11 December 2019

Kate Galloway: “Two Aboriginal men are currently being held in immigration detention under threat of deportation because they are not Australian citizens. … There is no question that the men are not citizens: the question centres on whether they are aliens. The suggestion in the men’s submission is that they are non-alien, non-citizens. If the court accepts this argument, there will be a new category of person recognised by law and this case will represent a significant shift in the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the state. There are many ways to read this matter — especially for lawyers who love to delve into the depths of legal doctrine. But there is a simple and incontrovertible truth that is difficult to avoid. So long as we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Nations; so long as we understand that First Nations’ claims to land subsist despite the advent of English sovereignty; so long as the basis for land claims rest upon connection — physical, spiritual, kin-based — the notion of an Aboriginal person as ‘alien’ is untenable.” (I have very little faith that our High Court will do the right thing.)