a claim of sovereignty, or over which sovereignty has been relinquished. Having a status of terra nullius means that territory can be claimed as sovereign land by any occupying state.

Relying entirely on a flawed semantic interpretation, one commentator, Michael Connor[1] argued about the validity of the use of the term in the Australian context (Connor 2003). He argued that the term was unknown to Australian colonists and never used by the British to justify settlement. He went so far as to deny that anyone had ever said that Australia was terra nullius at the time of European settlement. In an attempt to justify this denial of ‘terra nullius’ he accused historian Henry Reynolds of muddling the term with “a real legal term, res nullius, – ‘a thing which has no owner”’. Basic research, however, shows that it is Connor who misunderstands the application of the term, is ignorant of its evolution, or both:

As far back as the 17th century we have evidence that the British were clearly accustomed to the interpretation of the ancient concept of ‘res nullius’ as being applicable to territory (ergo ‘terra nullius’). In 1635, John Seldon[2], a leading English jurist, and legal and constitutional scholar, wrote “It has been truly a custom of old, and which holds to this day in the more eminent Nations, that vacancies are his who apprehends them first by occupation; as we use to say of those we call no man’s Goods. This appears plain in the Imperial Law; …” (Seldon 1652). Arguments about which specific words may have since been used to apply to the occupation of ’vacant’ land are petty, vexatious, and miss the point. These semantic distractions are typical of those commonly used as a smoke screen to divert attention from the real issues – the enormity of the injustices suffered by Indigenous Australians.

By the time of Britain’s colonisation of Australia in the late 18th century, one of the pre-eminent authorities on International Law was Emmerich de Vattel, a Swiss philosopher and legal expert. Vattel’s work on International law was comprehensive. Entitled ‘The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law’ (1758) it was divided into four books dealing respectively with nations in themselves; nations in respect to other states; war; and the restoration of peace in its aftermath. Numerous sections define nations and their responsibilities to each other and these would have clearly encompassed the Indigenous population of Australia at that time. The first item in the Preliminaries chapter defines Nations or states as “societies of men united together for the purpose of promoting their mutual safety and advantage by the joint effort of their combined strength” (Vattel 1867, Prel. Sect. 1). Vattel goes on to assert “that each nation should be left in the peaceable enjoyment of that liberty which she inherits from nature. The natural society of nations cannot subsist, unless the natural rights of each be duly respected.” (Vattel 1867, Prel. Sect. 15) Furthermore, on the equality of nations he states that “Nations composed of men, and considered so many free persons living together in a state of nature, are naturally equal, and inherit from nature the same obligations and rights.” (Vattel 1867, Prel. Sect. 18). The size of the nation, no matter how large, or small, was in Vattel’s view, irrelevant.

Many of these definitions were undoubtedly applicable to the communities of Aborigines populating Australia at that time. If the British did not appreciate this then, due to the misleading information initially provided by Cook and Banks (Banner 2005, p. 99), they were soon to learn of the true situation through the observations and experiences of Governor Phillip, and others. History, however, shows us that they preferred instead to maintain the view of the situation as being more suited to the implementation of Vattel’s theory on ‘how a nation appropriates to itself a desert country’; clearly another interpretation of terra nullius. Vattel proclaimed that all men have an equal right to things that have never belonged to anyone and that they will belong to the first person to take possession of them. Therefore, he said, that when a nation finds a country without an owner, it may lawfully take possession of it, after which it cannot be deprived of it by another nation. (Vattel 1867, Bk. 1, Ch.18, Sect. 207).

To further justify the idea of null ownership the British also applied another theory espoused by Vattel on ‘cultivation of the soil’ in which he declared that all nations have an obligation under the law of nature to cultivate their land, as it is destined to feed its inhabitants and would be unable to do so without cultivation. (Vattel 1867, Bk. 1, Ch.7, Sect. 81). This idea fitted comfortably with a long tradition of European thought which tied property rights to the level of civilization achieved by a given society (Banner 2005, p. 101) and had been expressed by seventeenth-century theorists such as Locke, Grotius, and Pufendorf. (Banner 2005, p. 102). The common consensus was that a society which did not improve its land through agriculture and the addition of infrastructure, such as hedgerows and fences, did not have property rights in the land.

It is no exaggeration to say that the ensuing application of terra nullius did not only rob the Aborigines of their land; it robbed them of their vitality – their spiritual connection with their living and dynamic history[3] – and in so doing robbed them of a fundamental part of their personal and collective psyche. In Indigenous societies the connection between people and Country is both critical and essential and transcends the understanding of European philosophy. In much the same manner as Edward Said had noted when describing the application of the ‘other’ in the process of subjugation of colonised Near-Eastern communities, the British imposition of terra nullius in Australia reduced the status of the Indigenous population to a race of ‘non-people’ while firmly entrenching the British in the position of unmitigated superiority and authority. As with Said’s Orientalism, Australian Colonialism depended for its strategy on this positional superiority (Said 1995, p. 7). It is a sad reality that when a subjugated people are exposed to an overwhelming form of cultural humiliation and isolation, over an extended period, many will begin to see themselves in terms of that image imposed upon them by the subjugator. Said recognised this as a deliberate process.

Although it soon became abundantly clear that Australia was in fact inhabited by considerable numbers of Indigenous people and that they had closely established links with particular tracts of land (Reynolds, Dispossession: Black Australians and White Invaders 1989, pp. 72-77), the fiction of terra nullius was sustained. However the imposition of terra nullius on Indigenous Australia was only the beginning. Far worse was to come.

From the beginning of settlement Aborigines were forced to become subjects of the Crown and were thus subject to the protection of its common law. In spite of the claim that English law was blind to racial differences, over 20,000 Aborigines were killed during the course of settlement (Reynolds, The Law of the Land 1987). Henry Reynolds likens this corruption of common law to the way in which it was corrupted in Britain’s slave colonies. Slavery, however, was abolished by Imperial legislation in 1833, by which time forced and uncompensated dispossession of land was also frowned upon by the Imperial government. Despite this, the Australian colonists continued to take Aboriginal lands whilst somehow denying that their actions clearly amounted to theft. (Reynolds, The Law of the Land 1987, p. 4)

The inability, or reluctance, of Australian lawmakers to recognise and address these injustices is at the root of the persistent tension between Aboriginal and European Australians. For more than two hundred years, with grave justification, Aborigines have harboured a deep sense of the sustained and grievous wrongs inflicted on their people since their first unwelcome encounter with the British invaders.

The American political scientist and expert in international law, Quincy Wright, noted that it was argued throughout Asia and Africa that ex-colonial peoples couldn’t be expected to accept the validity of claims made on their territory, by force, under the theory of “territorium nullius” prevalent in the age of discoveries (Wright 1962, p. 629). Sharon Korman considered that Wright was not quite accurate in representing the posture adopted when the European powers had confronted non-Christian political communities in the New World, Asia, and Africa (she said that in fact it was not generally the case that tribal societies were simply ignored and their lands treated as terrae nullius), but she noted the exception in respect of Australia (Korman 1996, pp. 41-43). Not accepting the validity of the claims is one thing, however, but redressing the consequent injustices inflicted is entirely another.

From the outset, beginning with terra nullius, the injustices inflicted upon the Aboriginal people were almost entirely motivated by the drive for acquisition and control of their land. The use of force, both with and without the imprimatur of the colonial government, devastated entire communities. In the course of their dispossession, rape and murder were commonplace. It seemed that no means of reducing or eliminating local populations was considered too barbaric by avaricious pastoralists and miners, keen to protect their livestock and increase their land holdings. Entire Indigenous communities were destroyed; shot, and poisoned, with little evidence of remorse on behalf of the perpetrators of these diabolical crimes. In more enlightened times, when a mood of social justice underlies the fundamental premises of international and national law making, it would seem logical that recognition of the Indigenous peoples’ connection to their land should be at the heart of the process of reconciliation. Acknowledgment of Native Title and land rights are the fundamental building blocks for this process.

Sir William Deane, when Governor General of Australia, said that true reconciliation cannot be achieved in the absence of the nation’s acknowledgement of the wrongfulness of the past dispossession, oppression and degradation of Aboriginal peoples (Deane 1997). Social Justice Commissioner Michael Dodson has emphasised that you must begin with the land to understand Aboriginal law and culture, and the Aborigines’ relationship to the physical and spiritual world. “Everything about Aboriginal society,” he said, “is inextricably interwoven with, and connected to the land… You take that away and you take away our reason for existence” (Dodson 1997, p. 41).

Decades of struggle were to pass with little improvement in the treatment of Indigenous Australians. The violent assaults were eventually replaced by less obvious, but more insidious, attempts at their eradication in the form of ‘assimilation’ through the arbitrary removal of children from their families (Bringing them home: The ‘Stolen Children’ report (1997)).  A well-conditioned public, thoroughly convinced by the pervasive dissemination of mis-information, generally believed that the government had the best interests of the Aborigines at heart. As a fairly typical young child in the 1950s, I regret to admit that I was one of them.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that some defining moments in the history of the land rights movement were to occur. These were to lead to changes in Commonwealth law, finally allowing Aborigines recognition as citizens, and were also to influence a change in the way in which the general public perceived their treatment.

In August of 1963 bark petitions[4] demanding respect for the land rights of the Yolngu people of north-east Arnhem Land were sent to the House of Representatives in Canberra. The Yolngu, as the traditional owners of the Gove Peninsular, were responding to a Federal government decision to allow a bauxite mine on their land.  A government enquiry followed but the mine went ahead. Three years later, Aboriginal pastoral workers and their families walked-off Wave Hill Station, in the Northern Territory, in protest at their conditions and in demand of the return of some of their traditional lands. This demand, too, was rejected. The effect of these incidents was to increase the general public awareness of, and support for, Indigenous land rights (Yunupingu 1997). This new awareness helped in preparing the way for the success of the 1967 referendum on altering the Australian constitution. 90.77% of voters cast the largest ‘yes’ vote recorded in any referendum, enabling the inclusion of Aborigines in the national census, and making them subject to Commonwealth, rather than just state, laws (Australia, Parliamentary Library 2007).

In 1968 the Yolngu people took out writs in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory against the Nabalco mining corporation. This litigation was to become known as the ‘Gove land rights case’ and was the first of its kind in Australia. In rejecting the claim of native title, the presiding judge, Justice Blackburn, effectively legitimised the concept of terra nullius (Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd 1971). Twenty years later this decision was overturned by the High Court of Australia in the ‘Mabo hearing’ (Nettheim 1995, p. 36). Significantly, in the aftermath of the Gove land rights case, in 1972, the newly elected Whitlam government instigated the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission under Justice Woodward. The Commission made several significant recommendations. Amongst these were the recommendations that Aboriginal reserves should be handed over to the Aboriginal inhabitants; Aborigines able to establish traditional ties should have claim to vacant crown land; sacred sites were to be protected; land councils should be set up to administer Aboriginal land; Aborigines should control access to their land for the purposes of mining and tourism; and developments should only proceed with the permission of the owners; and if mining was permitted then royalties should be paid to the traditional owners. Subsequently Whitlam’s government drafted the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, but were dismissed from government before the bill was able to pass through legislature. In 1976 the incoming Fraser government passed the bill, but in modified form.

On June 3, 1992, in a landmark decision (Mabo and Others v Queensland (No. 2) 1992) now known as Mabo, the High Court of Australia formally recognised the concept of native title for the first time. With a six-to-one majority, they overruled Justice Blackburn’s earlier decision, effectively rejecting the doctrine of terra nullius as applicable in Australia and accepting the common law doctrine of Aboriginal title (Ridgeway 1997, p. 65). The Mabo case was initiated to determine the land rights of the Mer, Dauar, and Waier people, of the Murray Islands in the Torres Straits. The challenge, led by Eddie Mabo, was also notable in that it emphasised the error of two more of the commonly held misperceptions developed through the prior promotion of terra nullius and associated justifications for Britain’s colonial claims under international law – that Aborigines were ignorant of agricultural practices, and that they did not have individual relationships with their land.

On December 23, 1996, another dimension was added through the ‘Wik decision’ (The Wik Peoples v State of Queensland & Ors; The Thayorre People v State of Queensland & Ors 1996) when the High Court found that pastoral leases under the consideration of the court did not bestow rights of exclusive possession on the leaseholder. In essence, native title rights could co-exist on pastoral leases and other forms of lease which did not grant exclusive possession. Native title rights would, however, yield to the rights granted by statute to the lessee. They would be subordinated to the extent of their inconsistency with the pastoral lease. Native title rights could not be extinguished by the exercising of the lessee’s rights and would recover when the exercise of those rights inconsistent with native title rights was discontinued (Farley 1997, pp. 10-11).

In each case Indigenous people have had to fight to receive recognition for that which had been illegally denied them through terra nullius. In each case when, after lengthy argument, the country’s leading judicial arbiters had found in their favour, further opposition and obstruction was encountered by begrudging politicians, driven by those who felt their vested interests threatened[5].

In his 2011 George Winterton Memorial Lecture, presented by the University of Sydney Law School, Gerard Brennan, a former High Court judge and the 10th Chief Justice of Australia, addressed the deficiencies he perceived in Australia’s current Constitution (Brennan 2011). He outlined his suggestion for a more inclusive preamble. It begins “We, the people of Australia – Recognizing the dignity, culture and spirituality of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander citizens and their historical occupancy and custodianship of our lands and seas…”

Sir Gerard is known for the breadth of his legal knowledge coupled with fairness, far-sightedness and compassion. What untold horror, misery, and hardship, might have been avoided had his predecessors been willing to exercise the same honesty and integrity in the recognition of the fundamental relationship between the Australian Aborigines and their Country. It is imperative that those who follow in his illustrious footsteps ensure that his message is not merely heard, but acted upon with both grace and a firm sense of conviction.

 Gerard Brennan’s Lecture




Australia, Parliament of. “Bills Digest No.171 1997-98.” Native Title Amendment Bill 1997 [No. 2]. 9 March 1998. (accessed April 8, 2011).

—. “Parliamentary Library.” Research Brief no. 11 2006-07; The 1967 Referendum – history and myths. 2 May 2007. (accessed 05 8, 2011).

Banner, Stuart. “Why Terra Nullius? Anthropology and Property Law in Early Australia.” Law and History Review, 2005: pp. 95-131.

Behrendt, Larissa. Achieving Social Justice: Indigenous Rights and Australia’s Future. Sydney: The Federation Press, 2003.

Brennan, Gerard. A Pathwayto a Republic. George Winterton Memorial Lecture, Sydney: The University of Sydney, 2011.

“Bringing them home: The ‘Stolen Children’ report (1997).” Australian Human Rights Commission. n.d. (accessed May 1, 2011).

Connor, Michael. “Error Nullius.” The Bulletin, 20 August 2003.

Deane, William. “Preface.” In Our Land is Our Life, edited by Galarrwuy Yunupingu. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997.

Dodson, Michael. “Land Rights and Social Justice.” In Our Land is Our Life, edited by Galarrwuy Yunupingu, pp. 39-50. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997.

Dulumunmun Harrison, Max. My people’s dreaming : an Aboriginal elder speaks on life, land, spirit and forgiveness. Sydney: Finch Publishing, 2009.

Farley, Rick. “Implications of the Wik Decision.” In Sharing Country: Land Rights, Human Rights, and Reconciliation after Wik – Proceedings of a Public Forum, pp. 9-18. Sydney: University of Sydney, 1997.

Keon-Cohen, B.A. “Aboriginal Land Rights in Australia: Beyond the Legislative Limits?” In Legislation and Society in Australia, by Roman Tomasic. Sydney: The Law Foundation of NSW, 1980.

Korman, Sharon. The Right of Conquest: The Aquisition of Territory by Force in International Law and Practise. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996.

Mabo and Others v Queensland (No. 2). 175 CLR 1 (High Court of Australia, 3 June 1992).

McGrath, Anne. “History, Wik and Relations between Aborignes and Pastoralists.” In Sharing Country: Land Rights, Human Rights, and Reconciliation after Wik – Proceedings of a Public Forum, pp. 85-94. Sydney: University of Sydney, 1997.

Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd. 17 FLR 141 (Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, 1971).

Nettheim, Garth. “Native Title and International Law.” In Mabo: The Native Title Legislation, edited by M.A. Stephenson, pp. 36-48. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1995.

Reynolds, Henry. Dispossession: Black Australians and White Invaders. St Leonards: Allen & Unwin, 1989.

—. The Law of the Land. Ringwood: Penguin Books, 1987.

Ridgeway, Aden. “Rights of the First Dispossessed: the New South Wales Situation.” In Our Land is Our Life, edited by Galarrwuy Yunupingu, pp. 63-79. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. London: Penguin Books, 1995.

Seldon, John. Of the Dominion of Ownership of the Sea (Mare Clausum). London, 1652.

Stephenson, M.A., ed. Mabo: The Native Title Legislation. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1995.

The Wik Peoples v State of Queensland & Ors; The Thayorre People v State of Queensland & Ors. (1996) 187 CLR 1 (High Court of Australia, 23 December 1996).

Vattel, E. De. The Law of Nations. Edited by Joseph Chitty. Philadelphia: T. & J. W. Johnson & Co., 1867.

Wright, Quincy. “The Goa Incident.” The American Journal of International Law, 1962: 617-632.

“Yirrkala bark petitions 1963 (Cth).” National Archives of Australia. n.d. (accessed May 1, 2011).

Yunupingu, Galarrwuy. “From the Bark Partition to Native Title.” In Our Land is Our Life, edited by Galarrwuy Yunupingu, pp. 1-17. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997.


[1] A footnote to his article claimed that “Dr Michael Connor is an honorary research associate with the School of History and Classics at the University of Tasmania.” A search of the UTAS website listed Henry Reynolds as a Professor in the School of History and Classics but made no mention of Michael Connor. Consequently I contacted Prof. Reynolds to see if he could cast any light on the matter and received the following reply: “Dear Andrew…I have never met Connor…but he did a Ph.D at UTAS and tutored there for a few months and continued to claim an association that didn’t exist other than on paper….He wrote a book on the subject which was published by Keith Windschuttle…but the basic premise was completely flawed as many critics pointed out….Best of luck with the research….Henry” [email 27April11]

[2] In his speech, Areopagitica, of 1644, John Milton lauded Selden as the “chief of learned men reputed in this land.”

[3] “When we walk onto Gulaga Mountain we walk into sacredness. Every time I go there it gives me a spiritual uplifting and I learn more about how our people were created” – Uncle Max (Dulumunmun Harrison 2009, p. 17)

[4] Known as the ‘Yirrkala bark petitions 1963 (Cth)’ these are the first documents to bridge Commonwealth law and the Indigenous laws of the land. They were the first traditional documents recognised by the Commonwealth Parliament providing documentary recognition of Indigenous people in Australian law. The National Archives of Australia describe them as a key part of the claim for constitutional change “which achieved the amendment of the Australian Constitution (S.51, S.127) in 1967, the statutory acknowledgement of Aboriginal land rights by the Commonwealth in 1976, and the overturning of the obstacle of the concept of terra nullius by the High Court in the Mabo Case in 1992” (Yirrkala bark petitions 1963 (Cth))

[5] Exemplified by the Howard government’s Native Title Amendment Act 1998 (Cth) (Behrendt 2003, pp. 45-49)

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What is social justice?

I believe that social justice is found in a society in which all people are accepted as being equal, human rights are sacrosanct, and personal dignity is universally respected and admired.

The Australian Human Rights Commission describes social justice as “about making sure that every Australian – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – has choices about how they live and the means to make those choices. It also means recognising the distinctive rights that Indigenous Australians hold as the original peoples of this land”.[i]

Unfortunately, in my own experience, these ideals of social justice and the reality of everyday existence for Indigenous Australians, with its extreme social and economic disadvantage, could not be further apart.

I spent my early childhood in country Victoria in the 1950s. This was an era in which Australian attitudes were at their white, Anglo-centric, colonial, xenophobic worst.  The infamous ‘White Australia policy’ was still operational. Immigrants were largely treated with disdain. Continental immigrants were disparagingly referred to as “wogs”. The customs and traditions that they had brought with them were viewed with deep suspicion, if not outright alarm.

The situation for the original inhabitants of Australia was far worse. When the British had invaded their country in 1788, they assumed its control and ownership by asserting that the legal notion of “terra-nullius” applied. This effectively denied the connection of the Indigenous people to their land, and was used to justify ongoing policy and attitudes in denying them that land, and their natural rights. It wasn’t until the referendum of 1967 that Aboriginal people were even included in official reckoning of the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a state or territory. Although the overwhelming result of that referendum provided the government with a clear mandate to implement policies to benefit Aborigines, it did little to end the firmly ingrained discrimination against them.

In the small country towns of my state, in my childhood, Aborigines were often disparagingly referred to as “abos”. They seemed to be considered as a lesser species; they were viewed with mistrust and distaste, and when they were discussed by well-meaning individuals, it was most often with an air of patronage and condescension. I often see little change in the bigotry evident in contemporary attitudes. The concept of the “other” thrives, albeit unwittingly.

A large proportion of Australia’s Indigenous peoples still contend with a marked inequity in critical facets of their lives, such as health services, life-expectancy, educational outcome, employment, and the proportion of those incarcerated compared with their white counterparts. They constantly face the loss of their culture, their languages and song-lines; and with these, the vital and nourishing connection with their land, and their dignity and responsibility as the proud owners of country. We are all so much the less for it.

[i] Comission, Australian Human Rights. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Social Justice. n.d. (accessed March 6, 2011).