The Australian Law Reform Commission, in its 1986 Report on the Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws, that customary laws were a significant influence in the lives of many Aborigines and that Aboriginal people must have the final say in the negotiation and consultation surrounding the recognition of customary law.
Our traditional law remains strong throughout Alyawarr people and as Twiggy Forrest's Creating Parity report identified, local decision making and cultural authority to set and enforce norms are critical to a strong future.
The Northern Territory Committee of Inquiry into Aboriginal Customary Law, in its 2003 Report recognised the significance of Customary Law to many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory:
- Regrettably, some Aboriginal communities have become dysfunctional, in the
sense that neither Australian law nor traditional law is properly observed. The
reasons for this lie in a whole host of economic and social factors. Concern was
also expressed that in these communities the authority of the elders was being
challenged and their numbers diminishing. Fears were expressed that the
traditions were not being passed on to the new generations because of this. This represents an extraordinarily difficult problem which cannot be immediately
The Report opened the door to meaningful negotiations for the recognition of Customary Law and we are keen to do so with the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments.
A treaty offers an opportunity to reconcile this. Through the recognition of the authority of our Artwa Ampwa and Arelh Ampwa (male and female Elders), Alyawarr law can continue to be applied appropriately, in a way that supports the endeavours of the Australian political and legal systems.
Unfortunately, the Commonwealth has signalled an unfavourable disposition to this proposition to date, through the exclusion of customary law and cultural practice as a factor relevant to sentencing and bail decisions when formulating the NTER.