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The Australian National University

Australian Indigenous Constitutions: Recognition and Renewal

Anna Dziedzic and Mark McMillan (2016) 44 (3)

The Anglo-Australian legal system has not readily recognised Indigenous constitutions. The absence of such recognition does not, however, deny that Australia’s Indigenous nations have had constitutions for thousands of years and continue to do so. In this article, we explain how Indigenous laws, institutions and systems of authority are properly understood as constitutional. Using the constitutions of the Gunditjmara peoples and Ngarrindjeri nation as examples, we identify three dimensions of Indigenous constitutions in Australia: first, the foundation of Indigenous constitutions in the continuing and inherent authority of Indigenous nations; secondly constitutional features deriving from Indigenous law; and thirdly the use in Indigenous constitutions of institutions and processes that also have status under Australian law. We suggest that this new understanding of Indigenous constitutions provides a basis for contributing to current efforts in Indigenous constitution-making and to the development of a more inclusive understanding of the Australian constitutional system.

Vol 44, Issue 3, 2016

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