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Tea Leaves

Acclaimed book points to a brighter Australian future

Alternative view of night sky in 'Dark Emu' illuminates debate on Aboriginal rights

An Australian Aboriginal man plays a didgeridoo at Government House in Sydney.   © Reuters

For most Australians the constellation that stands out in the night sky is the Southern Cross, a set of five bright stars with its main axis pointing south. But indigenous people see something else -- in the dark clouds surrounding the Milky Way, they discern the elongated image of a flightless bird.

This "emu in the sky," or "dark emu," is part of the creation story of Aboriginal Australia, and a touchstone of a new debate about the past and future role of the continent's first inhabitants. It is a story that resonates around the world, part of a growing international awareness of indigenous rights, including land rights, across regions from the Americas to Eurasia.

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