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WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following may contain images, story and voices of deceased, by and about persons. Discretion advised.

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Michael Mansell

9 July 2020 // Michael Mansell


Michael Alexander Mansell (5 June 1951) is a Palawa leader who, as an activist and lawyer, has worked for social, political and legal changes to improve the lives and social standing of Aboriginal people.

Michael's Palawa descent has been traced from the Trawlwoolway group on his mother's side and from the Pinterrairer group on his father's side, both of which are Indigenous groups from north-eastern Tasmania.

From an early age, Michael protested about the status and treatment of Tasmanian Aboriginal people within the community. However he discovered that mere protest was an ineffective measure to achieve his aims of land rights and improved conditions.


So he pivoted, undertaking a degree in law at the University of Tasmania, graduating in 1983. He began a career as a lawyer, attempting to defend the rights of Aboriginal people, 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.

In 1972, he and others set up the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, of which he was chairman and legal manager.

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 from the Mabo v Queensland case.

Mansell was an independent candidate to represent Tasmania in the Australian Senate at the 1987 Australian federal election held on 11 July 1987.

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. He was also the founding secretary of the Aboriginal Provisional Government in 1990.

Subjects that Mansell has written about include the Australian ConstitutionAboriginal customary law, cultural and intellectual property, the Human Genome Project, land rights and Aboriginal sovereignty. In 2016 his book Treaty and Statehoo
d: Aboriginal self-determination was published.

Recommended viewing

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