The Indigenous Law and Justice Hub (ILJH) brings together legal experts and community leaders to produce rigorous legal research that can be directly applied in Indigenous advocacy and self-governance. We are educators who play a central role in developing our law students’ understandings of Indigenous cultures, legal systems, and Indigenous experiences of settler law.
The ILJH’s research focus is two areas of law and policy that are of pressing importance for Indigenous peoples: Criminal In/justice and Treaty. Our aim is to support and amplify Indigenous voices in these fields with high quality legal research and improved community access to research and advice.
News and events
Naarm Law Students on the Voice 2023
The Indigenous Law and Justice Hub is proud to be partnering with Naarm Law Students on Voice, who are delivering Referendum information sessions on the Voice to Parliament proposal. This semester over 90 MLS students collaborated with the Hub to deliver a community legal education program on the 2023 Referendum.
White Noise of settler law
White Noise of settler law is the Hub's hallmark event series and podcast. It features a series of justice talks with leading Indigenous academics, legal practitioners and community as guest speakers for a look at how the while settler law of the justice system continues to affect Indigenous people.
Classroom Photo Mural Initiative
The purpose of the initiative is to acknowledge the long, complex (and important) history of lawful relations between Indigenous and Anglo-Australian laws and peoples. The Law School acknowledges that Anglo- Australian law is marked by refusal and violence, and has often been found wanting, when asked to meet with Indigenous laws. But we also want to recognise that Indigenous peoples in Australia have resisted, argued with and transformed the law we teach and learn every day in the MLS Building.
Content Warning: This gallery may contain images or names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased.
What does the Indigenous Law and Justice Hub mean to you?
We are educators who play a central role in developing our law students’ understandings of Indigenous cultures, legal systems, and experiences of settler law.
In 2019 the Council of Australian Law Deans made a Statement on Australian Law’s Systemic Discrimination and Structural Bias Against First Nations Peoples, stating that:
CALD urges all Australian law schools to work in partnership with First Nations peoples to give priority to the creation of culturally competent and culturally safe courses and programs. In so doing, CALD acknowledges the part that Australian legal education has played in supporting, either tacitly or openly, the law’s systemic discrimination and structural bias against First Nations peoples.
The Hub is seeking to transform Australian legal education so that legal practitioners are equipped with the skills and understandings to support First Nations peoples in their justice work.
Hub Electives at Melbourne Law School
The Hub offers a range of innovative elective subjects to Melbourne Law School Students.
This subject is an experiential and ‘On-Country’ learning experience. Through on Country experience and engagement with a range of organisations and practitioners, students will consider key and emerging issues of access-to-justice that lawyers must critically engage with in their work, with particular attention to First Nations justice. Watch the 2023 Darwin Trip highlights here:
Taught intensively in Aotearoa- New Zealand, this subject aims to equip students with expert knowledge on current Indigenous legal issues in Aotearoa and Australia and how each settler jurisdiction’s legal institutions addressing the ongoing presence of Indigenous laws, as well as challenging students to consider how this might be better done.
2022 class staying on Marae in Rotorua, Aotearoa
At a time of ongoing state-based Indigenous-settler treaty processes, Treaty enables students to engage with treaty-making as a practice of comparative law and agreement-making between Indigenous nations and settler institutions, considering what is required if Indigenous-settler agreements are to be legitimate and robust.
Law and Indigenous Peoples provides students with an introduction to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and key legal policy areas impacting First Nations rights in Australia . We are joined by a range of experts throughout semester to consider policy areas across criminal law, statutory child protection, land rights and intellectual and cultural property.
Law and Indigenous Peoples students with Les Malezer, former chair of the Global Caucus of Indigenous Peoples negotiating the UNDRIP
In this subject student get real experience supporting Indigenous organisation or campaigns by providing research support on a law or advocacy issue impacting First Nations people.
The JD Indigenous Curriculum Review was commenced through a recommendation of the 2019 Review of MLS Indigenous Programs conducted by Maureen Teehan and Shaun Ewen.
The Hub works with a Committee of academic staff to review existing compulsory curriculum and work with subject coordinators and teaching teams to develop content and teaching methods that showcase Indigenous law and knowledge.
JD Curriculum Review Case Study
Legal Method and Reasoning
A compulsory two week intensive which introduces new law students to foundational legal skills. Through the review three full days of teaching on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experiences of law were introduced to the subject, as well as reflective assessment relating to Indigenous experiences of law. Each year, students engage with new case study on an issue of First Nations justice lawyers can meaningfully contribute to, with an expert guest panel. In 2023, it was on the Victorian Treaty Assembly, joined by Assembly members and lawyers. This course seeks to centre First Nations experiences of law, through ongoing practice of Indigenous legal systems, right from the outset of JD studies.
For inquiries about the curriculum review contact Jaynaya Dwyer (Research Fellow at the Indigenous Law and Justice Hub).
Advocating for Legal Education Forms
The Hub advocates for changes to legal education across the profession to enhance the justice services First Nations people can access in Australia.
In 2022 Dr Cubillo, on behalf of the Indigenous Law and Justice Hub gave evidence at the Yoorrook Justice Commission, where he addressed the need to change law school curriculums and legal accreditation. We called for:
- Introduction of a mandatory subject for all law students being admitted in Australia on Indigenous history and law; a ‘Priestley 12’
- Ongoing profession development for lawyers on cultural safety and cultural capability
- Specialist accreditation for lawyers working predominately with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
You can read the full witness statement or watch the hearing on the Yoorrook Justice Commission Website.
For more information about the Hub’s agenda for Legal Education reform read our article on Indigenous Programs at Law School published in the Law Institute Journal NAIDOC special edition.
The Hub aims to produces resources that foster research and access, including videos, submissions, projects and other content.
Indigenous Law and Justice Hub's video recordings features academics, journalists and legal practitioners discussing and engaging with significant issues faced by Indigenous people and the law.
Read the recent submission by the Indigenous Law and Justice Hub on issues affecting Indigenous people in the law.
White Noise of settler law justice talks
White Noise of settler law is the Hub's hallmark event series and podast. It features a series of justice talks with leading Indigenous academics, legal practitioners and community as guest speakers for a look at how the while settler law of the justice system continues to affect Indigenous people.
The Hub is available to run seminars, including continuing professional development (CPD) events for lawyers, on issues within our areas of experience and research interest.
There are lot of resources available within the University but also outside that provide information on topics including, community, government, legal services and many more.
The Indigenous Law and Justice Hub ('The Hub') is passionate about community-designed research which is designed to benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The Hub’s key priorities will be advanced through its research-focussed and clearing-house functions, especially in the areas of justice and treaty, but also engaging broader issues of legal pluralism and Indigenous self-determination. The thematic foci will adapt to changes in Indigenous communities’ priorities and to encompass matters of current interest.
The Hub’s research skills and experience include:
- Deaths in custody
- Missing and murdered women and children
- Juvenile detention
- Treaty making processes and governing law
- Design of Indigenous representative institutions
- Law and jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples
- Sovereignty and legal pluralism
Advisory Board members
- Clinton Benjamin (Bardi, Yawuru, and Kija), National Native Title Council
- Professor John Borrows (Chippewa), University of Victoria Faculty of Law, British Columbia
- Keshi Moore, LSS Indigenous Student Representative
- Nathan Newcastle, LSS Indigenous Liaison Officer
- Tim Goodwin (Yuin), Barrister
- Tony McEvoy (Wirdi), Barrister
- Sana Nakata (Torres Strait), Faculty of Arts
- Professor Pip Nicholson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (People and Community) and Deputy Provost
- Elly Patira (Gunai and Ngapuhi), Department of Premier and Cabinet (Victoria)
- Karri Walker (Nyiyparli), First Peoples' Assembly of Victoria
Terms of Reference
The role of the Advisory Council for the Indigenous Law and Justice Hub involves:
- Providing general strategic advice to the Hub and its staff
- Assisting in driving the direction of the Hub’s activities, relevant to critical Indigenous legal issues and community requirements.
- Facilitating broadening the Hub’s reach of influence and opportunities for further resourcing including through community organisations, industry, research organisations and the philanthropic sector.
- Advocating for the Centre’s activities with government and community organisations.
Les Malezer is descended on his father’s side from the Gubbi Gubbi / Butchulla peoples of the Mary River and Fraser Island region of southeast Queensland and, on his mother’s side, from the Gamiliroi peoples of northwest NSW.
As school captain, he matriculated from Inala State High School in Brisbane in 1969. He was a skilled sportsman in cricket, rugby league, tennis and basketball. He began studies in Engineering at the University of Queensland but discontinued after being faced with racism at both study and work.
Les Malezer’s working career commenced in 1972 with the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service in Brisbane, pursuing training and work opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. He was then transferred to Canberra after the Whitlam government was elected into the newly-appointed Department of Aboriginal Affairs soon.
In the public service he quickly advances to senior positions in the Commonwealth public service before joining to the Queensland government to become head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs under the Goss administration in 1990.
Apart from his career in government Les Malezer also worked extensively in community-controlled organisations at the local, regional, national and international levels, and he held important posts in representative bodies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
From his early years in Brisbane he participated in community organisations, meetings and rallies, as a member of the health services, legal services, housing organisations and welfare groups.
He became the Chairperson of the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA) in 1974 and has continued to hold that position on many occasions when not in conflict with his employment. He continues as the Chairperson of FAIRA in the present times.
Les Malezer became Secretary General of the National Aboriginal Conference in 1984, joined the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1989, and was appointed as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in 2002.
In 2010, he was elected Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. He served two terms as Co-Chairperson in this role.
He has expert knowledge regarding Indigenous Peoples of the world and the relevant human rights standards adopted at the international level and in Australia. Les Malezer is well known internationally for his work on human rights, and raising the profile of Indigenous Peoples in the United Nations and the Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings.
He has travelled extensively, meeting with Indigenous Peoples living in countries such as New Zealand, USA, Canada, Panama, Guatemala, Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, South Africa, India, Thailand, The Philippines, Taiwan, New Guinea, Fiji, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
A notable achievement in his life was when he addressed the UN General Assembly in 2007 following the successful vote for the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Then, in 2008, he was awarded the Australian Human Rights medal from the Australian Human Rights Commission. The award came after two decades of advocacy for the human rights of Indigenous Peoples at the international level, working in conjunction with Indigenous Peoples delegations from around the world.
He was appointed as a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for the term of 2017 to 2019.
He has devoted his entire career fighting for rights of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Les Malezer continues to seek change for legal recognition of First Peoples’ status and rights in Australia.
Professor Thalia Anthony
Professor Thalia Anthony researches Indigenous people and the law, with specialisation in Indigenous justice mechanisms and systemic racism in criminal law and procedure. Her research is grounded in legal history and understandings of the colonial legacy in legal institutions. Professor Anthony has developed new approaches to researching and understanding the role of the criminal law in governing Indigenous communities. Her research is developed in conjunction with Indigenous organisations in Australia and overseas. She has written influential books Indigenous People, Crime and Punishment (Routledge 2013) and a Decolonising Criminology (Palgrave 2019). She currently leads an Australian Research Council project that introduces Aboriginal justice reports in sentencing in Australia.
Jonathan Rudin received his LLB and LLM from Osgoode Hall Law School. In 1990 he was hired to establish Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto and has been with ALST ever since. Currently he is the Program Director. Mr. Rudin has appeared before all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada including representing ALST before the Supreme Court in R v. Ipeelee. Mr. Rudin has written and spoken widely on issues of Aboriginal justice. He co-wrote the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples’ report on Justice – Bridging the Cultural Divide- and was a member of the Research Advisory Committee of the Ipperwash Inquiry. Mr. Rudin also teaches on a part-time basis in the Law and Society Program at York University. Last but not least, he plays the mandolin and sings with Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room, a group that plays regularly in Toronto and has a number of videos on YouTube.
Dr Baz Dreisinger
Dr. Dreisinger works at the intersection of race, crime, culture and justice. She earned her Ph.D. in English from Columbia University, specializing in American and African-American studies. At John Jay she is the Founding Academic Director of John Jay's Prison-to-College Pipeline program, which offers college courses and reentry planning to incarcerated men at Otisville Correctional Facility, and broadly works to increase access to higher education for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. Dr. Dreisinger's book Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World (2016) was heralded by the New York Times, NPR and many more, and was named a notable book of 2016 by the Washington Post. Professor Dreisinger moonlights as a journalist and critic, writing about Caribbean culture, race-related issues, travel, music and pop culture for such outlets as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, and producing on-air segments about music and global culture for National Public Radio (NPR). Her first book Near Black: White-to-Black Passing in American Culture (2008) was featured in the New York Times and on NPR and CNN. Together with Oscar-nominated filmmaker Peter Spirer, Professor Dreisinger produced and wrote the two nationally aired documentaries about hip-hop, criminal justice and the prison industrial complex. She regularly speaks about justice reform and prison issues on popular news media and in international settings.
Dr. Dreisinger was named a 2017-2018 Global Fulbright Scholar and is working to internationally replicate the Prison-to-College Pipeline, with a focus on the Caribbean and South Africa. She is currently working on a road map for how prison-to-college pipelines and restorative justice can replace mass incarceration as a system of justice.
Erin Roxburgh, Victoria University of Wellington
Erin is proudly of Ngati Porou and Ngapuhi descent. Her PhD research is a multimodal interaction study of Governance in Maori Governance meetings and the role of interaction in the materialisation of tikanga maori. Erin is currently working as a lecturer in the school of management and teaching sport management. She completed her undergraduate and masters degrees at Victoria University of Wellington.
Erin's research and teaching focus is embedded in te ao Maori and has two focuses. Firstly, how Maori culture is enacted in the workplace, both by organisations and the people who work within those organisations, with special interest in what this looks like within Maori organisations. Her other focus is sporting organisations and how the socio-cultural role that sports organisations play in Aotearoa.
Outside of academia she plays in both the Aotearoa National teams for Handball and Beach handball and also plays premier Netball. She is a passionate sports governor and sits on the Women in Sport Aotearoa Board, the Netball Wellington Board and on the He Wahine kai te Kokiri roopu.
Dr Crystal McKinnon
Crystal McKinnon is a Yamatji woman and is currently working at RMIT as a Vice Chancellor's Indigenous Research Fellow, where she sits within the Social Change Enabling Capability Platform (ECP) and an Australian Research Council Discovery Indigenous Project, Indigenous Leaders: Lawful Relations from Encounter to Treaty. The Discovery Indigenous project looks at lawful encounters between the State and Aboriginal communities of Victoria as historic sovereign practices that may inform current Treaty practices.
Her work has looked at concepts of Indigenous sovereignty, and Indigenous resistance through the use of the creative arts, including music and literature. Crystal is the co-editor of History, Power and Text: Cultural Studies and Indigenous Studies (UTS ePress, 2014), and her work has been published in several books and journals, including Making Settler Colonial Space: Perspectives on Race, Place and Identity (Palgrave, 2010), the Alternative Law Journal, and Biography.
She has extensive governance experience having previously served for a number of years on the Boards of both Flat Out and of the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Associated Limited, and she is currently a director on the Board of the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and she sits on the steering committee for the Law and Advocacy Centre for Women. Crystal has previously worked in both the Aboriginal community organisation and the community legal centre sectors.
Associate Professor Sana Nakata
Associate Professor Sana Nakata is Associate Dean, Indigenous and co-director of the Indigenous-Settler Relations Collaboration at the Faculty of Arts at The University of Melbourne. Trained as a lawyer and political theorist, her research is centred upon developing an approach for thinking politically about childhood in ways that improve the capacity of adult decision-makers to act in their interests.
She has recently completed an ARC Discovery Indigenous Research Fellowship examining Representations of Children in Australian Political Controversies (2016-2019). She is the author of Childhood Citizenship, Governance and Policy (2015), and along with co-director Sarah Maddison, edits the Springer book series: Indigenous Settler Relations in Australia and the World.
- Event: Legal Pluralism
- Member, Advisory Board, Indigenous Law and Justice Hub
Mary Spiers Williams
In 2019 Mary Spiers Williams accepted a joint appointment between the National Centre for Indigenous Studies and the College of Arts and Social Sciences as Subdean for Undergraduate Indigenous Studies. Mary will return full-time to the ANU Law School in 2022. Mary continues to teach Criminal Law there, and facilitates the at ANU College of Law's plan for action under the ANU Reconciliation Action Plan.
Mary currently teaches Indigenous political, civil and legal rights in Australia and convenes the ANU's Undergraduate Indigenous Studies Programme at the ANU. She leads the Interdisciplinary Social Justice Research Hub.
- Event: Legal Pluralism
Professor Angela Riley
Angela R. Riley is Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law and Director of UCLA's Native Nations Law and Policy Center. She directs the J.D./M.A. joint degree program in Law and American Indian Studies and is the UCLA campus representative on issues related to repatriation under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Professor Riley's research focuses on indigenous peoples’ rights, with a particular emphasis on cultural property and Native governance. Her work has been published in the Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Columbia Law Review, California Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal and numerous others.
- Event: Owning ‘Red’: A Theory of Indian (Cultural) Appropriation event
Dr Christine Black
Dr C.F. Black is the Indigenous Scholar in Residence at the Melbourne Law School. She is also an Associate Professor adjunct to the Griffith University Centre for Coastal Management. Dr Black is a descendant of both the Kombumerri and Munaljahlai peoples. Whilst at the Melbourne Law School She has a PhD from the Griffith Law School. Her thesis focused on bringing forth the concept of Indigenous Jurisprudence in the Australian context. Black has made story her ‘legal structure’ in which to convey knowledge pertinent to the understanding that the Land (Earth) as the source of the law, as juxtaposed to the Common Law concept of land as property.
A future publication with Routledge will take this same legal stand point to discuss the ethics of Autonomous Algorithmic decision-making systems (AADMS) through the lens of mythology and ancient stories. She is also developing research with Native American and South American colleagues around the understanding of plant consciousness and the role of plants in Indigenous societies as knowledge holders. Her first publication on the issue is On Lives Lived with Law: Land as Healer, (Law, Text Culture Jl.). Her key research areas: Indigenous Jurisprudence, ethical issues relating Artificial Intelligence and other related technology, landscape and plant consciousness.
Professor John Borrows
Senior Fellow (Melbourne Law Masters)
John Borrows BA, MA, JD, LLM (Toronto), PhD (Osgoode Hall Law School), LLD (Hons, Dalhousie & Law Society of Upper Canada) FRSC, is the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School in British Columbia. His publications include Recovering Canada: The Resurgence of Indigenous Law (Donald Smiley Award for the best book in Canadian Political Science, 2002); Canada’s Indigenous Constitution (Canadian Law and Society Best Book Award 2011); Drawing Out Law: A Spirit’s Guide (2010); Freedom and Indigenous Constitutionalism (Donald Smiley Award for the best book in Canadian Political Science, 2016); and The Right Relationship (with Michael Coyle, Ed.), all from the University of Toronto Press. John is Anishinaabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, Canada
- Member, Advisory Board, Indigenous Law and Justice Hub
MLS provides a range of opportunities, programs of study and academic and career support for Indigenous students. Melbourne Law School is currently undertaking a review of the compulsory Juris Doctor curriculum to increase the representation of Indigenous knowledges and perspectives. You can find out more on the Hub's Teaching page.
Indigenous Students and the Juris Doctor
If you already have an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than law, the Melbourne Juris Doctor (JD) equips you with the skills and knowledge to take a leading role in a range of careers including legal practice, business, government and community organisations.Learn more
Indigenous Students and the Melbourne Law Masters
The Melbourne Law Masters (MLM) program offers masters degrees, graduate diplomas, specialist certificates and single subjects across 26 specialist legal areas to deepen knowledge and understanding in a broad or specialised area of law.Learn more
Indigenous Students and Graduate Research Degrees
Melbourne Law School is committed to providing outstanding research training for our PhD and MPhil students.Learn more
The Hub is available to run seminars, including continuing professional development (CPD) events for lawyers, on issues within our areas of experience and research interest. We value opportunities to engage and share ideas outside of traditional University contexts.Learn more
Indigenous students are an important part of Melbourne Law School and the wider legal community. In recognition of that important role, support is available for Indigenous Students from the MLS Indigenous team.
Supporting our Indigenous students
If you would like to collaborate with the Melbourne Law School in support of our Indigenous students please contact Catrionadh Dobson, Director of Advancement, Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences or Kim Brockett, Development Manager, Melbourne Law School and Faculty of Business and Economics.
Content warning: This website may contain images or names of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased.