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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 33 No 1 (2015) Legal History Turns

A Politics of Prosecution: The Conviction of Wonnerwerry and the Exoneration of Jerry Durack in Western Australia 1898

Professor Mark Finnane is ARC Laureate Fellow at Griffith University.

In 1901 one of the pioneering Durack family was killed on the verandah of his cattle station homestead in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. In a subsequent trial two young Aboriginal men were tried for his murder. Three years earlier the murdered man had himself been charged, though never tried, with the murder of an Aboriginal man. Connecting these two homicides was work best avoided when writing the pioneer legend of Australian history, but is inescapable when seeking to appreciate the ambition and limits of criminal law in a colonial society, the task of this article. At the same time, the evidentiary demands of historical reconstruction prove as challenging as those of legal proof when faced with the task of understanding what was in the minds of those actors, settlers and Indigenous, more than a century ago. 

(2015) 33(1) Law in Context p60

   
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