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NAIDOC: National Aboriginal Day, Lajamanu and Katherine, 1984 (photos) / Little Nungarrayi; Children and adults celebrate the end of School / Barbara Glowczewski / Lajamanu, Tanami Desert, Central Australia, NT




1972 to 1993 From the Tent Embassy to the Native Title Law


In 1972, the Aboriginal people set up a ‘Tent Embassy’ in front of the Canberra Parliament to protest against the treatment of their people and to claim land-rights and self-determination. An Aboriginal flag was designed black for the people, red for the land and the blood shed, and yellow for the sun and the hope of the future. 


But it was only twenty years later, in 1992, that the High Court decision in the Eddie Mabo case recognised that the status of Australia as Terra Nullius was no longer a valid notion, and that the Common Law of Australia acknowledged a form of Native (Traditional) Title. In other words, after over 200 years of European occupation, the prior occupation by Aborigines was finally recognised. 


The Native Title Law was passed in 1993, and everywhere in Australia claims for Native Title are now waiting to be validated. Recent archaeological discoveries of rupestrian art might prove that Aboriginal presence in Australia is even older than the 50,000 years already established.



Land Rights Act, Northern Territory 1976


In 1978, after many hearings before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, the Warlpiri became one of the first Australian tribes to recover most of their traditional territory. This restitution was obtained by demonstrating that groups are symbolically affiliated to the geographical itineraries of journeys made by the mythical heroes who bore totemic names. Each local group has rights to sites and to tracts of land connected by the itineraries of particular Ancestral Beings whom it regards metaphorically as ‘fathers’ to its members.


During my fieldwork (1979-1984) I was able to observe a close relationship between the fluidity with which these local patriclan groups are constituted and a process through which mythical stories and associated totems are ritualised. Women play an active part in this interaction between cosmology and social organisation. Contrary to the assertions of Meggitt (1962) and Munn (1973), women do participate in ritual activities aimed at actualising totemic and mythical links between itineraries and sites (as has also been shown by Bell, 1983). Admittedly women perform these rituals on their own, but they organise themselves in the same manner as the men. According to the totem and itinerary being celebrated, some performers act as Kirda or owners of the rituals and sites, in which capacity they have the duty to dance; the others act as Kurdungurlu, or managers of the rituals and sites, directing the dances and preparing the ceremonial objects and ground.


This division of ritual roles which also governs land rights is to be found in other central and northern tribes (Maddock, 1981). At the first level, everyone is ‘owner’ of his or her father’s land and ‘manager’ of his or her mother’s and also spouse’s land (Glowczewski, 1981). In practice, the range of determination is wider than just patri- or matri-filiation. During ritual performances the owner/manager duality of function among keepers of the land is often extended and systematised in accordance with the division of all members of the tribe eight subsections of the Warlpiri and Arrernte (Aranda) system. This system, which the anthropological literature identifies as a matrimonial classification, is above all a device for use in ritual life and in the cosmological allocation of land rights.


Excerpt from Barbara Glowczewski, 1989.



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Archives de chercheurs: Barbara Glowczewski [Collection(s) 28]
NAIDOC: National Aboriginal Day, Lajamanu and Katherine, 1984 (photos) [Set(s) 822]
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Object(s) ID 84665
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Title/DescriptionLittle Nungarrayi; Children and adults celebrate the end of School
Author(s)Barbara Glowczewski
LocationLajamanu, Tanami Desert, Central Australia, NT
Coordinateslat -35.27 / long 149.08
Copyright Barbara Glowczewski
Rank 1 / 164
Filesize 489 Kb | 1999 x 3000 | 8 bits | image/jpeg
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Quote this document Glowczewski, Barbara 1984/09/12 [accessed: 2024/5/20]. "Little Nungarrayi; Children and adults celebrate the end of School" (Object Id: 84665). In NAIDOC: National Aboriginal Day, Lajamanu and Katherine, 1984 (photos). ODSAS:
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