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Indigenous Law (Australia)


This Guide is about...

This is a general guide to help you research Indigenous Law in Australia. For Comparative Indigenous Law on specific jurisdictions, see also:

This research guide was compiled in consultation with members of the Indigenous Law and Justice Hub at Melbourne Law School, which are on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations, Traditional owners of the land on which we learn. 

This research guide is a “work in progress” and we welcome your comments and suggestions.

From Eddie Cubillo

The Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) in December 2020 made a statement on Australian Law’s Systemic Discrimination and Structural Bias Against First Nations Peoples.

"CALD acknowledges the part that Australian legal education has played in supporting, either tacitly or openly, the law’s systemic discrimination and structural bias against First Nations peoples.  At the same time, CALD affirms the positive contribution Australian law schools can, should and will make, in full partnership with First Nations peoples, in exposing, critiquing and remedying all forms of institutionalised injustice."


This guide is a start to make change at the MLS.  

Australia as a nation is at a crucial moment, we have a chance to set the structures for recognising, respecting and truly listening to First Nations Peoples and setting a standard that we all can be proud off. 

It starts with us!

Eddie Cubillo, Director, Indigenous Law and Justice Hub

Indigenous Law​

The study of Indigenous or Aboriginal law includes:

  • The Laws of Indigenous peoples (for example, the tribal codes and constitutions of Native Americans)
  • Treaties between Indigenous groups and the Crown (government)
  • Government laws that create rights and obligations specifically and only affecting Indigenous people. These can be:
    • Entire Acts - for example, Australia's Native Title Act or
    • Specific provisions in Acts  - for example s 718.2(e) of the Canadian Criminal Code, which applies to sentencing of Aboriginal offenders.
  • The relationship between Indigenous people and the general legal system (for example, Indigenous people and the criminal justice system)

This Research Guide will help you research Indigenous law in Australia.

Indigenous law often involves human rights and discrimination law. To research Indigenous peoples in the context of human rights law, see our Human Rights Legal Research guide - the National/Domestic Human Rights tab links to pages for Australia.

A note on terminology when researching Indigenous law: 'Indigenous' is a generic term, as are First Peoples and Aboriginal/Aborigine. Terminology also changes over time. Remember to use additional variants depending on the jurisdiction you are researching. For example:

  • USA:  Native American or American Indian. Also use 'Tribal Law' when researching.
  • Canada: Aboriginal or Indigenous is the generic term used for the three major groups: First Nations (or Indians), Inuit and Métis.
  • Australia: Indigenous Australian, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islanders (Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Island peoples are indigenous peoples), First Nations. 'Native Title' is a term used for the rights of Indigenous people to land.
  • New Zealand: Maori. Maori groups include whānau (extended families), hapū (sub-tribes) and iwi (tribes).

Books - international, covering several jurisdictions, or non-jurisdictional 

First Nations Authors

Ally Authors