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Forum tackles Indigenous law

Forum tackles Indigenous law

Indigenous family violence and Indigenous rights in international law are just a couple of the issues to be discussed at a two day conference starting this Friday (1 October) at The Australian…

Indigenous family violence and Indigenous rights in international law are just a couple of the issues to be discussed at a two day conference starting this Friday (1 October) at The Australian National University.

The Indigenous Lawyers Association's Fifth National Indigenous Legal Conference will open with a speech from Attorney-General Robert McClelland and address issues such as the denial of access to justice for Aboriginal people; the Northern Territory intervention and adherence to international legal obligations; competing claims to sovereignty and post-graduate study and work options for Indigenous people.

A key theme of the two-day program is the encouragement of legal education and its role in helping Indigenous people to overcome problems in their community.

Conference coordinator John Wood said its aim was to inform participants about contemporary issues on Indigenous civil liberties and to provide perspective on practising at the bar from Indigenous barristers.

"We aim to highlight the fact that legal education can help overcome debilitating problems facing the Indigenous community," Wood said.

According to Wood, discussion surrounding Indigenous family violence will focus on the perennial issues that go with violence - the cycle of poverty, theft, prison and the inability to find work.

"How do we keep people out of the criminal justice system? We're looking at education as a means for doing that," Wood said. "How we can, if not break it for this generation, at least for the next generation, so they don't get in to the system in the first place."

Another key issue to be addressed at the conference is the endorsement of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People - a non-legally binding declaration that will support the recognition of Indigenous rights on an international scale. According to Wood, Australia and New Zealand have already endorsed the declaration, however, they are still awaiting support from the USA and Canada.

"We would like to look at some strategies for encouraging those two countries to support the declaration," he said.

The conference will be attended by approximately 250 people including law students, lawyers, barristers, Indigenous community elders and native title representative bodies.

The program includes presentations from South Australian Supreme Court judge, Justice Robyn Layton, Dr. Kerry Arabena from the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples and Dr. Megan Davis - the first Indigenous female independent expert on the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues.

For details of the conference program visit: http://law.anu.edu./au/coast/events/Indigenous/conf.htm

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