Indigenous Peoples and Public Law (LAWS5135)


This course explores the relationship between Indigenous peoples and national and international public law systems. We begin with an exploration of Indigenous legal systems and governance 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 issues such as: changing definitions of Aboriginality that have been imposed upon Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system; paperless arrest laws in the Northern Territory and fine legislation in Western Australia; the legal mechanisms used to execute the Northern Territory Emergency Response; the utility of International Law, Human Rights Law and International bodies to Indigenous people; meanings of self-determination; native title and land rights legislation; and contemporary examples of Indigenous nation building. 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.

Our courses that offer this unit of study

Further unit of study information


2 x 2hr seminars/week for 10 weeks


Class presentation (20%) and 5000wd essay (80%)

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.