Michael Mansell

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For the darts player from Northern Ireland, see Michael Mansell (darts player).
Michael Mansell
Personal details
Born (1951-06-05) June 5, 1951 (age 65)
northern Tasmania
Nationality Palawa, Australian
Residence Hobart, Tasmania
Alma mater University of Tasmania
Occupation lawyer, activist

Michael Alexander Mansell (born June 5, 1951 in northern Tasmania) is an Australian lawyer and activist of Aboriginal descent, who has dedicated his life to social, political and legal reform to improve the lives and social standing of Tasmanian Aborigines.

Mansell is of Palawa descent from the Trawlwoolway on his mother's side and Pinterrairer on his father's side, both of which are indigenous groups from north-eastern Tasmania.[1]

Legal career[edit]

From an early age, Mansell protested at the status and treatment of Tasmanian Aboriginals within the community. However he soon discovered that mere protest was an ineffective measure to achieve his aims of land rights and improved conditions, and the radical tactics that he and other Indigenous rights protesters employed in the 1970s were abandoned.

As a result, Mansell undertook a degree in law at the University of Tasmania. After graduating in 1983, he began a career as a lawyer, attempting to defend the rights of Aboriginals, whilst pursuing an agenda of reform. Since then he has become a qualified Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Tasmania, and the High Court of Australia.

He has also been both Chairman and Legal Manager of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, which he helped set up in 1972,[2] and he is the secretary of the Aboriginal Provisional Government.

Mansell was named 'Aboriginal of the Year', at the 1987 National NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee) Awards,and played a crucial role in the drafting of legislation for the Native Title Act 1993 that arose out of the Mabo v Queensland case.


Some of the subjects that Mansell has written about include the Australian Constitution, Aboriginal customary law, cultural and intellectual property, the Human Genome Project, land rights and Aboriginal sovereignty.[1]

Activism and commentary[edit]

In the wider Australian community, Mansell has often been seen as controversial, having resorted to confrontational tactics in order to push issues of Indigenous rights and past mistreatment onto the public agenda in Tasmania. Mansell has often been involved in public confrontation with politicians and the media. One area where he is most in conflict with the Australian and Tasmanian governments is over the issue of sovereignty.

In April, 1987, at a conference in Libya called "A Conference on Peace and Revolution in the Pacific", Mansell spoke to a large international audience. It was reported that Mansell had attempted to link the Aboriginal Provisional Government to Colonel Gaddafi's network of activists.

To gain international recognition for the cause of Tasmanian Aborigines, he established an alternative Aboriginal passport. In 1988 he secured official recognition for the passport from Gaddafi who declared it valid for travel to Libya.[3] Mansell said he had Gaddafi's support for the establishment of a separate Aboriginal nation.[4]

In 2001 Mansell stated that "there were more phoney than real Aborigines in Tasmania and more than half the voters in the 1996 ATSIC election were not Aboriginal".[5] Mansell's Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre brought court challenges against the claims of Aboriginality of a number of candidates to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.[2]

In February 2008 Mansell said on Australian radio that although he was happy that the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd would offer a formal public apology on behalf of all Australians for the treatment of the "Stolen Generations", he referred to it as a "half-measure" if it was without compensation.[6] On the first anniversary of the apology, Mansell said that the apology had not improved the situation of aborigines, nor had the government stopped welfare policies based on race.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Michael Mansell - Abstract". Murdoch University. 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-05-11. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  2. ^ a b http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/s659321.htm
  3. ^ "Desperate Times". Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  4. ^ "Gaddafi sending $140,000 a year to Australian Muslims". Sydney Morning Herald. 15 December 1987. p. 1. 
  5. ^ D Woolford (17 February 2001). "Australia: Aboriginal Identity Problems". Townsville Bulletin. p. 40. 
  6. ^ "Michael Mansell - Interview (Audio file)". Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  7. ^ Kevin Rudd's apology to stolen generations 'a shield' over indigenous failures

External links[edit]