Austrlia’s Nunavut?

Next week I am lecturing on the vexed topic of ‘Aboriginal self-determination’. As I point out the rapid colonisation of Australia and the suitability of the Australian landscape to European agriculture meant that the indigenous population was largely wiped out after 1788 due to disease, deliberate killing and associated social collapse. Northern Australia is a partial exception as the climate was much less favourable to European-style farming, also by the time European settlers arrived successive disease waves had left the indigenous population more immune. Indigenous populations remained a majority across  of northern Australia for decades after federation. They were however excluded from the Commonwealth franchise. Canada’s climate meant that the north was much more inhispitable to Europeans and First nations have remained the majority across much of the north. In 1999 Nunavut an indigenous majority territory was created. Labor’s Northern Territory election setback now means that a majority of the governing Labor caucus now represent rural electorates with indigenous majorities even if indigenous MPs remain a minority in caucus. How assertive will indigenous MPs be? Will the Territory eventually have an indigenous majority?

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