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3The Independent Weekly
news December 18 - January 7, 2010
South Australia was built on
an unlawful land grab that
breached British settler
laws, according to a new book that
looks at the legal documentation
on which SA was founded.
It says settlers had a legal
obligation to protect "the rights
of Aboriginal people to the
enjoyment and occupation of
Coming to Terms, edited by
Adelaide lawyer Shaun Berg,
concludes the King of England
placed a clear obligation on
the settlers to ensure land was
acquired from Aboriginal people
only with their consent.
A plan to arrange for voluntary
land transfers or to buy the land
from the indigenous owners was
"Put simply, at the beginning of
1836, Aboriginal people owned all
of the land; by the end of the same
year they owned none of it," Mr
He said most people presumed
the land had been properly
acquired. "It was not," Mr Berg
said. "There is also no doubt that
the British knew that the land was
owned by Aboriginal people, and
that the land was absorbed into
a new land-tenure arrangement
without their consent."
Barrister Geoffrey Robertson
QC writes that the British at the
time had been appalled at the mas-
sacre of natives in Van Diemen s
Land, and the Parliament was
determined to uphold native
rights. "It did not work out this
way, of course," Mr Robertson
writes. "No deals were ever done
and no treaties were ever made."
The book will be launched by
former High Court judge Michael
Kirby in Adelaide on Monday.
broke the law
Australia s decision to lift a
five-year ban on animal-to-human
body part transplants is dividing
SA researchers and medical
Last week, the National
Health and Medical Research
Council (NHMRC) announced
the transplantation of organs,
tissue or cells from one species
to another, would be allowed to
start in Australian clinical trials
Trials are seen as a way of
finding a cure for Type 1 diabetes.
The transplantation immunol-
ogy laboratory at Queen Elizabeth
Hospital, headed by associate
professor Toby Coates, has been
researching the use of pig islets
-- insulin-producing cells from
a pancreas -- in treating Type 1
diabetes in humans.
"The pig insulin differs from
the insulin produced by a human
pancreas by only one amino acid,"
Professor Coates said.
"The real amazing thing is
there have been xenotransplanta-
tion tests undertaken on monkeys
where after 12 months, the
diabetes was still completely
After a two-year consultation
process, the NHMRC recom-
mended in 2004 that clinical
trials should not be conducted in
Australia for five years due to the
risk of viral infection.
The danger of cross-species
virus transmission has been
highlighted with pigs, in particu-
lar, because they carry porcine
endogenous retroviruses. While
non-aggressive in pigs, it was
discovered in 2004 that the virus
is deadly if it comes into contact
with common human viruses
such as influenza.
Five years on the NHMRC
has decided clinical trials are
acceptable in Australia if strict
regulations are in place, noting
improvements in detecting
known viral diseases.
But not everyone is convinced.
Professor Mary Barton, head
of the infectious diseases and
microbiology research group at
the SA University, said scientists
involved in this research still
need to be cautious.
"There are a number of
diseases which could be present
in the donor which we can t yet
detect," she said.
"You can t look for them if you
don t know what they are -- they
need to be very careful and selec-
tive about the type of transplant
and what animals they use."
Dr Coates doesn t dispute this,
but insists current pig colonies
are genetically modified to be free
of any known retroviruses.
"There is no doubt there are
some infections we would be
unable to detect should they
arise," he said. "But on the other
hand, pigs are now clear of all
the obvious things, making this a
perfect time to move forward."
Research will not proceed until
new guidelines are put in place by
the federal Department of Health
and Ageing, which will regulate
trials and monitor patients
during their treatment.
The move will see Australia
trying to emulate the New
Zealand company Living Cell
Technologies, which has begun
using insulin-producing cells
from pigs to treat a patient with
Type 1 diabetes.
With only six weeks treatment,
it is too early to tell whether the
experiment will succeed, but Dr
Coates believes it is a sign the
research has finally been taken
"SA has been playing a leading
role in pushing this research for-
ward with collaborations between
QEH and the Universities of
Melbourne and Sydney," he said.
"It s now time to take our
Humans to be part animal
Associate Professor Toby Coates: Cutting-edge research.
Photo: Kate Elmes
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