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The inclusion of Aboriginal traditional law in the Western Australian legal system 1829-1992

Vincent, Margaret Ann (1992) The inclusion of Aboriginal traditional law in the Western Australian legal system 1829-1992. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study was undertaken with a view to examining Aboriginal customary law in Western Australia and the ways in which the legislation was framed to accommodate the traditions of the indigenous people. that rather than However, from the outset, it was noted trying to adapt aspects of Aboriginal customary law, the legislators and jurists drew up legislation which sought to deny Aborigines access to their traditional ways and to make them amenable to British law. This thesis looks at the entire period of white settlement from 1829 until the present day. It covers most of the important legislation proclaimed in Western Australia during this period as well as some of the more significant court cases which affected Aboriginal people. Central to the thesis is the notion of sovereignty. From the beginning of settlement, Aboriginal people were removed from their land by force or by means of legislation and consequently became dispossessed, not only in terms of their livelihood but also in terms of their traditional lifestyle. This thesis begins with the argument as to whether the British government had the right to claim sovereignty over the land. It concludes with the Mabo decision which found that in fact many Aboriginal people in Australia still have a right of native title to the land.

In the interim, however, Aboriginal people suffered severe deprivations at the hands of the settlers and legislators. Many were treated harshly and were denied basic human rights. Yet, throughout the whole period, some managed to maintain aspects of their traditional lifestyle so that today, although there have been adaptations which have altered the form of traditional Aboriginal law, it still remains an important part of their lifestyle in many parts of the State. Legislation drawn up over the past twenty years has helped to ensure that Aboriginal people have the right to decide their own future and this has enabled them to look to the future with hope that soon they might not be considered as ‘other' by white Australians but as equals who have a distinct culture and identity.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Law
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Supervisor(s): UNSPECIFIED
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