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The Land Is Our HistoryIndigeneity, Law, and the Settler State$
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Miranda Johnson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190600020

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190600020.001.0001

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Australia’s First “First People”

Australia’s First “First People”

(p.35) 2 Australia’s First “First People”
The Land Is Our History

Miranda Johnson

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 focuses on the first native title claim made in an Australian court, the Gove land rights case of 1971. Describing the leading figures involved in the case, it examines why Yolngu people in remote Arnhem Land decided on a risky legal strategy, since there was no precedent in Australian law for native title. The chapter focuses in particular on evidentiary debates about admitting Yolngu testimony into court, which Crown lawyers argued amounted to hearsay. This apparently technical argument highlighted larger questions of acknowledging indigenous peoples as both coeval with settlers and also as having a distinct history that deserved a fair hearing in court. Evidentiary arguments had larger implications for the status of Aborigines as Australia’s “first people.”

Keywords:   Yolngu, Gove land rights case, Milirrpum v. Nabalco, native title, Richard Blackburn, Ted Woodward, Roy Marika, W. E. H. Stanner, legal evidence, first Australians

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