Terms of Reference


  1. the function of the Law Reform Commission, in pursuance of references to the Commission made by the Attorney‑General, of reviewing laws to which the Law Reform Commission Act 1973 applies, of considering proposals for the making of laws to which that Act applies and of considering proposals for uniformity be­tween laws of the Territories and laws of the States;
  2. the special interest of the Commonwealth in the welfare of the Aboriginal people of Australia;
  3. the need to ensure that every Aborigine enjoys basic human rights;
  4. the right of Aborigines to retain their racial identity and traditional life style or, where they so desire, to adopt partially or wholly a European life style;
  5. the difficulties that have at times emerged in the application of the existing crimi­nal justice system to members of the Aboriginal race; and
  6. the need to ensure equitable, humane and fair treatment under the criminal jus­tice system to all members of the Australian community.

HEREBY REFER the following matter to the Law Reform Commission, as provided by the Law Reform Commission Act,

TO INQUIRE INTO AND REPORT UPON whether it would be desirable to apply either in whole or in part Aboriginal customary law to Aborigines, either generally or in particular areas or to those living in tribal conditions only and, in particular:

  1. whether, and in what manner, existing courts dealing with criminal charges against Aborigines should be empowered to apply Aboriginal customary law and practices in the trial and punishment of Aborigines;
  2. to what extent Aboriginal communities should have the power to apply their cus­tomary law and practices in the punishment and rehabilitation of Aborigines; and
  3. any other related matter.

IN MAKING ITS INQUIRY AND REPORT the Commission will give special regard to the need to ensure that no person should be subject to any treatment, conduct or pun­ishment which is cruel or inhumane.

DATED this ninth day of February 1977