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Indigenous Law Bulletin

Indigenous Law Bulletin
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Editors --- "Snippets: Recent Publications" [1998] IndigLawB 9; (1998) 4(8) Indigenous Law Bulletin 19

Recent Publications

Hot topics: burning legal issues in plain language (native title issue) by Trish Luker. Legal Information Access Centre, September 1997.

The Legal Information Access Centre is a joint project between the State Library of NSW and the Law Foundation of NSW. It has been producing its 'Hot topics' series since July 1994. This issue, the fourteenth in the series, is an attractive 26 page booklet that seeks to provide a general, 'plain English' guide to native title for people living in NSW.

The booklet commences with an overview of the current law of land tenure of Australia. It then describes the Mabo (No. 2) decision, the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), the Wik decision, the 10 Point Plan and the Native Title Amendment Bill. The final part of the booklet contains a response to the Wik decision and proposed changes to the Native Title Act by the National Indigenous Working Group on Native Title, a timeline showing important dates in the recognition of Indigenous land rights under the Australian law, and a guide to further reading and contacts.

Throughout the booklet are 'Hot tips', short notes on different aspects of the law, for example, 'To "alienate" Crown land means that the Crown transfers its legal rights or interest in the property by selling or leasing it to someone'. It also contains a case study of the operation of the Native Title Act, using the example of the Dunghutti people at Crescent Head, NSW.

The native title Hot topics booklet can be obtained by phoning (02) 9273 1558, faxing (02) 9273 1250, or emailing <>

Torres Strait Islanders: a new deal by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

AGPS, Canberra, August 1997.

This publication was discussed at greater length by various writers in the November 1997 (Torres Strait special issue) Indigenous Law Bulletin. Though 137 pages in length, it is quite a short volume, as most chapters are printed using double spacing. Topics covered include a discussion of what is autonomy, models for greater political and economic autonomy in the region, and the situation of Torres Strait Islanders living on the mainland.

The Indigenous World 1996-97 by Christian Erni. International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), Copenhagen, Denmark, 1997.

'WGIA has been producing country-by-country summaries of important events in the world of Indigenous peoples for ten years. This book is divided into two parts. The first, 'The Indigenous World', is a series of short essays on political, cultural and legal developments impacting Indigenous peoples in nine global regions. A summary of the Australian entry for 'Australia, Melanesia and the Pacific' gives a sense of how comprehensive are these essays. It discusses the March 1996 election of the Howard Government, its position on Indigenous affairs (particularly its attacks on ATSIC), the articulation by Torres Strait Islanders of their vision for the region (by such bodies as the Torres Strait Regional Authority), the ongoing Kumarangk/Hindmarsh Island and Century Zinc affairs, the publication of Hasluck vs Coombs, and the Wik decision and its aftermath.

The second part, 'Indigenous Rights', contains two longer essays. The first describes the recent fate of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the hands of the Open-ended Working Group, a body of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The second essay is a report on the 1997 meeting of the Commission on Human Rights, which took place in Geneva.

This volume also contains a list of IWGIA publications and European contact addresses.

Aboriginal English: A Cultural Study by JM Arthur. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1997 (paperback).

This book is a thematic study of the language that is Australian Aboriginal English. Each of its eight chapters commences with a brief overview of its subject matter, before giving an alphabetical listing of various words, describing their meanings, giving examples of their use, and tracing their etymologies.

Chapter 1, 'Always was, always will be, looks at words associated with classical lifestyles and Aboriginal spirituality. Chapters 2, 'Kin', and 5, 'Living with whitefellas', are self-explanatory. Chapter 3, 'Us mob', contains words about feelings or social interactions, whereas chapter 4, 'Country', concentrates on words used to describe traditional homelands. Chapter 6, 'The quiet run and the wild bush', is on words associated with the pastoral industry. Chapter 7, 'Aboriginal way', is a basic grammar, and chapter 8, 'Survival', concerns self-identity and preservation in an Australia swamped by Europeans. A definition example from this final chapter is 'glass bottle cemetery', described as 'The Aboriginal cemetery at Angledool, where the local community devised a new set of mortuary symbols, using arrangements of pieces of broken glass over the graves, to reflect the spirits away from the earth'.

Snake Cradle: autobiography of a black woman by Roberta Sykes. Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 1997.

Snake Cradle: autobiography of a black woman is the first book in a three volume autobiography by the prominent activist Dr Roberta Sykes. She writes about her life to age 17; her childhood in Townsville in the 1940s; her experiences of racism and school life; her battle with serious illness; her survival of gang rape; the subsequent birth of her son; and the sentencing of the criminals who attacked her.

Dr Sykes' story is engaging, horrifying and inspiring, and told in simple, easily-accessible language.

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