Marcia Langton was born in 1951 and grew up in south-central Queensland and Brisbane as a descendant of the Yiman and Bidjara nations. She was educated at Aspley State High School before enrolling at The University of Queensland. Disillusioned with the conservative mainstream political reaction to Indigenous rights, she left Australia to travel, live and work in several countries including Papua New Guinea, Japan and North America.
On her return to Australia, Marcia graduated in anthropology at the Australian National University. 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, the Queensland government and, in the early 1990s, the Cape York Land Council.
She was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia AM in 1993 and 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) before moving to Melbourne. She received her PhD from Macquarie University in 2005.
Marcia 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, Qld. In May 2008, the Federal government appointed her to a committee looking into reform of the Australian Native Title process.
Among her many books, some of her most recent are The Quiet Revolution: Indigenous People and the Resources Boom and First Australians: An Illustrated History.
She is currently a Professor and the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at The University of Melbourne.