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Marcia Langton

Marcia Lynne Langton

31 October 1951 (1951-10-31) (age 69)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
Education Australian National University (BA), Macquarie University (PhD)
Occupation Anthropologist, geographer
Employer University of Melbourne

Marcia Lynne Langton AO FASSA (born 31 October 1951) holds the foundation chair in Australian Indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne in the Faculty of Medicine. In 2016 she became distinguished professor and in 2017, associate provost.

Life and career

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 nations, both 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. She and her mother moved often, without secure housing or employment - she attended 9 primary schools.

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". Wiradjuri artist Brook Andrew painted Langton in a Buddhist pose.

On her return to Australia, Langton studied anthropology at the Australian National University in the 1980s, becoming the first Indigenous honours graduate in anthropology. She then worked with several organisations dealing with Indigenous social and cultural issues and land claims. These included the Australian Film Commission, the Central Land Council (where she was a land claims anthropologist), the Queensland Government and, in the early 1990s, the Cape York Land Council. As a member of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Issues Unit she worked for the 1989 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

In 1995 she 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.

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

Langton has been on the judging panel for the annual Horne Prize since its inception in 2016.

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.

Academic interests

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.

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


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

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.

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

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.

In 2017 she campaigned against "environmentalists" thwarting native title reform as part of their case against the Adani Carmichael coal mine. Her criticisms of Indigenous litigants have been rebuffed by another Indigenous lawyer.


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". 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".

Other awards to Langton have included:

  • Neville Bonner Award for Indigenous Teacher of the Year, 2002 (jointly with Larissa Behrendt)
  • Fellow, Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, elected 2001
  • Inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2001
  • Australia's top 100 Intellectuals
  • Australia's top 40 public intellectuals
  • Fellow of Trinity College (University of Melbourne), elected 2012
  • Fellow of Emmanuel College at The University of Queensland, 2016

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.

Selected works


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


  • Langton, M., 2010. The Resource Curse. Griffith Review, no. 29.
  • Langton, M., and O. Mazel. 2008. Poverty in the midst of plenty: Aboriginal people, the 'resource curse' and Australia's mining boom. Journal of Energy and Natural Resources Law. 26(1): 31–65.
  • Langton, M., 2008. chapter in Manne, R. (ed.) "Dear Mr Rudd: Ideas for a Better Australia". Black Inc.
  • Langton, M., 2007. Trapped in the Aboriginal reality show. Griffith Review Edition 19 – Re-imagining Australia. Sydney: Griffith University.
  • Langton, M., 2003. chapter "Grounded and Gendered: Aboriginal Women in Australian Cinema" in French, L. (ed.) Womenvision: Women and the Moving Image in Australia. Damned Publishing, Melbourne. pp. 43–56.


  • Jardiwarnpa: a Warlpiri fire (with Ned Lander and Rachel Perkins)
  • Night Cries: a rural tragedy (with Tracey Moffatt and Penny McDonald)
  • Blood Brothers, a 1993 four-part Australian documentary series
  • Rachel Perkins First Australians series for SBS television, 2008, features many commentaries by Langton
  • Here I Am, 2011
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