In 1788 Indigenous nations possessed the entire continent of Australia. Then during a prolonged period of land grab from 1788 to the late 1960s Indigenous peoples were dispossessed. But then, from the late 1960s, there has been an extraordinary period of rapid legal repossession and restitution that is ongoing. This has not occurred as part of some coherent policy framework, but rather as a somewhat ad hoc land titling ‘revolution’ driven intermittently by political, social justice and judicial imperatives.
The question arises: If the logic of settler colonialism and market capitalism is dispossession, why have powerful state and corporate interests tolerated legal repossession? Professor Jon Altman from the Australian National University, Canberra offers his answers to this paradox and a fantastic set of maps in his 2014 paper, “The Political Ecology and Political Economy of the Indigenous Land Titling ‘Revolution’ in Australia.”