Women and Land Claims

  • Deborah Bird Rose


In the Northern Territory the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 has had ambivalent effects. On the one hand, it has enabled more than 47% of the land and 85% of the coastline to be transferred to Aboriginal freehold title, and has thus enabled thousands of Aboriginal people to achieve a great measure of economic and political opportunity. On the other hand, the Act has created inequalities among Aboriginal people. Gender inequality has been pervasive throughout the history of claims to land, but has received far less public attention. Land claims until recently have involved a massive privileging of senior Aboriginal men vis-à-vis senior Aboriginal women. In this chapter, I consider some of the ways in which Aboriginal women have been disadvantaged by the privileging of men in a system that is predominantly controlled by men. My urgent intention is to alert claimants, anthropologists and lawyers who are preparing Native Title cases to some of the precedents in the Act. The marginalization and exclusion that Northern Territory women have experienced is in clear contradiction to the intention of the Act, and must not be repeated in other parts of Australia under the more recent Native Title legislation.



The ideas presented here gained form and substance through many conversations with Kimberley Reid, Diane Smith, Diane Austin-Broos and Chantal Jackson. My thanks to each of them for courage, encouragement and support.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Deborah Bird Rose
    • 1
  1. 1.University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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