Indigenous People and Public Law (LAWS5135)


This course explores the relationship between Indigenous people and national and international public law systems. We begin with an exploration of Indigenous Customary Law and social structures. Students will see how this different way of seeing the world, and being in the world, impacts upon interactions with the mainstream legal system. We will examine the differing perspectives on history to see how they have shaped ever-changing laws and government policies. We will investigate perplexing issues such as: the plethora of definitions of Aboriginality that have been imposed upon Aboriginal people and attempts by Aboriginal people to construct their own identity; the disproportionate incarceration rate of Indigenous Australians; the legal mechanisms used to execute The Intervention; the utility of International Law, Human Rights Law and International bodies to Indigenous people; the meaning of self-determination; and the management of the relationship between Indigenous Australians and their land. Opinions on the issues covered in the course are many and varied so students will be encouraged to explore each topic through discussion and lively debate.

Further unit of study information


2 x 2hr seminars/week for 10 weeks


Class participation (10%) and 1000wd Critical Review Essay (20%) and essay plan (10%) and 5000wd essay (60%)

Faculty/department permission required?


Unit of study rules


LAWS3005 or LAWS3435 or LAWS6988

Study this unit outside a degree

Non-award/non-degree study

If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

Cross-institutional study

If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.