Indigenous Law Bulletin
In December 2006 I commenced my appointment as the Director of the Indigenous Law Centre (‘ILC’) and Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of NSW (‘UNSW’). It is an exciting time to begin as Director as there are a number of emerging areas of research that the ILC will become involved in and UNSW Faculty of Law is extremely supportive in the project to reinvigorate the research agenda of the ILC. It is also a difficult time for Indigenous Australians in terms of rapid legislative reform that diminishes our rights as Indigenous peoples. In that context I hope to respond regularly to these issues and contribute to public debate.
Indeed the ILC is already a bustling centre of activity that regularly produces the Indigenous Law Bulletin and the Australian Indigenous Law Review (formerly Australian Indigenous Law Reporter). Coordinator Tony Westmore has also continued to engage the Centre in groundbreaking research, in particular, facilitating Sean Brennan’s important research into stolen wages and other monies in NSW.
I am an Aboriginal and South Sea Islander woman from South East Queensland. I grew up in Mulguldie, Hervey Bay and in Eagleby with my four siblings. John, Lucy and Will are all high school teachers and my eldest brother Alf is a newly appointed Lecturer in the School of Human Services at Griffith University. I attended the University of Queensland and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Australian Studies) and a Bachelor of Laws. My academic background in terms of research and scholarship is in international law and I am a former United Nations Indigenous Fellow with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. I have a Master in Laws in International Law and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from ANU and am an admitted Legal Practitioner of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Currently I am completing my Doctorate in Law at the Regulatory Institutions Network ANU, supervised by Professor Hilary Charlesworth. My thesis is examining Aboriginal women in Australian liberal democracy. As a public lawyer I am arguing that reform of Australia’s constitutional system will improve how Aboriginal women live their lives.
Prior to the ILC I was a Senior Researcher with Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS, where I conducted research into the impact of WTO agreements and the US/Australia Free Trade Agreement on Indigenous communities as well as research into and advocacy work on the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Convention on the Rights of the Child as it relates to Indigenous children. Before UTS I was the Director of the Bill of Rights project with the Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law at UNSW. I teach and research on Australian public law issues as they relate to Indigenous Australia. I have taught Public Law and Australian Legal Systems and Process for four years at UNSW and will also teach Indigenous Peoples and the Law and Indigenous Peoples in International Law.
Under my Directorship the ILC will be revisiting many ‘big picture’ issues including the practicalities of reforming Australia’s public institutions to better protect Indigenous rights. I also have a particular focus on Aboriginal women and determining the specificities of Aboriginal women’s right to self-determination. In 2006 I was awarded an Australian Research Council (‘ARC’) Discovery Indigenous Research Development grant to study Aboriginal women in Australian liberal democracy compared to Canadian Indigenous women. The broader project on Indigenous women in democracy will involve consideration of philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s human functional capabilities approach, similar to the application of Amartya Sens’ capabilities approach by Noel Pearson in Cape York. The ILC will also continue to nurture its excellent reputation forged by Professor Mick Dodson, Professor Garth Nettheim, Dr Sarah Pritchard, Neva Collings and many others in international law and the United Nations. To this end I am the newly appointed Australian member alongside Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma to the International Law Association’s Indigenous Rights Committee which hopes to issue a restatement of international law as it relates to Indigenous peoples. The ILC has already commenced research into climate change policies and how that affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.