Rights and Redemption: History, Law and Indigenous Rights in Australia
The paper examines the role of history in key Indigenous rights cases involving land rights, the stolen generation, genocide, the definition of Aboriginality in ATSIC elections, and the veracity of secret women’s business. These cases all occurred at a time when Indigenous rights and the place of Aboriginal people in the national story were repudiated in a variety of government laws and policies. The paper takes as its starting point the Mabo case, which first recognised Aboriginal traditional rights to land, and examines the relationship of law and history, and their divergent understandings of the past. It investigates how the courts have used historians as expert witnesses and how the colonial past has been framed and understood by the courts. It makes the claim that the struggles within the court have offered a platform for redemption for Indigenous Australians in surprising ways that are not necessarily related to the outcome of the cases.
Keywords: Law, History, Indigenous Rights, Legal Theory, Historical Theory
Dr. Ann Genovese
Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne
Associate Professor, School of Law, University of Adelaide