Development, Environmental and Indigenous People’s Movements in Australia: Issues of Autonomy and Identity
Indigenous movements in Australia are at a crossroad in their efforts to protect their intrinsic relations with land, nature and culture on the one hand and engaging with the reconciliatory and developmental dynamics of the state on the other. This paper examines the process of articulation and rejuvenation of indigenous identities that negotiate across culture, environment, sustainable livelihood and the developmental needs of the community. Locating these movements within wider socio-historical contexts it focuses on the tensions between a pro-conservation and a pro-development approach in grass roots indigenous movements. Three case studies are presented – drawn from the Sydney region. One indigenous group’s struggle against a housing development, defined as a threat to indigenous and environmental heritage, is contrasted with an indigenous group that is internally divided over an agreement with a mining developer, and a third group that has engaged in constructing housing and welfare projects, and in part has itself become a developer. The article thereby addresses the reformulation of indigenous identities in Australian society as indigenous peoples’ movements have renegotiated the contending pressures of environment and development.