Australian Rules: The Rise of Rights and the Demise of the Right

Tracey Summerfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Over a number of years there has been a public debate in Australia over the place of legal rights in the struggle for Indigenous economic, social and cultural gains. Most Indigenous leaders have called for a rights agenda as a solution to Indigenous disadvantage. However, one leader has been a vocal critic of this approach. This paper considers the possibility that although the debates may fundamentally represent different views as to how best to improve conditions for Indigenous Nations, they also represent differing approaches to harnessing the support of mainstream Australia in a politically conservative environment. In coming to this position, I am reminded of the arguments put by proponents of the Critical Legal Studies movement in US, that rights are merely abstractions, and the counter by Patricia Williams, a Critical Race Theorist, that as a result, they can be framed in a variety of ways and can take the form required by the community in which they are found. In Australia, minority groups must find an indexically-open vehicle, fitting to the Australian rhetorical structure(s), to represent their struggle for economic, social and cultural rights.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-158
JournalInternational Journal for the Semiotics of Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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