Aborigines

Traditional Culture is the Problem, not the Solution

 

We owe this community an approach that honours the wisdom of the oldest living culture in the world, its elders and particularly the women. An approach that says: we believe in you. When Wik people return to activities deeply rooted in their traditions, lores and customs, I see respect, pride, strength and hope.
— Billy Gordon, MP for Cook, speaking at Aurukun, Cape York, in May 2016 after teenage violence forced white teachers’ evacuation and the school’s closure[i]

The Commonwealth of Australia is a liberal democracy based on the rule of law. It allows its citizens the right to publicly air their grievances, to criticise one another and even to show profound disrespect for their leaders, without fear of losing their freedom or their lives. It has a Constitution that guarantees long-term con­sistency in both the political and legal systems. Its government and courts are conducted in public and its laws are all knowable. Its statute laws are all pub­licly pro­claimed when they are created and its common law can be found through published legal precedents and textbooks. Legal guid­ance is available to both rich and poor so that all citi­zens can predict with reasonable precision whether the actions they con­template will be lawful or unlawful.

Yet Australia’s Aboriginal political class wants a constitutional change that will repudiate not just some of the above but all of it. These activists and their white supporters want to segregate their constituents from this civilised approach to government and law in order to restore self-determination within Aboriginal communities.

The new Labor government that has promised a referendum to change the constitution to fulfil the activists’ demands has not yet defined what it means by “self-determination” — and it will certainly try to avoid spelling it out in its campaign for the referendum. However, the proponents of the Voice have long been clear about their objective. They want to restore the customary laws of the ancient Aboriginal culture that was on this continent before the British came in 1788.

The kind of society Aboriginal activists want to build throughout Australia is not imaginary but has long been real. Its specimens are clearly visible today in the communities in central and northern Australia created since land rights were granted in the 1970s. That was when federal and state Australian governments withdrew their meagre funding of the old Christian missions in remote communities and replaced them with far more expensive regimes run by committees of local indigenous people.

What followed was a long, expensive and dispiriting exercise for those Aboriginal people subject to it. Yet Aboriginal leaders and their white advocates imagine they can solve the problems self-determination has already created by doling out more of the same and replicating their proposals on a much larger scale.

The basis of the “self-determination” that is now being touted has been described by Marcia Langton and Lisa Palmer:

Aboriginal people have continued to argue that not only customary property rights in land but also ancient jurisdictions survive, on the grounds that, just as British sovereignty did not wipe away Aboriginal title, neither did it wipe away Aboriginal jurisdiction. Aboriginal governance under the full body of Aboriginal customary laws, by the same logic as that that led to the recognition of native title at common law must, even if in some qualified way, have survived the annexation of Australia by the Crown. [ii]

Anyone who thinks that our legal profession would automatically reject this and defend the benefits of the English rule of law would be mistaken. In 2000, the New South Wales Law Reform Commission investigated the issue and came out in favour of customary law. Its 2000 report, Sentencing: Aboriginal Offenders, claimed that, for Aboriginal people, customary law was more humane and effective than Western law. Its punishments were largely confined to shaming and banishment and customary law was more culturally rigorous. It included many offences not recognised by Western law such as insulting an elder, singing sacred songs in public, showing sacred objects to women, and neglecting kinship obligations.[iii]

Hence, the report claimed that recognition of customary law by the state’s judicial system would help reduce the incidence of Aboriginal incarceration and deaths in custody, solve the prob­lem of alcohol abuse and “help bring about safer and less violent communities:”.[iv] Not only that, but the report seriously believed that a revival of customary law today would bring about a cultural “renaissance” for Aboriginal people:

Before Aboriginal societies can have equal standing with non-Aboriginal societies, there must be recognition of Aboriginal customs and traditions. Furthermore, recognition of customary laws may bring about a renaissance of those laws: recognition has the potential to motivate Aboriginal people to pool their knowledge and recollections, creating the foundations for a rebirth of dormant customs and traditions. This process could well have the effect of increasing the value of Aboriginal ways and of empowering Aboriginal people, raising self-esteem and self-respect.[v]

However, it is not difficult to show there is no way that customary law could work, or should work, for Aborigines in the modern world. There are at least four problems that no amount of legal dissembling can overcome:

♦ Customary law is unwritten and there is no way to solve differing opinions within Aboriginal society about what the law actually says.

♦ Customary law is not unified or unifiable; each of the more than 200 or so existing clans in remote Australia have their own brand of law and, if it comes to a dispute between them, there are no higher courts of appeal to rule in favour of one or the other. In these cases, the most common traditional recourse of the disputing parties is violence.

♦ The customary concept of “payback” as practised in tradi­tional society, where innocent individuals can be punished along with the guilty, is unjust, illiberal, and under Australian law would often be a serious criminal offence.

♦ The violence permitted by customary law against Abo­riginal women and children sanctions actions that are morally offensive to the wider Australian society, and are serious offences against Aus­tralian law.

Customary law is immutable and must not be changed by its custodians. It derived from ancient spirit beings who existed in the Dreaming, a sacred heroic time long ago when man and nature were created.[vi] The role of human beings was to obey the law, not make it. As one Pitjantjatjara man put it to an anthro­pologist: there is “one Law and it is there forever”.[vii] Hence, rather than supporting a renaissance within Aboriginal culture, it is a positive drag on progress and improvement.

It was also male dominated, yet is endorsed by so many female academics and politicians like Marcia Langton, Linda Burney and Megan Davis. In traditional society, male elders kept the higher principles of law and custom secret to themselves. Traditional life for a male was a pro­cess of revelation in which male elders gradually released the contents of the secret men’s business that governed them. It would take an initiated man until middle age to gain full knowledge of its secrets. Younger men and all females had little say in how their society was managed, and little opportunity to influence the course of their own lives.

Although male initiates were eventually told the laws of their clan, cases in the Northern Territory have emerged where elders accused of serious crimes have expressed different views about what the law actually says. They have also wanted to allow defences that other elders do not recognise. Bill Stanner’s classic essay, “Durmugam: a Nangiomeri”, discusses how his central character, an Aboriginal leader on the Daly River in the Northern Territory named Dur­mugam, killed at least four members of the Kunabibi cult because they had broken the laws of that cult. However, two of the victims’ close kin thought the killing had no legal justification and that Durmugam was merely pursuing his own interests.[viii] In other words, unwritten customary law provides scope for some people to have different memories of the law when it suits them.

Traditional culture’s process of “payback” has been observed by Europeans since the first settlement at Sydney Cove in 1788. It has been ubiquitous across the Australian continent, with observations from Victoria to the Northern Territory naming it at times as the chief cause of premature death among Aboriginal people.[ix] In a study of the Murngin people of Arnhem Land in the early twen­tieth century, Lloyd Warner  found:

Of seventy-two recorded battles of the last twenty years in which members of Murngin factions were killed, fifty were for blood revenge — the desire to avenge the killing of a relative, usually a clansman, by members of another clan … The idea underlying most Murngin warfare is that the same injury should be inflicted upon the enemy group that one’s own group has suffered. This accomplished, a clan feels satisfied; otherwise, there is a constant compulsion towards vengeance, causing a continuous restlessness among those who are out to “buy back” the killing of one of their clansmen.[x]

Payback is still practised today. In three murder trials in the Northern Territory in 2000 in which Aborigines were accused of killing other Aborigines, the payback duty imposed by local customary law was used as a defence, even though it had funda­mental conflicts with Australian law.[xi] The customary law at issue required that, after the killing of three people from one clan, they should be avenged by the clan of the victims. This could be satisfied by the killing of any three members of the clan of the perpetrators, not necessarily the guilty ones. In other words, an individual who had no part in killing anyone could be put to death in what customary law regarded as just retribution for a murder committed by another member of the clan. But even in its own customary terms, there is nothing “just” about this. Its innocent victims regard it as an unjust and terrifying ordeal. Dave Price records an example of this collective guilt from the Northern Territory in 2009:

A senior woman from Papunya told me that the young ones she was escorting to face traditional punishment were literally pissing themselves with fear. In this case, they were the female kin of the accused male perpetrator. They had to share in his punishment for the crime of being related. It is about revenge and blood lust as well as restoring the balance and maintaining the peace, and the lives and physical well-being of the most vulnerable are expendable in this process. [xii]

Moreover, the payback process did not require any testing of the evidence to determine conclusively who the actual guilty party was. In her book Trouble: On Trial in Central Australia (2016) about the failure of both customary and official law to stem the appalling levels of violence in central Australia in recent years, Kieran Finnane records two cases of this kind. In 2009, in revenge for a non-fatal assault on one of their relatives, six men armed with knives and clubs went searching for the two assailants who they believed were at a drinking party in the bush north of Alice Springs. The two men they wanted were not there, but they attacked the rest of the drinkers anyway, stabbing two of them to death. When inter­viewed by the police, one attacker was asked by an officer:

‘Were you talking about payback for them blokes then?’ He said, ‘Yeah, got the wrong ones. Wanted to pay back Watson Dixon.’ [The officer] said, ‘Those dead are the wrong ones?’ He said, ‘Yeah, should be Watson.’[xiii]

In another case in 2013 at a town camp near Alice Springs, six members of one family “hunted like a kangaroo” a man as pay­back for the killing of a female relative. They abducted him in a car to another camp, poured petrol on his genitals and set him on fire, and finally clubbed and stabbed him to death. However, their victim could not have been the woman’s killer. He was in jail at the time she died. He had done nothing to provoke the attack on him and had not caused any harm to any of his killers or their relatives. Despite the evidence, his killers denied pay­back was their motive, and successfully pleaded guilty to man­slaughter while drunk, rather than murder.[xiv]

In some cases of payback, an aggrieved relative of the person killed could discover the name of the killer in a dream.[xv] Anthropol­ogist Kenneth Maddock argues that traditional Aboriginal society believed death always had a human cause and usually was the result of sorcery. Death was “induced by the sor­cerer using his art to separate irrevocably the bodily and spir­itual parts of his victim’s person”.[xvi] Sorcery meant that Aborigi­nes ruled out the possibility of death by accident or misadven­ture. Ronald and Catherine Berndt wrote:

Even wounding or death in fighting may be seen in this light. The immediate cause may be a spear thrust; but the real cause may be the hostile action of a third person, who has arranged the situation in advance to ensure that the victim was in the right position at the right time.[xvii]

The belief that all deaths were caused by malign humans led to the corollary: that it was necessary to avenge deaths by pun­ishing the suspected murderer. If before his or her demise, an Aborigine did not reveal the name of those who caused it, Aboriginal inquests would look for signs in nature that would identify the sorcerer responsible. These beliefs created societies permanently bent on revenge against neighbouring tribes. And if the sorcerer could not be found, then the killing of other individuals from the same clan would satisfy the payback duty.

These principles offend not only against Australian law but also against international law and legal procedures, as well as interna­tional notions of human rights, not to mention all civilised moral values. Payback is in direct conflict with the integrity of Aus­tralia’s liberal society, which is founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual. If an autonomous Aboriginal community within the Commonwealth established a regime that, instead of performing payback illegally and covertly as happens now, embedded it in its own customary law, the Australian govern­ment would have a moral duty to intervene to overturn it. However, the kind of constitutional change recommended by today’s Aboriginal political class would legitimise acts of this kind.

The strongest argument against customary law is that the interests of Aboriginal people themselves are better served by the legal system we inherited from the United Kingdom and have since been modifying to suit the needs of all Australians. Despite frequent claims to the contrary by legal academics steeped in the currently fashionable doctrine of cultural relativ­ism, the framework of laws and the concepts of justice inherent in the Australian system are not ethnocentric, that is, they have not been established only for people of Anglo-Celtic or European background, even though that is the cultural envi­ronment in which they first developed. They incorporate the accumulated experience of the English common law, of accurately recorded statutes developed over the course of centuries within a com­plex, rapidly changing, modern urban society with global inter­ests and responsibilities. There is no way that the memorised customary law of Aboriginal tradition, designed to regulate kinship relations in a hunter-gatherer society, could have a just place alongside it.

 

 

[i] Billy Gordon, ‘Knee-jerk reactions got Aurukun here’, The Australian, 30 May 2016, p 14

[ii] Marcia Langton and Lisa Palmer, ‘Modern Agreement Making and Indige­nous People in Australia: Issues and Trends’, Australian Indigenous Law Reporter, 8, 1, 2003

[iii] NSW Law Reform Commission, Sentencing: Aboriginal Offenders, Report 96, Sydney, October 2000, p 62

[iv] NSW Law Reform Commission, Sentencing: Aboriginal Offenders, p 71

[v] NSW Law Reform Commission, Sentencing: Aboriginal Offenders, pp 71–2

[vi] Stanner, ‘The Dreaming’, pp 51–2

[vii] quoted by Maddock, ‘Sceptical Thoughts on Customary Law’, in Johns (ed.) Waking Up to Dreamtime, p 163, citing D. Vachon, ’Political Consciousness and Land Rights among the Australian Western Desert People’, in E. Leacock and R. Lee (eds.) Politics and History in Band Socie­ties, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1982, p 483                                                                                            

[viii] W.E.H. Stanner, ‘Durmugam: A Nangiomeri’, in J. B. Casagrande (ed.), In the Company of Man, Harper, New York, 1960, p 71

[ix] Beverley Nance, ‘The level of violence: Europeans and Aborigines in Port Phillip, 1835–1850’, Historical Studies, 19, 77, October 1981

[x] W.L. Warner, A Black Civilisation: A Social Study of an Australian Tribe, Har­per and Brothers, New York, 1937, p 159

[xi] Paul Toohey, ‘Murder, sorcery and tribal law spill bad blood between native leaders’, The Weekend Australian, 25-26 November 2000, pp 1–2

[xii] Dave Price, Alice Online, Northern Territory, 2009; at http://alice online.com.au/2009/12/22/should-customary-law-be-recognized-by-the-courts/

[xiii] Kieran Finnane, Trouble: On Trial in Central Australia, University of Queens­land Press, St Lucia, 2016, p 82

[xiv] Finnane, Trouble: On Trial in Central Australia, pp 228, 233–5, 244

[xv] Stanner, ‘The Dreaming’, p 53

[xvi] Kenneth Maddock, The Australian Aborigines: A Portrait of Their Society, Penguin, Ringwood, 1975, pp 161–2

[xvii] R. M. and C. H. Berndt, The World of the First Australians (1964), Ure Smith, Sydney, 1977, p 306, cited by Nance, ‘The Level of Violence’, p 535

15 comments
  • Brenden T Walters

    The idiotic decision in Mabo is responsible for this mess. The quest for recognition in the Constitution is essentially a power grab by people of mixed aboriginal descent. Tribal aborigines would not have a clue about all that. Having lived on a remote aboriginal community I can tell you that the women would not want the reintroduction of tribal law in a million years. They relied on the police to protect them – which the white police did, sometimes risking their own lives. Black police aids generally operated along tribal lines and functioned mainly as trackers.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I blame the mainstream media for exacerbating the problems associated with Aboriginal “culture”. It starts with simple abuse of the language. Even relatively sane journals like The Australian abuse the totally inappropriate terms “First Nations” and “oldest living culture” and so on, when no such Nations have ever existed in this continent, and virtually all of the hundreds of traditional cultures were effectively extinct in the first half of the last century.
    Such delusions help nobody.

  • whitelaughter

    Maybe then we could rule that any repeat offender in the western justice system has to face aboriginal law?
    I like the idea of career criminals having to dodge 3 spears every time they’re arrested.

  • wdr

    The Voice of Reason. I would recommend that the police recognize the penalties imposed by Mafia chieftains on their members who break the “code of silence.”

  • Patrick McCauley

    Brilliant and very important article. Take note also that the ‘Traditional Culture’ remembered by even full blood Aboriginals has been decimated by at least two or three generations of severe alcoholism and ‘substance abuse’ on a community wide level … and is about as ‘Traditional’ as the ‘Welcome to Country” developed by Ernie Dingo on a movie set in 1978. Traditional Culture was used by the perpetrator of a rape of a two year old baby in Tennant Creek a few years ago … and that rape led to a plethora of payback and murder and violence for years following. Indigenous Aboriginals like Marcia Langton are proven liars … and I have been amazed time after time with the little value that most Aboriginal people attribute to “The Truth’ Many Aboriginal people are liars and do not consider ‘Truth’ to have any useful value.

  • lbloveday

    From The Australian, ABS statistician Dr David Gruen commented on the 2021 Census statistics:
    .
    “One of the things which is very encouraging is that the proportion of people who are over 65 who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has gone up by roughly 50 per cent,” he said.
    .
    “There is a big increase in older people who are identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and I think it will repay a lot of research to actually find out why it is that more people are feeling comfortable about identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait.”
    .
    The statistician probably meant Aborigine OR Torres Strait Islanders.

  • Blair

    lbloveday
    ““One of the things which is very encouraging is that the proportion of people who are over 65 who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders has gone up by roughly 50 per cent,” he said.
    .
    “There is a big increase in older people who are identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and I think it will repay a lot of research to actually find out why it is that more people are feeling comfortable about identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait.”

    Nowhere on the Census are respondents asked whether they identify as an Aborigine or as Torres Strait Islander.or both.

    “The term Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘origin’ is used in the 2021 Census question. When used in the context of the ABS Standard Indigenous question it relates to a person’s Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent and for some, but not all, their cultural identity.”
    ABS
    The relevant questions are
    “Is the person of Is the person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?
    What is the person’s ancestry.?
    The ABS classifies Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander identification simply on the basis of having at least one ancestor of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. Why?

  • call it out

    Great work Keith. Courageous, deeply thoughtful, and authoritative.
    I walked past an indigenous couple quarrelling, in their language, in a busy capital city street today. Both seemed quite drunk; he struck her, and she ran blindly across a busy street to escape, causing alarmed drivers to brake suddenly to avoid running her over.

    This simple, regretful and painful incident paints a truer picture of the current issues than all the black and white Voice advocates’ nonsense about culture and tradition.

  • Peter Marriott

    Good piece Keith. Your books on the subject, and the politics behind pretty well all of it, should be required reading in all of our teaching and learning institutions.

  • rosross

    Says it all really, a picture is worth a thousand words. There he is with an arrow in his arm when Aboriginal peoples never invented the bow and arrow, and he is in a hospital invented by Europeans and a modern world facility.

    Great article. The ‘oldest living culture’ fantasy endures. Since all humans are descended from the same distant group of ancestors then all cultures are as old as each other. And since all cultures evolve, and there is nothing in Australia today lived by anyone which is remotely like that lived by Aboriginal peoples before the British arrived in 1788, then clearly, there can be no oldest living culture, just a hybrid, as always happens, of various influences.

    And quite why it should be applauded where peoples fail to evolve beyond stone-age hunter-gatherer lives is the question never asked or answered. If peoples lived on this land for 45,000 years or even more, why did they fail to develop beyond stone-age?

    Plenty of clay for pottery. Plenty of minerals for bronze and iron. Plenty of contact with Asian visitors and yet no-one thought of buying a couple of pigs for breeding. Plenty of coconuts washed up on the sand but no-one thought of planting them for permanent food supplies.

    The blarney of ‘oldest living culture’ is a joke and tragically, a sick joke for the poor buggers who still pretend to live it in remote communities, along with their cars, guns, modern houses, bores, electricity etc.

  • rosross

    Any reading of anthropology, archaeology, mythology around the world makes it clear that Aboriginal beliefs are no different to any other primitive human beliefs. They reflect nothing unique or exceptional, but simply the unenlightened thinking of backward cultures which are highly superstitious and minimally rational. Such beliefs could certainly work in primitive tribal cultures but they have no place in a modern civilized world.

  • 27hugo27

    On the same note DT, i find it abhorrent that ABC classical, and the insufferable Russell Torrens in particular refer to all suburbs in Australia by aboriginal names, dispensing with the Anglo names altogether. So Adelaide is now just Kaurna country! And our taxes pay their lucrative salaries. We are being blackwashed in all forms of media and education, corporations and health industries. Without our consent!

  • Geoff Sherrington

    Keith,
    Viewing the arrow in arm photo caused me to go back to my photo from Port Keats 1960. It made me wonder if the well cared for babies in the mission era are still around today and particularly, what was the cause of the change from haven to hellhole. Geoff S
    http://www.geoffstuff.com/keats1960.jpg

  • padraic

    Thanks Keith for clarifying what the activists mean by “self-determination in the quote below from your article:

    The basis of the “self-determination” that is now being touted has been described by Marcia Langton and Lisa Palmer:
    Aboriginal people have continued to argue that not only customary property rights in land but also ancient jurisdictions survive, on the grounds that, just as British sovereignty did not wipe away Aboriginal title, neither did it wipe away Aboriginal jurisdiction. Aboriginal governance under the full body of Aboriginal customary laws, by the same logic as that that led to the recognition of native title at common law must, even if in some qualified way, have survived the annexation of Australia by the Crown.

    Like many other Australians I have wondered what some other terms that are used actually mean. Sovereignty, Recognition, Reconciliation, Voice in the Constitution Truth Telling, Treaty, etc are thrown at us as if their required blind acceptance is a form of compassion by self-loathing, guilt-ridden “settlers”. I tend to take the terms at face value, but of course have no access to what they actually mean, so one can only conjecture. It is obvious that “customary property rights in land” was only the first step, to be followed by political power and probably political power over the rest of us. I have no problem with a tweaking of the Constitution to ensure the Commonwealth has an Australian Head of State with the democratically elected Parliament still in control as was proposed in 1999 and applies to all citizens. That could possibly be complicated now if the Voice were to be enshrined firstly in the Constitution, followed later on by changes necessary for an Australian Head of State (or not). Those changes would mean that references to the Queen be deleted, in particular and inter alia, s.59 which states that “The Queen may disallow any law within one year from the Governor-General’s assent etc” and s.60 “A proposed law reserved for the Queen’s pleasure shall not have any force unless and until within two years from the day on which it was presented to the Governor-General for the Queen’s assent the Governor-General makes known …. that it has received the Queen’s assent.” Technically, this seems to outline the Queen’s prerogatives, but in reality they are not exercised and in practice since the Statute of Westminster in UK in 1931 and passing of the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 by the Australian Parliament, the necessity was removed of reserving for the Queen’s Assent certain shipping and related laws. The Constitution (s74) also provides that proposed laws containing any limitation on the prerogative of the Crown to grant special leave of appeal from the High Court to the Privy Council shall be reserved for Her Majesty’s pleasure. But since the passing of the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1968 and the Privy Council (Limitation of Appeals) Act 1975, the latter bill being the last bill of any kind for the Queen’s Assent, it seems that there will be no further bills coming within this type of reservation. In relation to other bills reserved for the Queen’s assent, in the lack of any legal requirement a decision would most likely be based on the appropriateness of the bill (Flags Bill 1953) or the appropriateness of the occasion, e.g the Queen’s visit to Canberra. The Royal Style and Titles Act 1973 was reserved for the Queen’s Assent in view of the fact that the Statute of Westminster did not exempt any law touching the Royal style and titles. The PM at the time, Gough Whitlam, informed Parliament that the Queen had indicated that it would give her pleasure to approve the legislation personally. Even if the Voice was incorporated into the Constitution without the subsequent referendum for an Australian Head of State, it could wield the sort of power not wielded by the Queen because of various traditions, conventions and other Constitutional practices. The Voice power would be as stated because it would lack those traditional restraints. I get the impression many Australians know more about the American written Constitution, which appears to lack the restraints and practices in the Australian Constitution which is an amalgam of the American written type constitution with many of the inherited Constitutional practices from Britain. The British don’t have a written Constitution, so it is even more labyrinthine than ours.
    It seems that the Parliament and Government would be obliged to consult with the Voice, according to the Paul Kelly article in The Australian (29/6/22), on just about everything, then, as mentioned above, the Voice could in reality replace the Queen’s assent by the Voice’s assent.
    A treaty is something organised between two warring groups to stop the war that is actually happening, not hundreds of years later when there is no war. The treaty in New Zealand put a stop to a war between the British and the Maoris at that time. Similarly “truth telling” was something that first appeared in South Africa immediately after people stop killing each other, when Bishop Tutu used it for people on both sides of the warring factions to state what they did and then move on to live in the new polity with a Constitution that did away with Apartheid with all citizens equal before the same law. The Voice is the exact opposite.

  • vickisanderson

    In spite of this accurate and insightful description of Aboriginal cultural law, it will be ignored by those who maintain a romantic and ignorant view of Aboriginal culture and traditions.

    As one who values the long history of the people who survived for so long on this island continent, it grieves me to see those who were thoughtlessly encouraged to live in remote communities slowly destroy themselves.

    The evidence for the prevalence of horrific violence in such communities, & its origin in traditional law and practises, is plentiful and is not a concoction of white prejudice.

    Like so many others, I am most distressed by the Aboriginal leaders in educational institutions – particularly women – who do not seem to have the courage and integrity to acknowledge the truth and help their people out of the hellish existence that many endure.

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