The Centre for International and Public Law is proud to host a panel discussion during National Reconciliation Week. Each panel member will speak on an aspect of their research that affects Indigenous communities.
Property, Private International Law, and Repatriation
The research behind this presentation focuses on how private law, both domestically and internationally, can facilitate the return of Indigenous human remains (IHR) from overseas colonial institutions. It first looks to Australian domestic law and the role of property concepts in establishing ownership claims over IHR, and then asks if private international law norms will allow these ownership claims to be recognised and enforced by overseas forum courts.
Taking Indigenous Experience into Account in Sentencing: Facing the Evidentiary Challenge
Dr Anthony Hopkins
Though we know that Indigenous Australians as a group are subject to significant social and economic disadvantages, the High Court has made clear that to ‘recognise this is to say nothing about a particular [Indigenous] offender’ (Bugmy v The Queen  HCA 37 at ). Whilst there can be little doubt that this is a correct statement of law in the context of the individualised sentencing process, it fails to recognise the challenge presented for Indigenous offenders. That challenge is to provide evidence connecting their story to the story of their people. Anthony argues that the post-colonial state should accept the moral and financial burden of ensuring this evidence is presented during the sentencing process, adopting an approach taken in Canada.
How Race Discrimination Legislation legitimates Racism
Professor Margaret Thornton
This presentation shows how anti-discrimination legislation is capable of addressing only overt acts of race discrimination, not the racism buried deep within the social psyche. The recent free speech debate and its aftermath are exemplary.
Thinking about the way we think about ‘law’
Mary Spiers Williams
Law has been instrumental in the colonisation and ongoing colonisation of Indigenous peoples in Australia. Law has been described as the ‘cutting edge of colonisation’ (Chanock 1985). Practitioners and policy makers trained in state law often struggle to understand and ameliorate the negative impacts of state law on Indigenous people. Mary will discuss the importance of finding alternative ways to make sense of state law and its interrelation with other legal orders, in order to find its emancipatory potential for Indigenous people.
Options for constitutional change: recognition or Treaty?
Associate Professor Asmi Wood
Asmi will argue that constitutional recognition is perhaps the better option at present than is a treaty. This is because recognition in the Constitution is contingent on an Anglo-Australian legal process that unilaterally recognises Indigenous people. A common Treaty with the Commonwealth on the other hand gains recognition but would require legal concessions on the part of Indigenous people. Further a treaty requires a common agreement between many Indigenous groups as to its legal content and this is something that is better negotiated over time and with great care (i) if the mistakes of the past are to be avoided and (ii) to ensure that the hands of future generations are not bound by the limitations of the present.
It's no one section, it’s the vibe of the thing: constitutional space, race and the curious case of multicultural Australia
The presentation will examine how Australia's insistence on viewing itself through the lens of multiculturalism means proposals for constitutional recognition will always struggle to recognise what is really required to make meaningful reparation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for colonial injury.