Research Projects


Indigenous Knowledge Institute: Health and Justice

Grant Scheme: Indigenous Knowledge Institute

Researchers: Eddie Cubillo (Co-Theme leader), Associate Professor Shawana Andrews (Co-Theme leader), Ms Odette Mazel (CI), Mr Warwick Padgham (CI) and Dr Tessa Boyd-Caine (PI)

Funding period: 2022-2023

Organisations: The University of Melbourne and Health Justice Australia

Project Summary

This research will build an evidence-based foundation for the work occurring in and through Indigenous organisations. Drawing from initiatives in the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector and the Yoo-rrook Commission, it will show how Indigenous knowledges inform the development of strengths-based and future-oriented health justice practice models for the benefit of Indigenous people and the broader Australian community.

Find out more about the IKI grant

Research on sovereignty, self-governance and treaty

Researchers Eddie Cubillo and Kirsty Gover

Project Summary

Melbourne University’s Indigenous Law and Justice Hub is collaborating with the First Peoples Assembly of Victoria (FPAV) to conduct research made available in accessible communications, on the relationship between Indigenous self-governance, sovereignty and treaty.

This research will be used by the FPAV and Indigenous communities across Australia to design treaty negotiation strategies that centre the Indigenous ‘right of self-government’ in persuasive, legally sound, and politically durable ways.

Find out more about Mannifera.

Yolngu and Indigenous Law & Justice Hub Collaborative Project

Grant Scheme: Atlantic Fellowship

Researchers Mayatili Marika, Eddie Cubillo, Kirsty Gover, Warwick Padgham, Jaynaya Dwyer and Amy Johannes

Project Summary

Building on the partnership between the University of Melbourne and the Yothu Yindi Foundation which was established in 2015, the proposed collaboration aims to identify ways in which the Melbourne Law School can contribute some of its expertise to benefit Yolgnu, working on key issues in East Arnhem Land such as criminal justice, treaty and intersections of Yolgnu and settler law. The proposed collaboration is focussed on community priorities and aspirations first. With this in mind, the ILJH will consult with the community through its leadership to ascertain what problems and opportunities need to be addressed. The aims of this work centre around connecting the skills and expertise of Melbourne Law School staff to respond to the problems and opportunities that will emerge through consultation.

To consult with partners and stakeholders on country and in Darwin, to ascertain community appetite for collaboration with the MLS Indigenous Law and Justice Hub, and initiate conversations about community priorities and aspirations. Possible engagement between Yolngu and the ILJH will focus on areas including but not limited to criminal justice, on-country learning on Yolngu law and its relationships to settler law, and providing support to Yolngu on their response to the NT Treaty Commissioner’s Treaty Discussion paper.

Find out more about Atlantic Fellows

Recognising and Understanding Indigenous Law and Legal Systems

Grant Scheme: ARC Future Fellowship

Researchers: Kirsty Gover with Eddie Cubillo and Amanda Porter

Funding period: 2020-2024

Project Summary

This project will generate knowledge that will enable settler and Indigenous officials, decision-makers, scholars and members of the public to better understand and recognise key distinctive features of Indigenous laws and legal systems. This will assist them to:

(a) Make settler laws more responsive to Indigenous values and aspirations;
(b) Design durable Indigenous representative institutions;
(c) Facilitate Indigenous efforts to be self-sufficient and self-governing; and,
(d) Successfully negotiate just and durable treaties and other agreements, where appropriate.

The Larrakia Land Rights Archive

Grant Scheme: Indigenous Research Grant Scheme

Funding period: 2021

Researchers: Eddie Cubillo, Ann Genovese and Lyndon Ormond-Parker

Project Summary

This project seeks to address a significant set of issues surrounding the preservation of legal documents produced in land rights claims in the Northern Territory. Our focus will be a single case study, that can exemplify, and make a unique contribution to, a range of archival and legal problems which are the subject of a growing research field. Our proposed pilot begins from a unique premise that has not yet been centralized in research design in this field: that the materials will be repatriated- returned to country, and made available to those best placed to be the custodians of the knowledge they hold.

Legal Pluralism and Treaty-Making in Australia

Grant Scheme: Indigenous Research Grant Scheme

Funding period: 2020

Researchers: Eddie Cubillo and Kirsty Gover

Project Summary: 

In legal scholarship, ‘legal pluralism’ refers to the co-existence of two or more legal systems in a shared territory or society. Australia is a legally plural society, in which Indigenous law exists alongside Settler law. Settler legal traditions however, assert the primacy of settler law over Indigenous law, in large part because in this tradition, law is thought to derive only from sovereigns.  Since Australian law does not recognise Indigenous sovereignty, in principle it does not recognise Indigenous legal systems. There are some exceptions, for example in native title law, which show that recognition is possible, even within the settler legal tradition. Our starting point is that Indigenous legal systems do not depend on settler law for their authority. Indigenous communities govern themselves in accordance with their own law and legal traditions, and this self-governance is an expression of Indigenous sovereignty. In this workshop we hope to take up the challenge of recognition, and will discuss the ways that treaties (and other agreements) could assist in making space for Indigenous law to operate without interference.  The idea of legal pluralism can help to shift the focus from the limitations settler law, back to Indigenous self-governance, and to the ways that Indigenous communities make and implement their law.

‘Legal Pluralism and Treaty-making workshop’ was held at Melbourne Law School on 21 February 2020. The workshop was an opportunity for experts across the legal sector, academia and the community to come together and discuss legal pluralism and the treaty-making process in Australia.

The workshop was hosted by Kirsty Gover (Associate Dean Indigenous Recognition), Eddie Cubillo (MLS Senior Indigenous Fellow), Sana Nakata (MLS Indigenous Scholar in Residence 2019) and Mary Spiers Williams (MLS Indigenous Scholar in Residence 2019)


Who Are 'We, The People'? A Study Of National And Indigenous Peoples' Constitutions

Funding period: 2016-2018

Researcher: Kirsty Gover

Climate Change Law And Mitigation: Forest Carbon Sequestration And Indigenous And Local Community Rights

Funding period: 2011-2017

Researchers: Kirsty Gover, Lee Godden, Margaret Young and Maureen Tehan

Project Abstract

The project examines the impact of climate change law and mitigation on Indigenous peoples and local forest communities in Australia, India and Malaysia. It examines the United Nations - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme which gives credits for carbon sequestration in forests thus providing financial incentives to avoid deforestation for communities in sensitive ecosystems.