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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 75591 Find in a Library
Title: Tribal Customs and Western Law - An Australian Dilemma
Journal: Police Magazine  Volume:4  Issue:1  Dated:(January 1981)  Pages:51-58
Author(s): P B Taft
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 8
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Police-Aboriginal relations and the incidence and types of Aboriginal criminal behavior are discussed within the context of an often painful Aboriginal cultural assimilation into Australian society.
Abstract: After two centuries of contact with European civilization, all but a handful of Australian Aboriginals have abandoned traditional tribal culture and have been reluctantly accepting Australian culture. Most aboriginals, long considered nonpersons in a legal sense, live in extreme poverty and are arrested and imprisoned in numbers far exceeding their 1-percent share of Australia's population. Indictments of Australia as a racist society most frequently single out the police, who come into the most intimate contact with aboriginals. Aboriginals, however, do not have the potential for racial violence due to despair over the hopelessness of their situation. The history of the Aboriginals after the arrival of the white man in 1788 parallels that of the American Indian, except that no treaties were ever signed with the Aboriginals. The resultant 'nonexistent' status of the Aboriginals has made them vulnerable to police brutality. Despite the efforts of newly established legal services for aboriginals, Australian prisons are full of young, single Aboriginal males imprisoned for such minor crimes as drunkeness, vagrancy, breaking and entering, assault, and resisting arrest. The impact of 'grog' or cheap wine upon Aboriginal crime rates is pronounced. Close police and Aboriginal community relationships are important, although they are difficult to establish due to a still large culture gap between the two groups. Government investigations of the use of Aboriginal tribal law as both a defense and as a consideration for the mitigation of punishment recommend the recognition of tribal law in special situations. Dramatic shifts have occurred in Aboriginal society since 1967, when a national referendum approved full rights for Aboriginals and encouraged special programs to better their lot. However, progress is hampered by limited aboriginal resources, white Australian apathy, and the feelings of hopelessness among most aboriginals.
Index Term(s): Aborigines; Alcohol-Related Offenses; Australia; Citizen grievances; Cultural influences; Police attitudes; Police community relations; Police reform; Public Attitudes/Opinion; Racial discrimination; Social conditions; Tribal community relations; Tribal court system
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