Marcia Langton

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Marcia Lynne Langton AM (born 31 October 1951, Brisbane, Australia) holds the Foundation Chair in Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne in the Faculty of Medicine.

Life and career[edit]

Marcia Langton was born in 1951 to Kathleen (née Waddy) and grew up in south-central Queensland and Brisbane as a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations.[1] Her father had no presence in her life.[1] Her mother married Scots-born, ex-Korean War veteran Douglas Langton when Marcia was a year old.[1]

She enrolled at the University of Queensland, becoming an activist for indigenous rights. Disillusioned with the conservative mainstream political reaction to these issues she then left Australia to travel, live and work in several countries including Papua New Guinea, Japan and North America. She returned to Australia and graduated in anthropology at the Australian National University in the 1980s. She then worked with several organisations dealing with indigenous social and cultural issues and land claims. These included the Australian Film Commission, the Central Land Council (where she was a land claims anthropologist), the Queensland government and, in the early 1990s, the Cape York Land Council. For example, as a member of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Issues Unit she worked for the 1989 Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. Her report, "Too Much Sorry Business", raised serious concerns about alcohol consumption and the lack of government action to control it; "from an Aboriginal perspective and from the Aboriginal experience alcohol plays a primary role in both the reasons for detention and for the subsequent chances of deaths occurring". The conclusion was that alcohol supply needed limits. Almost 20 years later, she has supported the Northern Territory National Emergency Response which polices alcohol sales and consumption, among other issues.

In 1995 she moved full-time into university research and teaching. She spent five years as Ranger Professor of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies at Northern Territory University (now Charles Darwin University) in Darwin, Northern Territory, before moving to Melbourne.

Academic interests[edit]

Langton is known for her work in several academic fields, linked by a concern for indigenous rights, justice, and artistic expression. Langton conducts anthropological work to support land claims by Aboriginal peoples and their negotiations with mining companies and the state.

Her 2005 PhD in geography at Macquarie University applies phenomenological theory to the study of Aboriginal peoples of the eastern Cape York Peninsula.[2][3]

Her international work concerns First Nation rights in Canada, conservation and environmental policies, and long-term support to the people of East Timor.

Langton supports contemporary Indigenous Australian young adults cultural self-expression.[4]

She has argued that settlement with mining companies on Aboriginal land often benefits local interests more than the Australian government, and that the proposed 2010 Resource Tax on mining in Australia needs a redesign to support indigenous rights and employment[5]

She is a frequent media commentator, and serves on various high-level committees on indigenous issues. These have included the Centre for Aboriginal Reconciliation, the directorship of the Centre for Indigenous Natural and Cultural Resource Management, Chair of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, and Chair of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, QLD. In May 2008, the Federal government appointed her to a committee looking into reform of the Australian Native Title process.


  • Order of Australia, (AM) 1993.[6]
  • Neville Bonner Award for Indigenous Teacher of the Year, 2002. (Jointly with Larissa Behrendt)
  • Fellow, Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, elected 2001.
  • Australia's top 100 Intellectuals ([2] Sydney Morning Herald 2005)
  • Australia's top 40 public intellectuals (API Network, 2008)
  • Fellow of Trinity College, The University of Melbourne, elected 2012.

Some important works[edit]


  • Langton M.J. 2013. The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom. ABC Books.
  • Langton M.J. and J. Longbottom (eds.) 2012. Community futures, legal architecture: foundations for Indigenous peoples in the global mining boom. London: Routledge.
  • Perkins, R and Langton M (eds). 2008. First Australians. An Illustrated History. Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne.
  • Langton, M., Palmer, L., Mazel, O., K. Shain & M.Tehan (eds). 2006. Settling with Indigenous Peoples: Modern Treaty and Agreement Making. Annandale, NSW: Federation Press.
  • Langton, M. & M. Nakata (eds). 2005. Australian Indigenous Knowledge and Libraries. Canberra: Australian Academic and Research Libraries.
  • Langton, M., 2005. An Aboriginal ontology of being and place: the performance of Aboriginal property relations in the Princess Charlotte Bay area of eastern Cape York Peninsula, Australia. Unpub. PhD thesis, Human Geography/Anthropology. Sydney: Macquarie University.
  • Langton, M., M. Tehan, L.R. Palmer & K. Shain (eds). 2004. Honour among nations? Treaties and agreements with Indigenous peoples. Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishing. (Choice List of Outstanding Academic Titles 2006, American Libraries Association, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries)
  • Langton, M. (1998). Burning Questions: Emerging environmental issues for Indigenous peoples in northern Australia. Darwin, NT: Centre for Indigenous Natural and Cultural Resource Management, Northern Territory University. ISBN 9781876483067. Archived from the original on 7 February 2007. 
  • Langton M. & W. Jonas., 1994. The Little Red, Yellow and Black (and Green and Blue and White) Book: a short guide to Indigenous Australia. Canberra: AIATSIS.
  • Langton, M., 1994. Valuing cultures: recognising indigenous cultures as a valued part of Australian heritage. Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Canberra : Australian Govt. Pub. Service.
  • Langton, M., 1993. Well, I heard it on the radio and I saw it on the television: an essay for the Australian Film Commission on the politics and aesthetics of filmmaking by and about Aboriginal people and things. Sydney: Australian Film Commission.
  • Langton, M. & N. Peterson, (eds). 1983. Aborigines, Land & Land Rights. Valuing Cultures: recognising Indigenous cultures as a valued part of Australian heritage. Canberra: AGPS.
  • Langton, M., 1983. After the tent embassy: images of Aboriginal history in black and white photographs Sydney: Valadon Publishing.



  • Jardiwarnpa: a Warlpiri fire (with Ned Lander & Rachel Perkins)
  • Night Cries: a rural tragedy (with Tracey Moffatt & Penny McDonald)
  • Blood Brothers, a 1993 four-part Australian documentary series
  • Perkin's First Australians series for SBS television, 2008, features many commentaries by Langton.


  1. ^ a b c Peter Robb (March 2011). "Who's Afraid of Marcia Langton?". The Monthly. Retrieved 12 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Langton, Marcia (2005 PhD) "An Aboriginal ontology of being and place: the performance of Aboriginal property relations in the Princes Charlotte Bay area of eastern Cape York Peninsula, Australia".
  3. ^
  4. ^ Langton, Marcia (2011) "Examples of the resilience of Aboriginal culture", Wilurarra Creative, 12 January 2011.
  5. ^ Langton, Marcia (2010) "Who benefits from the resources boom?" ABC National radio, 13 May 2010 [1].
  6. ^ 'Its an Honour' website

External links[edit]