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Aboriginal Law Bulletin

Aboriginal Law Bulletin (ALB)
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Nettheim, Garth --- "Book Review- Black Australians: The Prospects for Change" [1982] AboriginalLawB 73; (1982) 1(6) Aboriginal Law Bulletin 16

Book Review –

Black Australians: The Prospects for Change

Edited by Erik Olbrei

James Cook University of North Queensland Union, Townsville

1982 ($8.00)

Reviewed by Garth Nettheim

This book is an edited version of papers and discussions from a conference organized by James Cook University Students Union and the Townsville, Treaty Committee at the end of August 1981. The book has been skilfully edited from the welter of papers, comments, resolutions and program changes at the conference.

An indication of the range of the book can best be conveyed by topic titles and the names of some of the speakers, thus: `The Legacy of the Past' (Henry Reynolds, Noel Loos, Jane Thomson); `Federal Policies in the Seventies' (Lyndall Ryan, H.C. Coombs); `Land Rights in the Northern Territory' (Bob Collins); 'A Treaty and the NAC' (H.C. Coombs, Les Malezer, Marcia Langton, Judith Wright); 'Queensland Government Policies' (Garth Nettheim, Jim Keefe); 'Queensland Reserves and Communities' (Delphine Geia, Eric Kyle, Shorty O'Neill and a group from Mornington Island); 'Torres Strait Islander Perspectives' (Eddie Mabo, Nonie Sharp, Ben. Mills); `Possibilities for Commonwealth Action' (Garth Nettheim); `The Racial Discrimination Act' (Al Grassby); `A High Court Challenge?' (Barbara Hocking, Greg McIntyre).

Several themes run through the discussions. The major theme was a sense of threat from the Queensland Government's proposals (then unspecified) to change the system of reserves. Associated with this was a movement towards solidarity among the residents of the different reserves, and between Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginals.

Another theme that found expression was a concern that the NAC was proceeding in Makarrata negotiations without adequately keeping the communities informed. Yet another theme was growing interest in international processes for asserting Aboriginal claims. There was also discussion of domestic processes, particularly test case litigation - there were references to the Koowarta case (not then decided) and also to the possibility of a land rights challenge. In fact the conference brought together several of the key people who proceeded to prepare the action Mabo v Queensland and Commonwealth.

The book is highly readable, attractively presented, and covers a wide range of issues of current concern.

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