• Far-right fringe party One Nation has proposed Aboriginal people prove their ancestry through DNA testing. (courtesy of AAP)Source: courtesy of AAP
One Nation’s NSW leader wants First Nations people to prove their heritage by undergoing DNA ancestry testing.
Greg Dunlop, Jack Latimore

11 Mar 2019 - 3:35 PM  UPDATED 11 Mar 2019 - 3:50 PM

The far-right political party, One Nation, says welfare 'rorters and opportunists' are falsely claiming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestry and now wants commercial testing introduced to determine the DNA 'percentage' of anybody identifying as Indigenous.

In a media release this morning, the fringe party and its NSW leader, Mark Latham, said blue eyed and blond haired people claiming to be Aboriginal  "weakens the integrity of [the Indigenous] racial group". 

The party's media release also suggested the motive behind such identification was for the express purpose of "qualifying for extra money".

To meet the government's current criteria for identifying as Indigenous, a person must be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, identify as Indigenous and be accepted as Indigenous by the community in which they live.

Proof is often a requirement to access some government services that have been customised to suit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples cultures and cultural circumstances.

The “three-part definition” became the culturally accepted standard in the 1980s, in preference to earlier classification systems which relied on the racist pseudo-science of eugenics through a calculation of blood quantum.

One Nation NSW has proposed to abolish self-identification and introduce a “new system” relying on DNA ancestry testing with a result requiring a finding of at least 25 per cent "Indigenous" before First Nations identification is accepted.

In the highly unlikely scenario the policy is endorsed by NSW parliament, it is unclear how the plan might function given that Indigenous recognition is largely a federal issue.

“The system of Indigenous self-identification (declaring Aboriginality without any bloodline or DNA proof) has been open to widespread abuse,” claimed the party.

“It is being used as a fraudulent way of cashing in on welfare benefits, special Aboriginal programs and Land Council largesse.”

A failed former Labor Party leader, Mark Latham has re-branded himself over the past several years as an opponent of political correctness, but misogynistic and homophobic opinions have led to his dismissal from jobs at Sky News and the Australian Financial Review.

The latest comments from the One Nation party are part of the One Nation NSW leader's campaign to win a seat in the upper house of the NSW parliament in the March 23 state election.

Does DNA testing work to 'prove' Indigenous heritage?

The prospect of using genetic testing to “prove” claims of Indigenous ancestry has been raised over the last 15 years but, so far, has been dismissed on technical grounds.

Only two companies claim to test for Australian Aboriginal ancestry – DNA Tribes and GTDNA.

In 2016, NITV highlighted the deep flaws in using these methods to determine ancestry when journalists Andrea Booth and Rachael Hocking both took tests with DNA Tribes.

Booth, who is of East Asian and British ancestry, received results suggesting “Central Australian ancestry”. Ms Hocking, a proud Warlpiri woman, received top matches for being of Portugal and Basque descent – Her Indigenous ancestry was absent from the results.

“To know that someone, like myself, might contact this company to discover their ancestry and be given results we know not to be true is, frankly, terrifying,” Ms Hocking told The Saturday Paper.

“I feel for our brothers and sisters who were part of the Stolen Generations, perhaps looking for some closure, only to be given results … which say, ‘You are not black’.”

A Question of Identity 

Can a person identify as Indigenous based on a DNA test?
The question of whether a person can 'become' Aboriginal after discovering ancestry through a DNA test is more complicated in Australia.
A DNA test says you’ve got Indigenous Australian ancestry. Now what?
Technologies for amplifying, sequencing and matching DNA have created new opportunities in genomic science. In this series When DNA Talks we look at the ethical and social implications, writes Elizabeth Watt, Deakin University; Emma Kowal, Deakin University, and Shaun Lehmann for The Conversation.
DNA may be used to 'divide and conquer' Indigenous people, rights campaigner fears
Rights campaigner Rodney Dillon says he's concerned governments could use genetic science to ‘divide and conquer' Indigenous people 'until no one's left'.