An Aboriginal passport refers to various travel documents issued by the self-declared Aboriginal Provisional Government (APG), an indigenous Australian group. Such documents are not recognized as valid by the Australian government or its Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, although some people have been permitted to re-enter Australia using such documents.
When the Commonwealth of Australia was formed in 1901 the new nation excluded Aboriginal people from participating in the new nation, including being counted in census figures. Under the Aborigines Act of 1905, Western Australian Aboriginal people had to apply for "citizenship" and were issued Aboriginal "passports" by the Western Australian Government. Without the passport Indigenous Australians could not work where they wanted, spend money how they wanted, receive health care or enter many public buildings such as hotels or restaurants. The Act was repealed in 1963 and replaced by the Native Welfare Act. The 1967 referendum allowed for Aboriginal to be included in census figures.
Use by activists
In the late 1980s Tasmanian activist Michael Mansell introduced an Aboriginal Passport. The passport was issued to a delegation that visited Libya in 1988. The passports were used to get into Libya and Mansell in an interview said that it was the "first time I've had any other country recognise the fact that I'm not Australian". On the delegation's return to Australia they were detained by immigration officials until they produced Australian documentation. The Aboriginal Provisional Government, an organization seeking to create an Aboriginal nation, continued to issue Aboriginal Passports into the 1990s. The group regards the Australian passport issued by the Australian government as "a foreign and colonial travel document" and so issues Aboriginal passports as "an act of Aboriginal sovereignty."
Under Australian's Migration Act of 1958 everyone entering the country must have a legal travel document, which under the act is termed as a passport. Barbara Hocking claims that under Australian law a passport is deemed to be a document which looks like a passport. Hocking asserts that since the APG issues Aboriginal passports that look like passports Hocking claims that customs agents cannot refuse entry while using Aboriginal passports because under the terms of Australian law they have a travel document issued by the APG that looks like a passport.
In September 2012, the Indigenous Social Justice Association, an Australian group which wants recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty, showed their support for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange by giving him an Aboriginal Nations passport.
- Joshua Robertson, Tolerance of travellers with Aboriginal passports amounts to recognition, says activist, The Guardian (April 20, 2015).
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- Assange gets an Aboriginal passport, Australian Associated Press (September 15, 2012).
- Indigenous campaigners re-enter Australia on Aboriginal passports, Special Broadcasting Service (September 19, 2014).