One of Australia's foremost Indigenous thinkers is calling for an end to race-based entitlement. In a landmark speech at the Melbourne Writers' Festival on Sunday night, the University of Melbourne's Chair of Indigenous Studies, Professor Marcia Langton, proposed a social security and wider policy system based only on economic need, and not Aboriginality.
"The Constitution and scores of Parliamentary acts at the federal and state level define Aboriginal people as a race," she said. "If we dispense with that definition of Aboriginal people and treat Aboriginal people as First Peoples - that is our status derives from us being here before settlement - not on the basis of race but an historical argument, then Aboriginal people become citizens with an attribute that is political, not racial.
"And if we make that the definition of being Aboriginal ... then a lot of rubbish in the policy world falls away. "It's not possible then for Aboriginal people to argue that perverted sense of entitlement to government largesse on the basis of race. "They should only be able to argue for that kind of largesse on the basis of need, in other words economic disadvantage - actual economic disadvantage."