Legal Studies

1) Outline the ways in which this group can experience disadvantage in the legal system

ABTSI’s disadvantage in the legal system emerged with European settlement in 1788 that saw the implementation of the Doctrine of Reception. Consequently, ABTSI were bound to follow English laws and customary law was distinguished. The era of protection saw the Government taking complete control over their lives, and assimilation denied ABTSI heritage. Throughout the 1960’s ABTSI’s were denied access to the legal system and fundamental rights and participation in the political process as they were regarded second class citizens. Today, ABTSI are treated as equals, however they frequently face discrimination, and are affected by the intergenerational effects of poverty as they experience 20% higher unemployment than the general population. Subsequently, they have lower incomes contributing to disadvantage in health, education, employment and economic independence[1].

Due to their lower socio economic status, ABTSI are frequently involved in minor crimes out of economic necessity, and are over-represented in our criminal justice system[2]. The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in custody found that this has been compounded by a range of social, economic and historical factors. Over policing and discriminatory practices have increased their chances of being detained, serving longer sentences, and more likely to be affected by mandatory sentencing that is in place in the Northern Territory where there is a high ABTSI population. In the courtroom, language barriers and taboos prevent them from revealing information considered sacred. Low socio-economic status also prevents ABTSI in taking part in civil proceedings as plaintiffs to fund legal actions in order to protect their legal rights that are commonly exploited.

ABTSI people practicing customary law must follow two conflicting legal systems. For example, Aboriginal customary marriages are not recognized...