ILC e-newsletter #14
View this email in your browser


It's been another busy period for the ILC starting with the excellent news of our Director, Prof Megan Davis, being elected as Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Congratulations!

There's also been some important developments on constitutional reform, and our Research Directors Dr Kyllie Cripps & Dr Leon Terrill have been busy presenting on their research at events around the country. 

We hope you enjoy our latest e-newsletter. To stay up-to-date with our work you can follow us on Twitter @ILC_UNSW and @mdavisUNSW and like our Facebook page here.

Megan Davis elected Chair of UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Prof Davis speaking during the fourteenth session of the UNPFII in May this year. Photo courtesy of the UNPFII.
ILC Director Prof Megan Davis was unanimously elected Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) at the fourteenth session, held in New York earlier this year.

The UNPFII is an advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), with a mandate to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. 
In her opening statement as Chair on April 20, Prof Davis said the fourteenth session came at a critical time for indigenous peoples and the United Nations.

You can read her full statement here.

Prof Davis also spoke to ABC Radio National’s Patricia Karvelas for the Drive program; you can listen to an excerpt of that interview here.

Addressing unfinished business key to closing health gap

Prof Davis delivered a keynote address at the 13th National Rural Health Conference held in Darwin on 25 May.

Speaking about constitutional reform or ‘recognition’, Prof Davis argued that we need to address the feelings of ‘voicelessness, powerlessness and hopelessness’ felt by many Indigenous communities.
“The pursuit of holey symbolic recognition in written constitutions often neglects the valid grievances about how power is wielded by the state over the group in question,” she said.

“I think we need to be cautious in suggesting that recognition will close the gap or fix race relations.” 

You can watch Prof Davis’ presentation in full here. The Guardian also wrote a story on Prof Davis' keynote which you can read here.

Images below by Glen Campbell courtesy of National Rural Health Alliance.

Constitutional reform: minimalist approach not enough

A statement released by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' in July made it clear that a minimalist approach to constitutional recognition will not be supported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The statement was presented at a meeting held in Sydney on 6 July between the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader and 40 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including ILC Director Prof Megan Davis. 

It said that: "A minimalist approach, that provides preambular recognition, removes section 25 and moderates the races power [section 51(xxvi)], does not go far enough and would not be acceptable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
The full statement will be published in the next edition of the
 Indigenous Law Bulletin (ILB
The Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition released their final report on 25 July; you can read it in full here.
Image courtesy of the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet.

Joint symposium on the proposal for an Indigenous constitutional body

A joint symposium between the ILC, Sydney Law School and Cape York Institute was held at Sydney University on 12 June.

Experts including UNSW's Megan Davis, George Williams, Gabrielle Appleby and Fergal Davis discussed constitutional recognition and the Cape York Institute's proposal of a constitutional Indigenous body. 

Speaking at the symposium, Prof Davis said section 116A and the parliamentary body proposed by the Cape York Institute are concrete and substantive, carefully considered and thought out proposals for law reform.

"They are two ways indigenous peoples have identified as approaches to constrain a Parliament attuned primarily to majoritarian democracy."

The papers will be published in a special edition of the ILB due out later this month.

Incarceration also affects those left behind: Dr Kyllie Cripps

ILC Research Director, Dr Kyllie Cripps, joined a panel of health and legal experts including former High Court judge, The Hon. Michael Kirby, for a seminar addressing the health and social consequences of Indigenous incarceration. The seminar was part of the UNSW Kirby Institute's NAIDOC Week celebrations held on Tuesday 7 July.
Dr Cripps discussed the importance of programs and services that supported the women, families and communities of those who have been incarcerated. Speaking at the panel she said that “incarceration affects everybody, not just those behind bars.”

Also joining the panel was Dr Marlene Kong, head of the Kirby Institute’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program; Dr Megan Williams from Muru Marri from UNSW’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine; and Mr Gregory Davison from the Aboriginal Health, Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network.

For more on the seminar read this story on The Guardian
To find out more about Dr Cripps’ research click here.
Dr Cripps with The Hon. Michael Kirby (LHS), Dr Williams and Dr Kong at the Kirby Institute. Image by Susi Hamilton. 

Indigenous land reform

In June, Dr Leon Terrill gave a presentation on the Queensland Government’s Providing Freehold Act at the National Native Title Conference in Port Douglas. The Act makes it possible for areas of Indigenous land to be divided up and converted to ordinary freehold, which has never previously been done in Australia. Dr Terrill spoke about the consequences of this for landowners, native title holders and community residents.

“Some people have said that ordinary freehold works in places such as Brisbane so it should also be used in Indigenous communities”, Dr Terrill said.

“That’s not a useful way of looking at it. Freehold has been introduced as an alternative to leases and a better approach is to set out the characteristics of each and consider which is best suited to the circumstances of each community." 

Dr Terrill also recently attended the Broome Roundtable on Economic Development and Property Rights, convened by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and spoke to The Wire about a recent agreement for a new type of township lease in the community of Gunyangara.

To find out more about the Indigenous Land Reform Project click here.
Attendees, including Dr Terrill, at the Indigenous Leaders Roundtable in Broome. Image courtesy of the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Indigenous Law Library project well under way

Following our successful Major Research Equipment and Infrastructure Initiative (MREII) grant, two new staff members joined the ILC this year for a joint AustLII project to further develop the Australian Indigenous Law Library.

Stijn Denayer and Tim Burston have been working to develop the Library as a free, accessible online database of rare Indigenous legal materials. Mr Denayer said Indigenous research and perspectives are often neglected in mainstream library collections.

“Research into Australian laws and policies that impact on Indigenous peoples is also frustrated due to the difficulty of obtaining official documents, reports, and other evidence,” he said. “Working out how to find information can be especially difficult for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples not associated with universities and bureaucracies.”

If you would like more information about the project or think you might have materials to contribute, please contact Stijn or Tim at:
Tim and Stijn at AustLII working with a specialised scanner to digitise books and documents.

Annual fundraising appeal: Thank you!

The ILC would like to thank those who generously donated to our first annual appeal. Donations are making an impact on our ability to continue our work.

Partnering with other organisations, like the National Children's and Youth Law Centre, is also helping us to keep journals like the ILB in publication. 

We are continuing our search for a new funding source following the Federal Government’s decision to cut 100% of its funding to the ILC last year. It is a challenging time, but we always remain positive for the future of the ILC’s research and community legal education work being funded into the future. 


How can you help?

If you or your workplace would like to partner to fund an edition of the ILB or AILR please email: or call 02 9385 2252.

To discuss a larger partnership you can contact Jordana Wong at the UNSW Faculty of Law at:

Centre Publications

Indigenous Law Bulletin

The March/April 8(17) of the ILB was a thematic edition on the rights of Indigenous children. It was made possible with the generous support of the National Children's and Youth Law Centre.
Of great concern expressed throughout this edition are the extremely high numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people living in out-of-home care arrangements. As demonstrated by research from Kyllie Cripps and Julian Laurens, and by Pip Martin from NAAJA, the rates of removal of Indigenous children are increasing significantly each year right around the country. Read more here.
The May/June 8(18) included articles by Greg McIntyre SC, Pauline Foster and Terri Janke, George Williams and Tammy Solonec. Our feature article was by Greg McIntyre who analysed the recent Port Hedland Aboriginal heritage case. In Robinson v Fielding the WA Supreme Court overturned a decision by the Aboriginal Cultural Materials Committee (ACMC) to deregister the Marapikurrinya Yintha cultural heritage site. The case is significant because it demonstrates that the guidelines used by the ACMC are inconsistent with the definition of ‘Aboriginal site’ in the Aboriginal Heritage Act. Read more here.

Call for submissions

Both the Australian Indigenous Law Review (AILR) and the ILB are currently welcoming submissions from Indigenous and non-Indigenous authors, on a wide range of topics.

The ILB publishes shorter pieces, usually around 2000 words excluding footnotes and written in a manner that is accessible to its wide readership.

The AILR publishes longer pieces, usually between 6,000 and 14,000 words including references, and welcomes more in-depth analysis. All contributions to the AILR are double-blind peer-reviewed.

If you are interested in contributing please email: or 
unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences