Professor Marcia Langton AM

Professor Marcia Langton is a leading anthropologist and activist.

Honour Roll

Marcia Langton was born in Brisbane on 31 October 1951. Her grandparents and parents worked on stations in southeast Queensland and endured appalling treatment. Marcia attended eight different primary schools. Racism and segregation were everywhere and it was just accepted.

However, at Aspley State High School Marcia objected to the racism in a text they were using and she was expelled. This was despite the fact that she was a prefect and a good student.

In 1969, Marcia was accepted to study for an arts-law degree at the University of Queensland. She was by then already politically active and had actually been taken to her first political meeting at age sixteen by Oodgeroo Noonuccal. She printed and distributed anti-racist leaflets and staged land rights demonstrations. Her anthropology lecturer believed that Aboriginal people were intellectually inferior to white people and promptly failed her in that subject, although she received good grades in everything else.

She learned that the Brisbane police were clamping down on black radicals, so at eighteen years of age she took her young son Benjamin and cleared out. She spent five years travelling the world, from New Guinea to Japan, across Asia to Switzerland and North America, working as she went. When she returned to Brisbane she was greeted by the same old racism so she moved to Sydney.

She got a job as Nutrition Co-ordinator at the Aboriginal Medical Service and also worked with Professor Fred Hollows in the area of optical health. With a few other women she started the Black Women's Action group and published a newspaper, Koori-Bina (Black Ears). Marcia also worked at Black Theatre.

In 1977, she went to Canberra for a year as she was elected general secretary to the Federal Council for the Advancement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. She enrolled in Anthropology at the Australian National University, and worked part-time to survive financially. Marcia worked as a consultant with the Australian Law Reform Commission working on its Terms of Reference on the Recognition of Customary Law. At the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies she became the History Research Officer. By the time she graduated in 1984 she had a lot of experience in the field.

She went to work as senior anthropologist at the Central Land Council in Alice Springs and accomplished a great deal in land claims. In 1988 she gave birth to a daughter, Ruby Nakarra.

After six years in Alice Springs she took up the position as Head of the Aboriginal Issues Unit of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody for 15 months, 1989-90. Her group produced a booklet, 'Too Much Sorry Business.' Ultimately she was disappointed with the results of this commission.

In 1990, she returned to Queensland to work as Assistant Head of the Division of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs. This job did not work out and 15 months later she was forced to resign. In 1992, Marcia was appointed Chair of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies in Canberra then became Chair of Aboriginal Studies at Northern Territory University's Faculty of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Currently Marcia Langton is a Professor of Indigenous Studies, the University of Melbourne.