Since Federation, Australians have thought of themselves as one sovereign nation. A nation for a continent. But what of the original Australians? In the aftermath of the Mabo decision, what do we make of their prior rights? Are they nations within? Aboriginal Sovereignty is a challenging and provocative study of the political, legal and constitutional relations between indigenous Australians and mainstream society. It presents a bold new interpretation of Aboriginal political development. It challenges us to consider that the Mabo decision is t the boundary at which the recognition of indigenous rights must cease. Aboriginal Sovereignty confronts the question of whether Aboriginal society exercised a form of sovereignty before 1788, whether the 'tribes' were actually small 'nations'. It considers legal interpretations of what happened when the Briton arrived and pits these interpretations against the record. It looks at the political and legal ramifications of customary law and then considers current political and constitutional discussion, in Australia and overseas. What are the lessons from North America? Can there be self-determination for the 'nations within' a nation state? What can this mean for Australia in the twenty-first century?
Henry Reynolds is the widely acclaimed author of six books on the history of Aboriginal Australia. Two of his books, The Other Side Of The Frontier (1981) and Law Of The Land (1988) have won major awards. Among his other books are Dispossession (1989) and Frontier (1987). His most recent book is Fate Of A Free People (1995).