A national discussion on traditional Aboriginal or "bush" law is in desperate need of attention according to a lawyer turned documentary film maker, especially as the mainstream Australian legal system continues to fail Indigenous people.
The comments were made at a public forum held at the University of NSW this week by Danielle Loy, who has been practising law in Alice Springs for the last 10 years. Her film, "Bush Law" kicked off the Forum - which aimed to highlight the disparate differences between traditional Aboriginal law and the Australian criminal justice system, and to generate an understanding of each other's world which is necessary to achieve a workable system.
According to Loy, her experience working with Aboriginal and mainstream legal services have been so frustrating that she has found herself practising "on and off". "The mainstream legal system fails Indigenous people terribly," she said.
Loy said that around four years ago, she decided to take action over such frustrations - with her documentary a culmination of those answers, and filmed to provide a "seed for discussion".
"These are the answers that I got," she said, on the results of the documentary. "They weren't the answers that I expected [but] my purpose was to generate an understanding between our worlds because I believe that is an absolute key, if we're all going to live peacefully in Australia."
"If we're all going to comply with a legal system, we all need to understand it, we need to understand each other and respect each other. We're not going to be able to respect each other unless that greater understanding of each others worlds is generated," Loy explained.
The forum also included panel discussion on the problems associated with a lack of understanding on "bush" law, and its disparity with "white people" law - with panellists including Loy, former Northern Territory deputy Chief Magistrate Michael Ward, Lajamanu elder Martin Johnson and bi-cultural consultant Ken Lechleitner.
Loy asked the forum to "take on the challenge" to continue the discussion and find pathways together by talking on an equal platform. "For too many years it's been us whitefellas going in and telling Indigenous people - this is the law, this is how it's going to be," she said.
"The past is the past...it's not about blame, it's not about shame. It's about how we can work together now and how we can work together to make a legal system that works for everybody."
- Briana Everett
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