“Elliott Johnston was a most unusual lawyer…Coming generations of lawyers can be encouraged to reflect upon the causes of justice and equality that he so powerfully espoused.” – The Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG
Twenty-five years after Elliott Johnston’s thorough and prescient Report on the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, juvenile justice, freedom of speech, racial discrimination, human rights and a referendum on constitutional ‘recognition’ of Indigenous Australians remain subjects of contestation, national debate and international scrutiny.
In this collection, 17 distinguished Indigenous and non-Indigenous jurists, scholars and community leaders show common cause with Johnston. They pursue better ways of understanding social values, justice and equality expressed through issues of native title, incarceration rates, cultural protection, self-determination and rights of Indigenous peoples. They look to the law as a site of hope and an instrument of public education and principled change.
Foreword by Kim Economides and Daryle Rigney
About the Authors
A Powerful Example: Introducing The Elliott Johnston Lectures
Gus Worby, Hossein Esmaeili and Simone Ulalka Tur
1998: The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody: Lessons For Wik
1999: Back to the Future: Aboriginal Imprisonment Rates and Other Experiences
2000: A Tragedy of Dumb Politics: Does Mandatory Sentencing Cause Fundamental Damage to the Legal System?
2001: Cultural Protection in Frontier Australia
2002: Power from the People: A Community- based Approach to Indigenous Self-determination
2003: From a Hard Place: Negotiating a Softer Terrain
2005: The Effect of Early Australian Laws on Aboriginal People: A Personal Perspective
2006: From Rhetoric to Reconciliation: Addressing the Challenge of Equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Criminal Justice Processes
2007: Human Rights and Indigenous Reconciliation in Australia
2008: Land Rights, Native Title and the ‘Limits’ of Recognition: Getting the Balance Right?
2009: Indigenous Australians and the Law Post Apology: Lessons Learned from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody
2010: The Taking of Land Without Consent: The Dispossession of Aboriginal Land in South Australia
2011: Engagement to Support Indigenous Self-Determination
2012: Elliott Johnston, Social Values and Justice
2013: Putting Meat on the Bones of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
2014: Holding on to the ‘Hope of Law’
2015: Why First Laws Must Be In
Published in the 25th Anniversary of the Royal Commission, at a time when many of those recommendations remain unrealised, this collection of speeches explores Johnston’s rich professional life, largely through the words of those that knew him. For that reason alone, it is a valuable and insightful compilation, but it offers much more.
Each chapter reproduces a lecture in the Elliott Johnston Tribute (and later Memorial) series at Flinders University, South Australia. Stretching back to 1998, they have not been touched since their original delivery. While one may therefore think that there is little to gain from reading speeches permanently frozen in another time, Lowitja O’Donoghue’s lament that ‘in Indigenous Affairs nothing is new, just forgotten’ is apt. … Reading these addresses closely, one is struck by just how many could be given again today – almost word for word.
Harry Hobbs, Alternative Law Journal, Vol 43:2 2018
This work, which is a compilation of 17 essays, papers and speeches from distinguished Indigenous and non-Indigenous jurists, scholars and community leaders, exposes the unpopular truth that Australia is a long way from resolving the important social and legal issues surrounding indigenous Australians. That is despite the fact that the Report on the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was handed down over 25 years ago. That report was prepared by Elliott Johnston QC who, during his career, was a distinguished Barrister, scholar and Judge. This work is in honour of Mr Johnston, and it includes a piece by Michael Kirby about Mr Johnston entitled “Elliot Johnston, Social Values and Justice”. The book is a very important contribution to the necessary discussion about the failure of Australian Society to respond to the languishing social issues plaguing the indigenous community.
Queensland Law Reporter – 4 November 2016 –  43 QLR