Special Needs for Consultation and Discussion

8.The Scope of the Problem. In its discussions on the recognition of Aboriginal customary laws, the Commission found expectations that something should be done, but often little appreciation of the complexity of the issues. In assessing what needs to be done, the Commission has sought to take into account the wide variety of factors relevant to the problem, but especially the views of Aboriginal people. In doing so, the Commission had to engage in interdisciplinary and field research and investigations in ways which were new to it, and not necessarily suited to a body composed exclusively of lawyers. The Commission has carried out extensive discussions with anthropologists, sociologists, historians, judges, lawyers, magistrates, and the police; with Aboriginal communities, many individual Aborigines, and organisations such as Aboriginal legal services, Aboriginal child care agencies and land councils, and with government departments both at the State and federal level. The Commission did not have the resources to undertake definitive or exhaustive consultations. But its program of seeking information has been extensive. It has been conducted over the 9 years of work on this Reference and has taken many forms. Three discussion papers and numerous field trip reports and research papers were produced and widely distributed. Research or field trips were made to most parts of Australia, especially to remote areas where the more traditionally oriented Aborigines live. Public hearings were held around Australia. A number of overseas trips were undertaken and a great deal of information about overseas developments received. A large number of submissions were made by many individuals and organisations; these submissions vary from short letters to detailed papers. A summary of the Commission’s program is set out in the following paragraphs.