Speaking to Mabo

Jensen, L. (Oplægsholder)

Aktivitet: Tale eller præsentationForedrag og mundtlige bidrag


It seems a daunting enterprise, but also an opportune moment to use the ‘silver anniversary’ of Mabo as an opportunity to ‘take stock’. As suggested in the CFP, the cultural-societal ramifications of the High Court 1992 verdict have been significant – for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians – its watershed nature commented on at the time in the predictable form of dire predictions from the right. The divisiveness revealed by Mabo set part of the context for Paul Keating’s Redfern speech, and the 1996 election of John Howard as Prime Minister. Yet, when discussing the legacy of Mabo very quickly two questions emerge: a) what legacy for whom? And b) why choose Mabo over a number of other significant dates and events that have marked and marred the relationship between Aboriginal and predominantly ‘white’ Australia?

Neither of these two questions should be understood as belittling or relativising the significance of Mabo, but rather as a starting point for investigating what broader cultural-political-social landscape Mabo was and subsequently has become situated in. ‘We’ tend not to like to discuss Australian society in terms of the divisive terminology of a ‘white-black frontier’. Yet, it seems - given both what went before Mabo (attempted physical and then cultural genocide) and what followed also in recent years (the NT Intervention policy) - that it is hard to escape the sense that this actually was and remains an appropriate designation. Yet there is also a counter narrative, a history based on a culture of ‘sceptical hope’, an insistence on a call for justice, including addressing racism not merely as a historical phenomenon but also as a very contemporary reality, as an unstable but also inevitable platform for transforming Australian society. Something which in 1992 clearly informed also those claiming Mabo as a victory for Aborigines, for indigenous Australia and for Australia in itself. In my paper I would like to offer a reading of the frontier vs the transformation narrative in which Mabo played a crucial role. This reading will partly relate to another watershed event – the discourse surrounding Stan Grant’s Talking to My Country (2016).

Periode17 nov. 201718 nov. 2017
BegivenhedstitelMabo’s Cultural Legacy: The Mabo Decision, 25 Years On
PlaceringStuttgart, Tyskland
Grad af anerkendelseInternational