Law Reform Commission of Western Australia
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Project 94 - Aboriginal Customary Laws

Project No. 94

Commenced: 2000
Completed: 2006

From December 2000 to October 2006 the Commission undertook a detailed inquiry into the recognition of Aboriginal law and culture in Western Australia. Over this period the Commission consulted with Aboriginal people, communities and organisations in all regions of the state. The Commission’s inquiry culminated in a comprehensive Final Report setting out 131 recommendations for reform of laws and policies and the practices of government agencies, police and courts.

Terms of Reference

Recognising that all persons in Western Australia are subject to and protected by this State’s legal system; and there may be a need to recognise the existence of, and take into account within this legal system, Aboriginal customary laws:

The Law Reform Commission of Western Australia is to enquire into and report upon Aboriginal customary laws in Western Australia other than in relation to Native Title and matters addressed under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 (WA).


The Commission’s recommendations seek to respect the cultural diversity of Aboriginal peoples and communities in Western Australia, embrace Aboriginal culture, enhance the cultural authority of Elders and respected community members, and remove systemic bias and discrimination within the legal system. The Commission emphasised the need for flexibility, ongoing consultation and collaboration and the institution of community-owned processes to ensure that implementation of recommendations respond to the particular cultural dynamics of a community. Because of this flexibility, many of the Commission’s recommendations have the potential to be adapted to suit other Australian jurisdictions.

Recommendation 56 has since been implemented in Geraldton where the State Government has announced the launch of an initiative aimed at educating police officers in the area on issues regarding Aboriginal culture and heritage through a cross-cultural training package.

Last updated: 31-Jan-2017

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