Identity and self-determination

36.71 While the Inquiry remains sceptical about the wisdom of using genetic kinship testing to establish Aboriginality, the Inquiry agrees unequivocally with the view that matters of Aboriginal identity are primarily for Aboriginal communities to determine.

36.72 The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW submitted that:

The central issue is … whether it is appropriate to use genetic information to determine community, racial and ethnic affiliation. This is a question better answered by Indigenous communities themselves. We are concerned that should a purely genetic approach to community, racial and ethnic affiliation be adopted, it is conceivable that people who identify as indigenous and are accepted within Indigenous communities as Indigenous may be refused access to Indigenous services programs and benefits, which were specifically designed to address disadvantage of Indigenous people.[88]

36.73 The Law Institute of Victoria agreed that matters of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identity should be primarily determined by Aboriginal communities.[89]

36.74 The Inquiry agrees that the construction of Indigenous identity is quintessentially a matter for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves, working through their own communities, institutions and consultation processes. As noted at the beginning of this chapter, AIATSIS suggested that the ALRC might have a role to play in this process in lending:

expertise to develop, through extensive consultation and negotiation with Indigenous peoples and communities, identity frameworks that are appropriate and relevant for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.[90]

36.75 It is hoped that the material in this chapter may provide some assistance in this endeavour.

[88] Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW, Submission G157, 1 May 2002.

[89] Law Institute of Victoria, Submission G275, 19 December 2002.

[90] Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Submission G286, 16 December 2002.