Internal colonialism and the Gurindji people's struggle for their rights

Christine Jennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Wave Hill strike by the Gurindji people in 1966 was an historic moment which created awareness among non-Indigenous Australians of the unique and unequal relationship of Northern Territory Aboriginal peoples with the Australian welfare system as compared to other Australians. It will be argued that this period led to the end of a paternalistic internal colonial racial order and a shift to a plural internal colonial racial order.1 Throughout the paternalistic period of internal colonialism (1901'1971) welfare policy for Indigenous peoples was made by three key political actors: the state, pastoral capital, and the major churches. On the other hand, Indigenous peoples and their supporters struggled to change this situation. Werther has argued that the mid 1960s was a period when Indigenous peoples in Australia struggled simultaneously for equal citizenship rights as individuals and for collective 'aboriginal status rights'.2 To exemplify and support Werther's argument, in this paper it will be argued that the Gurindji people's struggle for equal pay quickly developed into a call for land rights.3 Coupled with the calls of the Black Power Movement (1969'72) in the east and south for Aboriginal control of Aboriginal welfare organisations, the Gurindjis' struggle can be seen to have occurred at an historic moment that provided a window of opportunity for Indigenous peoples to shift the paradigm of welfare provision as it concerned them. This was an era when the international community, through the United Nations, was beginning to flesh out its international human rights framework and this provided a facilitating environment for the Gurindjis' dual rights struggles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-82
Number of pages24
JournalISAA review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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