International Network for History and Policy

History, law and treaty-making with indigenous peoples in Australia

Joanna Cruickshank talks about the contribution she and fellow historians are making to the politically and legally complex process of treaty-making in Australia - an example of how history can support and contextualise contemporary policy processes:

Historically, indigenous law has usually not been recognised as such by the legal system that was established by the British colonists... a key part of the project and the element for which I am particularly responsible is the recovery of archival evidence of both indigenous law-holding, and of times and places where indigenous and Anglo-Australian law have met, whether onstructively or otherwise...
Our argument is that understanding treaty-making as a continuation of this history of lawful relations is not only historically accurate, but also highly constructive in that it focusses attention on the quality and nature of a relationship that a treaty might form, rather than simply delineating the rights and interests of the parties.


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H&P is based at the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House, University of London.

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