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Indigenous People and the Law - JURD7411
 Law Books

Faculty: Faculty of Law
School:  School of Law
Course Outline: See below
Campus: Kensington Campus
Career: Postgraduate
Units of Credit: 6
EFTSL: 0.12500 (more info)
Indicative Contact Hours per Week: 4
Enrolment Requirements:
Prerequisite: LAWS1001 and LAWS1011; Corequisite: LAWS2311.
Excluded: LAWS3211
Fee Band:   (more info)
Further Information: See Class Timetable


This course is concerned less with a new field of law than with the application of established principles and procedures of the Australian legal system to Indigenous Australians – Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders. Thus we re-visit aspects of Criminal Law and Procedure, Property Law, Constitutional Law, etc. At a more fundamental level the course is concerned with the inescapable fact that, in much of Australia, two systems of law may still be operating – the Indigenous system and the Anglo-Australian system. Until quite recent times, the introduced legal system simply ignored Indigenous laws, and rights and responsibilities under those laws. So, this course raises fundamental questions about the juridical basis of the Australian nation state, the uses and misuses of history, the acceptability of legal pluralism, and issues of justice, equality and human rights.

Recommended Prior Knowledge


Course Objectives

The aims of this course are:
  • To consider specific issues arising from the relationship between Australia's Indigenous peoples and the legal system, to develop a coherent perspective on the place of Indigenous people in Australian society, and to acquire new perspectives on the Australian legal system itself
  • To sensitise students to the many problems experienced by Indigenous people in relation to the legal system
  • To consider legal changes that may be appropriate to assist in improving the position of Indigenous people in Australian society, and in advancing Reconciliation
  • To provide a professional foundation for those who may go on to work in firms or organisations involved with Indigenous peoples

Main Topics

  • History and Government Policies
  • Indigenous Laws
  • Indigenous Governance
  • Land Rights
  • Native Title: Recognition and Evolution
  • Native Title: Law and Process
  • Native Title: The Practice Dimension
  • Human Rights and Indigenous Rights
  • Racial Discrimination
  • Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property
  • Criminal Justice Issues
  • Child Welfare
  • Reconciliation and Unfinished Business


Class participation 20%

And either:
Exam 80%
Project 80%

Another possibility is to undertake a smaller-scale project and also to do the exam, or to do two smaller-scale projects. The assessment scheme overall is subject to discussion on Day 1.

Course Texts

A new, fourth edition of the prescribed text is due at the UNSW Bookshop in the second week of July: Heather McRae et al, Indigenous Legal Issues: Commentary and Materials, (4th ed, 2009, Lawbook Co).

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© The University of New South Wales (CRICOS Provider No.: 00098G), 2004-2011. The information contained in this Handbook is indicative only. While every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date, the University reserves the right to discontinue or vary arrangements, programs and courses at any time without notice and at its discretion. While the University will try to avoid or minimise any inconvenience, changes may also be made to programs, courses and staff after enrolment. The University may also set limits on the number of students in a course.