Self-determination

Self-determination

Self-determination is the right of all peoples to 'freely determine their political status and freely
pursue their economic, social and cultural development' (article 1 of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights).
Self-determination is a collective right (belonging to a 'people' as a group)
rather than an individual right. The claim by Indigenous peoples to the right of self-determination
raises two questions:

1. Do Indigenous groups satisfy the definition of 'peoples'?
2. Does self- determination give Indigenous peoples the right to break away from an existing nation?

Most Indigenous people in Australia want self-determination within the existing nation. This would
require recognition by the government of their distinct cultures and forms of social organisation,
governance and decision-making. It would mean transferring responsibility and power for decision-
making to Indigenous communities so they can make decisions that affect them.

Source: Face the facts

The federal Labor Government led by Gough Whitlam adopted the policy of 'self-determination' for
Indigenous communities in 1972.
This policy was described as 'Aboriginal communities deciding
the pace and nature of their future development as significant components within a diverse Australia',
It recognised that Aboriginal people had a right to be involved in decision making about their own
lives.

Source:

While there is no commonly agreed definition of self-determination in Australia, and its meaning is contested, there does appear to be general agreement that central to self-determination is the right of indigenous Australians to make decisions on issues relating to them, and to manage their own affairs. There is no such agreement as to how this should be achieved nor has a framework within which this can occur been established. p259

The Government has defined self -determination as "Aboriginal communities deciding the pace and nature of their future development as significant components within a diverse Australia" (a'Donoghue, 1992:7). This in effect limits the exercise of self-determination to what is compatible with the interests of the Australian State. Successive Australian governments have rejected the view that self-determination includes the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to decide their political status and the exploration of political options such as self-government and sovereignty . Self-determination has been defined much more narrowly in Australia than it has been in international forums where, as part of the decolonisation process, it has been premised on the right of a people to decide their own political status and future. p259-260

Source: Self-determination and the Struggle for Equality by David Roberts

Further Reading

Self-determination and the Struggle for Equality by David Roberts in Aboriginal Australia, An Introductory Reader in Aboriginal Studies, Second Edition (Edited by Colin Bourke, Eleanor Bourke and Bill Edwards). University of Queensland Press. 1998, 2004.

 

 

 

Readings

Self-determination and the Struggle for Equality by David Roberts in Aboriginal Australia, An Introductory Reader in Aboriginal Studies, Second Edition (Edited by Colin Bourke, Eleanor Bourke and Bill Edwards). University of Queensland Press. 1998, 2004.