Dr Pakulski said to applause that Professor Reynolds was “the key figure” in the history debate that had engulfed the nation.

Professor Reynolds has been attacked by Keith Windschuttle and others, who accuse him of poor scholarship in order to further Aboriginal interests. Until now, he has been an Honorary Fellow at UTAS.

The announcement was made before Professor Reynolds’ address in the 2006 Riawunna Lecture Series,  entitled “Aborigines and White Australia: Assimilation or Something Else?”

In it, he said the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, which will be debated by the United Nations general assembly in December, was, in many ways “the most important document on the rights of minorities there has ever been.”

The Declaration is expected to be ratified and under it,  groups will have equality in nation states and the right to preserve their cultural identities.

“It is an affirmation of equality and difference,” he said. “(But) I have no doubt whatsoever, Australia will vote against this document.”

“The gap between Australia and the rest of the world is greater now … Australia is bent on reasserting homogeneity and assimilation of migrant and indigenous communities.”

“Australia has returned to an era when it wants to obliterate difference at the very time an affirmation as never before, of the absolute right of minorities to preserve their identity, is accepted.”

Professor Reynolds predicted right wing commentators would ridicule the Declaration and the Federal Government would attack it as un-Australian.

However, people in Australia would have universal principles to appeal to, and the world would have universal principles to judge Australia by, he said.

And in the long run. Australia would have to pay attention to the Declaration, just as it was forced to pay attention to the United Nations’  1948 Declaration of Human Rights, which acknowledged the equality of individual human rights.

Margaretta Pos

THE University of Tasmania has nailed its colours to the mast in the history wars by honouring Henry Reynolds with a Personal Chair in Riawunna,  Centre for Aboriginal Studies. The announcement was made in Hobart on Tuesday night (October 10) by the Dean of Arts, Jan Pakulski.