Notre Dame hosts forum on the Legal Pathways to Reconciliation

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 6-10-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



Indigenous leaders shared their aspirations for the future of Australia's legal landscape and how legislation can be used to achieve Reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians at a forum held at The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Fremantle Campus in September.

The inaugural Indigenous Justice Forum was co-hosted by the Fremantle Campus’ School of Law, Law Students’ Society and Campus Ministry team along with the University’s Nulungu Centre for Indigenous Studies. Keynote speaker for the event was Leah Armstrong, CEO of Reconciliation Australia.

In her address, Ms Armstrong highlighted the results of a study that focuses on the relationship between Indigenous and other Australians. She explained to an audience of over 150 guests that 87% of Australians believe the relationship is important but only 9% believe there is trust between the two groups.

Following Ms Armstrong’s address, a panel of Indigenous leaders gave their interpretation on the theme ‘Legal Pathways to Reconciliation’. Panelists included: Mr Dennis Eggington, CEO Aboriginal Legal Service of WA; Mr Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; Mr Glen Kelly, CEO South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council and Ms Tammy Solonec, Director National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

All panelists were united in their belief that too often the legal system is used as a tool to discriminate against Indigenous Australians.

Mr Eggington stressed that Reconciliation cannot be achieved while Indigenous Australians continue to be mistreated and overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

Mr Gooda promoted the importance of constitutional change in the Reconciliation process.

“The Australian Constitution does not mention the first peoples of Australia and still permits racial discrimination,” said Mr Gooda.

“I firmly believe the time is right here and now for the Australian people to formally recognise the special and unique place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples hold in our nation - in our Constitution.

“This will be a long hard journey. But it’s the journey that will mark our maturity as a nation, not just the destination - as important as it might be.”

UNDA Aboriginal law student and event organiser, Peter Dawson, said that it is important for lawyers, politicians and the broader community to discuss Indigenous legal issues.

“This forum was a fantastic opportunity for students to think about our role in shaping a more inclusive legal system that can facilitate Reconciliation,” said Mr Dawson.

Please contact Peter Dawson via socialjustice@ndlss.org.au to order a copy of the Indigenous Justice Forum DVD.