Marcia Langton

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Marcia Langton

Marcia Langton.jpg
Langton in a 2021 NIAA report
Born1951 (age 71–72)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
EducationAustralian National University (BA), Macquarie University (PhD)
Occupation(s)Anthropologist, geographer
EmployerUniversity of Melbourne

Marcia Lynne Langton AO FASSA FTSE (born 1951) is an Australian academic. As of 2022 she is the Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne. Langton is known for her activism in the Indigenous rights arena.

Early life and education[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 heritage, both groups being Aboriginal Australian peoples. Her father had no presence in her life. Her mother married Scots-born, ex-Korean War veteran Douglas Langton when Marcia was a year old.[1]

She and her mother moved often, without secure housing or employment, and she attended nine primary schools.[2]

She enrolled at the University of Queensland, becoming an activist for Indigenous rights.

While in Japan, Langton learnt about Buddhism, and later became a self-described "lazy Buddhist".[1] Wiradjuri artist Brook Andrew painted Langton in a Buddhist pose.[3][4]

On her return to Australia, Langton studied anthropology at the Australian National University in the 1980s, becoming the first Indigenous honours graduate in anthropology.

Early career[edit]

Langton worked with several organisations dealing with Indigenous social and cultural issues and land claims. These included the Australian Film Commission; the Central Land Council in Northern Territory (where she was a land claims anthropologist); the Northern Territory Aboriginal Issues Unit; the Queensland Government and, in the early 1990s, the Cape York Land Council.

Academic career[edit]

In 1995, Langton 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 before moving to Melbourne.

Her 2005 PhD thesis in geography at Macquarie University applies phenomenological theory to the study of Aboriginal peoples of the eastern Cape York Peninsula.[5][6]

In 2012 she became the patron of the Indigenous Reading Project,[7][8] a charitable organisation that uses digital technology to improve the reading ability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.[9][10]

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.


In 1976, Langton, Bobbi Sykes, Sue Chilly (also spelt Chilli),[a] and Naomi Mayers formed the Black Women's Action (BWA) group, which later evolved into the Roberta Sykes Foundation. BWA published a monthly community newspaper for Aboriginal people, Koori Bina (meaning "Black ears"[12]),[13] which ran until June 1979.[14] Langton later wrote that the founders of the paper had been inspired by Abo Call, which had been published in 1938 in Sydney[15][16] by Jack Patten (co-founder of the Aborigines Progressive Association) and Percy Reginald Stephensen.[17] She was also involved in a number of other Black community publications, and wrote in the introduction to her 1979 Listing of Aboriginal periodicals: "the experience of producing those newspapers within a hostile white environment... because it has the power and resources, has historically defined us".[18][16]

In December 1976, Langton played the part of Vena, a nurse, in Here Comes the Nigger by Gerry Bostock, which played at Black Theatre in Redfern, Sydney.[19]

In 2000, she was one of five Indigenous leaders who were granted an audience with the Queen to discuss an apology and Indigenous recognition in the Australian Constitution.[20]

In May 2008, the federal government appointed her to the Native Title Payments Working Group looking into reform of the Australian native title process.[21]

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 needed a redesign to support Indigenous rights and employment.[22]

In 2017 she campaigned against environmentalists, arguing that they were thwarting native title reform as part of their case against the Adani Carmichael coal mine.[23] Her criticisms of Indigenous litigants have been rebuffed by Indigenous lawyer Tony McAvoy SC.[24]

She is a frequent media commentator, and has served on various high-level committees on Indigenous issues. These have included the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, the directorship of the Centre for Indigenous Natural and Cultural Resource Management, chair of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, and as chair of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership.

Other activities and roles[edit]

As a member of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Issues Unit, Langton worked for the 1989 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

In 2012, she gave the Boyer Lectures titled The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom.[25]

She has been on the judging panel for the annual Horne Prize since its inception in 2016.[26]

On 30 October 2019, Langton was announced as a co-chair on the Senior Advisory Group of the Indigenous voice to government, convened by Ken Wyatt, along with by Professor Tom Calma AO. The group consists of 20 leaders and experts from across the country.[27]

Recognition and honours[edit]

Langton was made a member of the Order of Australia in the 1993 Queen's Birthday Honours for "service as an anthropologist and advocate of Aboriginal issues".[28] She was promoted to officer of the Order of Australia in the 2020 Australia Day Honours for "distinguished service to tertiary education, and as an advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people".[29]

Other recognition has included:

In 2020, the International Astronomical Union's Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) formally approved the asteroid 1979 ML1 as 7809 Marcialangton in honour of her efforts to incorporate Aboriginal astronomical perspectives into the Australian National Curriculum.[37][38]

Selected works[edit]


  • Langton, M. 2018. Welcome to Country: A Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia. Hardie Grant Travel.[39]
  • Davis, M. and Langton M. (eds.). 2016. It's Our Country: Indigenous Arguments for Meaningful Constitutional Recognition and Reform. Melbourne University Press.
  • Langton M. 2013. The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom. ABC Books.
  • Langton M. 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, Northern Territory: 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.




  1. ^ Iris Susanne (or Suzanne) Colleen Chilly, born 1954[11]


  1. ^ a b Peter Robb (March 2011). "Who's Afraid of Marcia Langton?". The Monthly. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  2. ^ Samantha Trenoweth (July 2020). "Marcia Langton – Saint or Sinner". The Australian Women's Weekly – via Magzter.
  3. ^ "Portrait recognises activist Marcia Langton". ABC News. Australia. 9 June 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Marcia Langton, 2009". National Portrait Gallery collection. Retrieved 27 January 2019.
  5. ^ Langton, Marcia (2005). 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 (PhD). Macquarie University. OCLC 224891182.
  6. ^ "Postgraduate Thesis List - Human Geography - Department of Environment and Geography - Faculty of Science - Macquarie University". Archived from the original on 14 September 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2009.
  7. ^ "Indigenous Reading Project". Indigenous Reading Project. October 2020.
  8. ^ "About us". Indigenous Reading Project. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  9. ^ Jacobs, Genevieve. "Indigenous Reading Project changes kids' lives". The RiotACT. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  10. ^ Macdonald, Emma (14 January 2014). "Push to expand indigenous reading". The Canberra Times. Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  11. ^ National Foundation; Pjanic, Dana (16 November 2020). "Chilly, Sue (1954– )". The Australian Women's Register. Retrieved 1 October 2022.
  12. ^ "Professor Marcia Langton AM". Victorian Government. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  13. ^ "History". Roberta Sykes Indigenous Education Foundation. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  14. ^ Black Women's Action Group (1977–1979), Koori bina : a black Australian news monthly [catalogue entry], Black Women's Action Group, retrieved 26 September 2022 – via Trove
  15. ^ "Black Women's Action Group". Redfern Oral History. 26 September 2022. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  16. ^ a b Langton, Marcia; Kirkpatrick, Brownlee (1979). "A listing of Aboriginal periodicals". Aboriginal History. ANU Press. 3 (1/2): 120–127. ISSN 0314-8769. JSTOR 24045737. Retrieved 26 September 2022. PDF
  17. ^ "Australian Abo Call". State Library of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 26 February 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  18. ^ Burrows, Elizabeth Anne (2010). Writing to be heard: the Indigenous print media's role in establishing and developing an Indigenous public sphere (PhD). Griffith University. p. 37. doi:10.25904/1912/3292. Retrieved 28 September 2022. PDF
  19. ^ "Here comes the nigger". Tribune. No. 1978. New South Wales, Australia. 1 December 1976. p. 8. Retrieved 26 September 2022 – via National Library of Australia.
  20. ^ McKenna, Mark (2002). Looking for Blackfella's point: an Australian history of place. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press. p. 235. ISBN 0868406449.
  21. ^ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner (2009). 2009 Native Title Report: Report of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner to the Attorney-General as required by section 209 of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (PDF) (Report). Australian Human Rights Commission. p. 19.
  22. ^ Langton, Marcia (2010) "Who benefits from the resources boom?" ABC Radio National, Big Ideas, 13 May 2010
  23. ^ "Indigenous people victims of 'green' fight against Adani mine, says Marcia Langton" by Katharine Murphy, The Guardian, 7 June 2017
  24. ^ "Leading Indigenous lawyer hits back at Marcia Langton over Adani" by Joshua Robertson, The Guardian, 9 June 2017
  25. ^ "Marcia Langton – The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom", ABC; also published as book: Harper Collins Australia, ISBN 9780733331633
  26. ^ "The Horne Prize – News". The Horne Prize. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  27. ^ "A voice for Indigenous Australians". Ministers Media Centre. 30 October 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2020.
  28. ^ "Marcia Lynne Langton". Australian Honours Search Facility, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  29. ^ "Queen's Birthday 2020 Honours: The full list of this year's winners". The Sydney Morning Herald. 8 June 2020. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  30. ^ "Academy Fellow: Professor Marcia Langton AO, FASSA". Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. 14 October 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2020.
  31. ^ "Victorian Honour Roll of Women – List of Inductees 2001 to 2011" (PDF).
  32. ^ "Australia's top 100 public intellectuals". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 March 2005.
  33. ^ Network, Australian Public Intellectual (30 October 2006). "Australian Public Intellectual [API] Network". Archived from the original on 30 October 2006. Retrieved 27 September 2022.
  34. ^ a b "Professor Marcia Langton". Melbourne School of Population and Global Health. 13 August 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2022.
  35. ^ "Prof Marcia Langton". Find an Expert. University of Melbourne. 1 January 2019.
  36. ^ "Distinguished Professor Marcia Langton AO FTSE FASSA". Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  37. ^ "7809 Marcialangton (1979 ML1) Discovery Circumstances". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 7 August 2020. Retrieved 28 September 2022.
  38. ^ Johnston, Rae (17 August 2020). "How five asteroids came to be named after Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities". Special Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 28 September 2022.
  39. ^ "The Conversation Hour: Marcia Langton with her new guide to Indigenous Australia". ABC Radio Melbourne. 2 May 2018. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  40. ^ Here I Am, review by Phillipa Hawker, The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 June 2011

External links[edit]