Law and Indigenous Peoples in Australia

Subject 730-391 (2008)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2008. Search for this in the current handbook Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.500
Level: Undergraduate
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2008:

Semester 2, - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: One 3-hour seminar per week
Total Time Commitment: Estimated total time commitment of 144 hours.
Prerequisites: Legal Method and Reasoning; Principles of Public Law; Torts; Legal Theory or in each case their equivalents.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support:


Associate Professor M Tehan
Subject Overview:

Taking current legal and political controversies in Australian Indigenous affairs as its starting point, the subject examines the legal relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and encourages students to critically analyse the impact of the Anglo/Australian legal system on indigenous Australians. Issues for particular study include indigenous Australian societies both before and after colonisation and their interaction with the colonising legal system, the process of legal colonisation, including the assimilation policies, legal regimes providing access to land and resources particularly native title, domestic and international regimes for protection of indigenous cultural property and heritage, the impact of the criminal justice system on indigenous Australians, and the possibilities for recognition of ­customary law in a pluralist legal system. Consistent themes throughout the subject will include the significance of land, the role of identity, the relevance of international human rights law, the concept of self-determination, indigenous governance, the significance of treaty and agreement making, the role of law in remedying disadvantage and experiences in other jurisdictions particularly Canada and New Zealand.

Note: The essay in this subject is regarded as a substantial piece of legal writing for honours purposes.

Assessment: Negotiating exercise, 20% (due week 10); and either research essay or project of 5000 words, 80% (due second week of the examination period); or a final open-book examination of three hours, 80% AND Hurdle Requirement: Attendance at 75% of the seminars and seminar presentation.
Prescribed Texts: Printed materials will be issued by the Faculty of Law.
Recommended Texts:

  • Indigenous Legal Issues (McRae, Nettheim and Beacroft), 3rd edn, Butterworths
Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On completion of the subject, students should have developed the following generic skills:

  • attitudes towards knowledge that include valuing truth, openness to new ideas and ethics associated with knowledge creation and usage
  • the capacity for close reading and analysis of a range of sources
  • the capacity for critical and independent thought and reflection
  • the capacity to solve problems, including through the collection and evaluation of information
  • the capacity to communicate, both orally and in writing
  • the capacity to plan and manage time
  • the capacity to participate as a member of a team
  • intercultural sensitivity and understanding

In addition, on completion of the subject, students should have developed the following skills specific to the discipline of law:

Case reading and analysis

Read complex cases in a range of legal areas and jurisdiction

Extract the important features from judgments

Evaluate and reconcile judgments and legal principles

Statutory reading and interpretation

Extract important features from statues and use, interpret and apply them in a range of circumstances

Legal analysis and problem-solving

Critically analyse legal rules and their application to indigenous people

Develop and apply appropriately structured and supported legal argument in written and oral forms

Legal research skills

Find primary sources relevant to indigenous peoples

Find statutes and case law and non-legal sources relevant to indigenous legal issues in both Australia and in other jurisdictions

Legal writing skills including an ability to:

Use case law, statutes and secondary sources as part of legal analysis

Use material from other disciplines in interdisciplinary analysis

Identify and summarise legal principles

Present an appropriately structured and supported complex legal argument

Oral communication skills in participating in seminars and presenting research reports

Ability to work in groups to solve problems in a class room setting and negotiate settlements in hypothetical situations

Apply mediation and negotiation principles in a cross cultural setting

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