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Landmarks: reading the Gove Peninsula




Eggerking, Kitty

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This thesis investigates the events leading up to and including the first land rights case, Milirrpum v Nabalco, heard in the Northern Territory Supreme Court before Justice Blackburn in 1970. It examines how the Yolngu people of the Yirrkala mission responded to the federal government’s leasing of the Gove Peninsula for the mining of bauxite, initially by seeking a political solution and subsequently legal redress. Thus, it considers events such as the bark petitions the people of Yirrkala sent to the federal parliament in 1963 and the subsequent inquiry by a select committee of the House of Representatives into Yolngu grievances. While these events are reasonably well known, the thesis situates them in fresh and appropriate political contexts. For instance, it takes into account the instability of the Menzies government in 1963; and, further, it examines the relevant parliamentary standing orders to show that the bark petitions were in order but the then Minister for Territories was out of order in ‘rejecting’ the first petition. As well as these known events, the thesis also brings to light many other hitherto unreported events and matters. These events — and especially the actual Gove case — represent key moments for inspecting the contest of Indigenous and non-Indigenous systems of knowledge or world views, and this is the key reason for undertaking the study. To chart a course through the two disparate traditions, much of the focus is on the ways that land is conceptualised.



Gove Land rights case, bark petitions, mapping NE Arnhem Land




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