1 Aboriginal L. Bull. 1 (1981-1988)

handle is hein.journals/indibull1 and id is 1 raw text is: Aboriginal
Law Bulletin

Number 1 August 1981

Editorial:
Just more
words?
It might seem that the Aboriginal Law
Bulletin merely adds to the mound of
literature devoted to Australia's Abori-
gines. It is nearly five years since the
Legal Service Bulletin devoted an issue
to 'Aborigines and the Law' (December
1976). Aboriginal lawyer, Michael Dodson
viewed the exercise with scepticism. He
commented:
The continued discussions, conferences
and publications appear to offer scant
results immediately or in the long term.
We, the A boriginal people, are fully aware
of the repressive and racist legal systems
which subject us to great disadvantage
and injustice. The great volumes of
writings and works seem to be of little
value to a people who live under exploita-
tion, oppression and inequality not only
before the law but in all other areas of
social existence. We live that existence,
we have small mileage in 'experts'
exposing the 'problem'
The point is well made. It is difficult
to deny that Aborigines have long provid-
ed scholars from many disciplines with
a fruitful field of study. Lawyers are
starting to discover this fact as more
begin to write about the impact of a
white legal system  upon Blacks. The
many interesting legal issues which have
arisen often serve to divert attention from
the injustices and social destruction
which the white Australian legal system
has caused among Aboriginal communit-
ies. Is this just another journal devoted to
an academic study of legal niceties? We
hope not, but the future depends largely
upon gaining the support of people
working with Aboriginal Legal Services,
Land Councils and research organisations.
The primary aim of this Bulletin is to
become a source of usetul practical intor
mation for people working in the field of
Aborigines and the law. It begins as a very
modest publication with some preten-
sions. At various times the concept of a
series of Aboriginal Law Reports has
been discussed. Too often, important

decisions involving Aborigines are not
included within the official reports and
consequently they remain within the
knowledge of a small band. Case notes
will be a regular feature. They may
expand into something larger.
A few Aboriginal Legal Services and
Land Councils spasmodically publish
newsletters but there is no national jour-
nal which enables people in one part of
the country to learn of the legal develop-
ments hundreds or thousands of kilo-
metres away. There is a lot happening
and if the people who work for Legal
Services and Land Councils are to provide
the most effective service to their com-
munities, they must be aware of activities
elsewhere in the country. If the commun-
ities are to make full use of their Legal
Services and Land Councils they too must
be  informed   of   achievements  and
developments in other regions. Thej
Makaratta, the current work of the

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Australian Law Reform Commission on
customary law, the re-introduction to
the Senate of the Aborigines and Island-
ers (Admissibility of Confessions) Bill,
the Human Rights Bill, the Pitiantjajara
land rights legislation, proposals to amend
the Northern Territory Land Rights Act.
training schemes for Legal Service staff and
the report of the NSW Legislative Assem-
bly's Select Committee on Aborigines are
a few of the matters which must be
noticed and discussed at a national level.
This Review hopes to facilitate that dis-
cussion.
The Aboriginal Law Research Unit is
the body responsible for the Review. On
24 April 1981 uhe Unit was formally
established at the University of NSW. Its
aims include the conduct and fostering of
research on issues concerning Aborigines,
Torres Strait Islanders and the law, the
building of a specialised collection of
resource materials, publication, the estab-
lishment of clearing-house activities for
Aboriginal Legal Services and Land
Councils and the promotion of confer-
ences, seminars and teaching. The Unit
does not claim to be a representative
body; its present financial position has
delayed plans for a national meeting of
representatives of organisations working
in the broad field of Aborigines and the
law. The Unit's steering committee meets
regularly in Sydney and is comprised of
lawyers, anthropologists and activists in
the black community. The committee
through its convenor, Professor Garth
Nettheim, has been in constant commun-
ication with Aboriginal organisations
across Australia. We hope that this
Review will facilitate further communica-
tion and action.
The NSW Law Foundation has donat-
ed sufficient funds to enable four issues
of this Bulletin   to be produced and
mailed to interested persons. This assist-
ance is gratefully acknowledged. Our
next edition will be included     in the
December issue of the Legal Service
Bulletin. We thank the LSB editorial
committee for its support. We encourage
people working with Aboriginal organis-
ations to contribute information for
national circulation; if this is done the
Bulletin may, in a small way, further the
cause of Aboriginal people.
Neil Rees

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