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Colonialism, Constitutionalism, Costs and Compensation: A Contemporary Comparison of the Legal Rights and Obligations of and towards the Scandinavian Sami and Indigenous Australians

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An earlier article addressed recent developments in Australia concerning indigen-ous land rights and outlined political and legal aspects of the debate surrounding that. This is a more specifically comparative study that seeks to compare the legal aspects of the land rights of Australian indigenous people with the legal aspects of the land rights of the Sami people in Scandinavia. The paper recognises from the outset that these two parts of the world possess different legal histories, but argues that in the modern international context, comparisons can be drawn with respect to indigenous human rights. Further, the paper contends that in both these societies, there have been advances and retreats and that only full governmental commitment to the principles of international law will ensure that the human rights of the respective indigenous people advance.

In looking at comparative indigenous rights, or the failure to achieve rights, the focus is on property, including consideration of inclusion/exclusion of native people as citizens, the effects of colonization and relative access to goods and services, language recognition, rights of cultural development and protection of heritage, as well as practical implications in controlling other forms of development and fostering sustainable growth. We broaden the consideration of indigenous human rights to include matters of compensation and costs. Our overall contention is that it remains one of the principal challenges for both Australian and Scandinavian law to identify and translate co-existence and human rights for the indigenous people of those nations. In framing any such legal measures, governments will have to confront wider political issues of tolerance, sovereignty and citizenship. The dilemma for Australian Aboriginals is that the chance to remain Aboriginal may have to involve an appeal to the prin-ciples of international law whereas in Scandinavia the recognition of Sami reindeer herding has generally failed to foster broader rights to land and natural resources although there are some signs that this is emerging in Norway.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer in Law/Justice Studies, QUT, Brisbane, Qld., Australia; 2: Barrister and Freelance Academic, Melbourne, Australia


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