37 RvCobby(1883)4LR(NSW)355,356,MartinCJ:‘Wemayrecogniseamarriage in a civilized country but we can hardly do the same in the case of […] these Aborigines, who have no laws of which we can take cognisance.’
Thiscase,forexample,bearsthenameofoneoftheplaintiffswhohaspassedon. ForculturalreasonsinpartsofAustralia,thecontinueduseofthenameheldbya now-deceased person is avoided, and where possible, a convention is adopted to call it the Murray Island Case Brennandescribedthestatusquoanteas‘thefiction bywhichthe rightsandinterestsofIndigenousinhabitantsinlandweretreated as non-existent [and consequently that it] has no place in the contemporarylawofthiscountry’.39Thelegalconsequencesoferra nulliushoweverstillpersistinthelawanditwilltaketimetoexpunge thesedeleteriouseffects.Thusitisimportantthatstudentsgainsome understandingofhowAustralianpropertylawanditstheoriesof tenureandownershipofestate inpropertyhaveinteracted, affected and contrasted with Indigenous notions of custodianship. Such custodianship and rights that derived from it, such as the rights to enjoyment or to exclude,40 even today are not recognised as ‘rights’ per se at common law but only as rights acquired under another normativesystem.41 Theserightsandinterestsarerecognised42 but subject to extinguishment43 for the English law’s superior status.
ItisnotthatIndigenouspeopledidnotdemarcatetheirterritoriesor boundaries between groups or sometimes even between individuals. They did so, but in a manner that did not appear formally to match English notionsofthe powertoalienate interests inthe land while radical title perpetually vests in the Crown.44 How these English notionsweretransportedtoAustraliaisshroudedinthemysteriesof thetricktheEnglishmanhasofcarryingwithhimsomeEnglishlaw whereverhegoes45—inthiscasetotheutterdetrimentof‘aboriginal natives’.
JusticeFinnheldthatthe‘varietiesofsharing[territory]’ in certaininstancesequatedwith‘ownership’ intheEnglishlegal tradition.46 ThecoastaldwellersofBotanyBayin1788didnottake the colonisers on a boat ride pointing out the traditional areas of use byvariousfamiliesandgroups,astheTorresStraitIslandersdidwith JusticeFinn.Suchanomissionisperhapsatragedyofhistorywhich cannotbereversed,butitseffectscanbemitigatedthrougheducation andculturalunderstanding,whichareimportantaims,andthereason for incorporating ICC in the curriculum. Property law and its effect onIndigenouslanduseandcustomisthereforeareasonableaddition to the unit content.
Thirdly, it was decided that it was important for students to understand the history of the impetuses for change in race relations inAustralia.FromFederationtotheearly1960stherewaslittle
39 Murray Island Case, 71.
40 Milirrupum v Nabalco Co Ltd (1971) 17 FLR 141, 272.
42 NativeTitleAct(1993)(Cth)s223(1)(c);LisaStreline,CompromisedJurisdiction: Native Title Cases Since Mabo (Aboriginal Studies Press, 2nded, 2006) 5, 7.
43 Native TitleAct (1993) (Cth) Div 2B.
44 Edward Jenks, Modern Land Law (Scientia, 1979) 7.
45 Catriona Cook et al, Laying Down the Law (LexisNexis, 8thed, 2012) 39.
46 Akiba v Queensland (No 2)  FCA663, . domestic pressureorappetite forchange inthe racial politics of Australia.47Gardiner-GardenreferstoAustralia’s‘poorinternational image’andotherpressuresonthegovernmentintheearly1960sin relation to its treatment of Indigenous people.48This international imagehadsomeeffectonthebureaucracywithrespecttoIndigenous affairs.49
The major impetus for change in the 1960s was a result of internationalfactors.50WhileGardiner-Gardendoesnotelaborateon these international factors, they probably included the formal defeat of Nazism and the rise of the notions of universal human rights, independent of race, creed or colour.51 Chesterman specifically notesAustralia’sofficialdesiretocriticiseSouthAfrica’spractice ofapartheid.52 Recallthatnotwithstandingthedefeatoffascism inEurope,theWhite Australiapolicywasstillofficiallyinplace. Thus,thedomesticapartheidregimewouldhavemade Australia lookhypocritical,andarguablyquitefoolish,asAboriginalpeoples inAustraliawerebythisstagenevergoingtoconstituteotherthan averysmallminorityand,unlikeblackSouthAfricans,tobeinthe numericalpositiontoendWhiterule.Therewasthereforeasense of urgency in the Executive to dismantle the race based laws of Australia.53 Thusanexaminationofinternationallawandcustom and the incorporation of some of these norms into domestic law is a useful third limb for the unit content.
Many other areas of law could have been included in a broader subjectinthenatureofasurveyofarelevanttopic.Theseincludethe impactofthecriminallawonIndigenouspeople;intellectualproperty issues for the protection of Indigenous peoples’biological resources andartisticandculturalworks;54thestudyofIndigenouscompanies, businesses,andcorporateentitiesandNative TitleRepresentative Bodies (NTRBs);55 family law issues and considerations of the kinshipaspectsofIndigenouscustom;56 administrativelaw,which
47 John Summers, ‘The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia and indigenous Peoples 1901–1967’, Research paper No. 10 2000-01 (Department of the Parliamentary Library, 2000) 6.