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Law in Context

Abstract from Volume 17 No 1 (2000) Criminal Justice in Diverse Communities

The Criminal Justice System and the Construction of Aboriginality

Heather McRae

McRae's paper examines the impact of competing constructions of "Aboriginality" for the administration of justice. She traces a particular dilemma faced by the Australian legal system as it seeks to acknowledge the distinct needs of Indigenous communities for the purposes of establishing specific programs, investigations, legal exemptions or culturally sensitive regulations. If laws are to be passed that recognise differences between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians then how can the law define the boundary between the two groups without imposing a state-sanctioned identity upon Indigenous Australians? In some circumstances, one test adopted by Australian courts requires judges to decide whether an individual is recognised as Indigenous by the community. This may require it to reach a decision in the face of competing claims by different groups claiming to represent Aboriginal people.

(1999) 17(1) Law in Context 148
Keywords: Indigenous Issues

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