The first seminar concerning Indigenous people’s land rights and the development of energy resources in Canada and Australia was held by Professor Sandrine Tolazzi in the McKinnon Building at the University of Wollongong today. The University of Wollongong’s Law research faculty ran the hour-long seminar.

Tolazzi, from the University of Grenoble in France, compared the 1970s and 1980s periods of mass energy construction in Australia and Canada in terms of land rights imposed to protect the indigenous population’s traditional territory.

“I wanted to show how land rights go beyond the opposition between energy resource development and indigenous people,” Tolazzi said. “How land rights have managed to make indigenous people full participants in energy resource development projects.”

Tolazzi examined the Ranger uranium mine in Australia’s Northern Territory and the James Bay hydroelectric project in the Canadian province of Quebec that were both built on traditional indigenous lands.

In both instances, land rights legislation was introduced, allowing the indigenous people to have ongoing involvement in the projects.

“These land rights helped to preserve traditional lands and at the same time modernise the indigenous community while still allowing them to keep control of their affairs,” said Tolazzi.

Tolazzi argued that this self-governing by the indigenous people of their traditional territory because of land rights is the path Australia needs to take in regards to these issues in the future.

“It’s very good to have a Professor from another discipline discussing their take on the issue,” said Professor Nan Seuffert of the Faculty of Law from Waikato University in New Zealand, who attended the seminar. “The seminar was very good, we always welcome speakers from other universities.”

Professor Tolazzi is visiting from France where she teaches Canadian and Australian civilization focussing on the indigenous population.

In other indigenous-related news, Hayden Ferrington spoke to Lauren Miller, the Student Support and Recruitment Advisor at the Woolyungah Indigenous Centre about their role on campus and their partnership with AIME, the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience.

Words: Alison Donnellan
Video: Narbi Grennan
Photos and audio: Hayden Ferrington

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