1st Edition

Indigenous Legal Judgments Bringing Indigenous Voices into Judicial Decision Making

Edited By Nicole Watson, Heather Douglas Copyright 2021
    344 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    344 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book is a collection of key legal decisions affecting Indigenous Australians, which have been re-imagined so as to be inclusive of Indigenous people’s stories, historical experience, perspectives and worldviews.

    In this groundbreaking work, Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars have collaborated to rewrite 16 key decisions. Spanning from 1889 to 2017, the judgments reflect the trajectory of Indigenous people’s engagements with Australian law. The collection includes decisions that laid the foundation for the wrongful application of terra nullius and the long disavowal of native title. Contributors have also challenged narrow judicial interpretations of native title, which have denied recognition to Indigenous people who suffered the prolonged impacts of dispossession. Exciting new voices have reclaimed Australian law to deliver justice to the Stolen Generations and to families who have experienced institutional and police racism. Contributors have shown how judicial officers can use their power to challenge systemic racism and tell the stories of Indigenous people who have been dehumanised by the criminal justice system.

    The new judgments are characterised by intersectional perspectives which draw on postcolonial, critical race and whiteness theories. Several scholars have chosen to operate within the parameters of legal doctrine. Some have imagined new truth-telling forums, highlighting the strength and creative resistance of Indigenous people to oppression and exclusion. Others have rejected the possibility that the legal system, which has been integral to settler-colonialism, can ever deliver meaningful justice to Indigenous people.

    Foreword by Megan Davis

    1. Introduction

    Nicole Watson and Heather Douglas

    Part 1: Sovereignty

    1. Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd (1971) 17 FLR 141.

    Essay: Oscar Monaghan

    2. Cooper v Stuart (1889) 14 App Cas 286.

    Commentary: Eddie Synot and Roshan de Silva-Wijeyeratne

    Judgment: Eddie Synot and Roshan de Silva-Wijeyeratne

    3. Walker v NSW (1994) 182 CLR 45

    Commentary: Tanya Mitchell and Amanda Porter

    Judgment: Amanda Porter and Tanya Mitchell

    Part 2: Land and Sea Country

    4. Tickner v Chapman (1995) 57 FCR 451.

    Commentary: Narelle Bedford and Peter Billings

    Judgment: Narelle Bedford and Peter Billings

    5. Members of the Yorta Yorta Abriginal Community v Victoria [2002] HCA 58.

    Commentary: Simon Young

    Judgment: Marcelle Burns

    6. Akiba on behalf of the Torres Strait Regional Sea Claims Group v Commonwealth of Australia (2013) HCA 33.

    Commentary: Alison Whittaker

    Judgment: Virginia Marshall

    Part 3: Racism and Discrimination

    7. Kartinyeri v Commonwealth [1998] HCA 22.

    Commentary: Larissa Behrendt and Taryn Lee

    Judgment: Larissa Behrendt and Taryn Lee

    8. Commissioner of Corrective Services v Aldridge (No. 2) [2002] NSWADTAP 6.

    Commentary: Debbie Bargallie and Jennifer Nielsen

    Judgment: Jennifer Nielsen and Debbie Bargallie

    9. Eatock v Bolt [2011] FCA 1103.

    Commentary: Simon Rice

    Poem and Note: Alison Whittaker

    Part 4: Family and Identity

    10. Dempsey v Rigg (1914) St R Qld 245.

    Commentary: Trudie Broderick

    Judgment: Nicole Watson

    11. State of South Australia v Lampard-Trevorrow [2010] SASC 56.

    Commentary: Terri Libesman

    Judgment: Kirsten Gray

    12. Backford & Backford and Anor (No 2) [2017] FamCAFC 206.

    Commentary: Keryn Ruska and Zoe Rathus

    Judgment: Keryn Ruska and Zoe Rathus

    Part 5: Criminalisation and Criminal Neglect

    13. Roach v Electoral Commissioner [2007] HCA 43.

    Commentary: Jonathan Crowe and Dani Larkin.

    Judgment: Dani Larkin and Jonathan Crowe.

    14. Nona v Barnes [2012] QCA 346.

    Commentary: Heather Douglas and Heron Loban

    Judgment: Heron Loban and Heather Douglas, translation Deenorah Yellub.

    15. Bugmy v R [2013] HCA 37.

    Commentary: Mary Spiers Williams

    Judgment: Mary Spiers Williams

    16. Report of the Inquest into the Death of Miss Dhu (Perth, 16 December 2016).

    Commentary: Suvendrini Perera

    Judgment: Hannah McGlade


    Heather Douglas is a Professor at the Melbourne Law School, The University of Melbourne.

    Nicole Watson is a Munanjali and Birri Gubba woman from south-east Queensland. Nicole is an Associate Professor and Director of the Academic Unit, Nura Gili Centre for Indigenous Programs, University of New South Wales.

    "Indigenous Legal Judgments is a powerful expression of Indigenous empowerment and self-determination. This is an important book not only because of what it says about what the law is, but also because of what it says about what the law could, and should, be. This is an essential read for anyone interested in seeing how reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous legal systems might be possible." - Peter Aadoson, Canadian Law Library Review