PODCAST | History, Politics and Indigenous Citizenship: Campaigns, Costs and Contentions

This is part of the SDN Democracy Futures seminar series

Over recent decades indigenous citizenship has been the site of much contestation in the Australian political landscape. Land rights and native title have competed with claims of the alleged failures of self-determination. Apology has competed with hostility, recognition with racism and contraction. This politics is often represented as unprecedented and utilises the language and sentiment of crisis. However, this politics is not new.

Indeed, the politics around Indigenous affairs has been an underlying pressure point of Australian society, where Indigenous citizenship has been hotly contested for the entire twentieth century. Yet, there is little appreciation of this fact. In particular, there is little appreciation of the history of civil and human rights claims undertaken by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists, of their contexts, protagonists or outcomes.

Using the campaigns of Mary Bennett, a key Aboriginal rights advocate in the middle years of the twentieth century, this paper will examine the possibilities and limits of this politics and consider its relevance for Indigenous citizenship now.


Alison HollandDr Alison Holland is a senior lecturer in the department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University. She graduated with a PhD in history from the University of New South Wales in 1999. Dr Holland has since published widely on issues of Aboriginal and feminist history, as well as a related interest in citizenship, in national and international journals and books and is the co-editor of Rethinking the Racial Moment (2011). Her book Just Relations, which recovers the efforts of Mary Bennett (1881-1961) to found a ‘just relationship’ between Aborigines and non-Aborigines in Australia from the late 1920s, was published in 2015.