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Policy Statement - Indigenous Australians and the Legal Profession

8 February 2010
 

The Law Council of Australia acknowledges the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the original inhabitants and custodians of Australia. The Law Council acknowledges, in particular, the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, the land on which the Law Council of Australia has its offices.

In adopting this Policy Statement on Indigenous Australians and the Legal Profession, the Law Council of Australia recognises:

  1. that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples possess distinct cultures and identities and unique relationships with their lands, waters and resources;
     
  2. that Indigenous Australians have been subject to significant dispossession, marginalisation and discrimination, and continue to experience widespread disadvantage, including in the areas of housing, health, education, employment, access to justice and participation in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the nation;
     
  3. the particular cultural, linguistic, economic and geographic barriers that confront Indigenous Australians seeking legal assistance and access to justice;
     
  4. that too many Indigenous Australians have died in custody and, notwithstanding the important work of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, continue to die in custody;
     
  5. that Indigenous Australians are significantly and unacceptably over-represented in Australian prisons and the criminal justice system;
     
  6. that Indigenous Australians are under-represented in the Australian legal profession;
     
  7. that Indigenous Australians, like all Australians, have a right to equality before the law, due process before the law and to be free from discrimination of any kind, in particular that based on their Indigenous origin or identity;
     
  8. that Indigenous Australians, like all Australians, have the right to physical and mental integrity, liberty and security of person; 
     
  9. that Indigenous Australians have the right to self determination and to recognition and protection of their distinct culture and identities, as provided under inter alia the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
     
  10. that Indigenous Australians, through their representatives, have a right to be consulted about and participate in decision-making concerning legislative and policy changes affecting their rights and interests;
     
  11. the importance to Indigenous Australians of alternative justice models which involve greater participation of the Indigenous community;
     
  12. that Indigenous Australians may observe their customary laws and that these are sophisticated and complex systems of laws which continue to evolve and which deserve recognition, including where appropriate within the broader Australian legal system; and
     
  13. the significant contribution of Indigenous Australians and their cultures to the Australian community and to the ongoing development of the Australian legal system.
     

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