Liberty Victoria welcomes the High Court’s decision handed down today, which recognises
that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people cannot be considered “aliens” under the
Liberty Victoria calls for the immediate release of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Australians currently held in immigration detention, and for constitutional recognition of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The majority of the High Court, in separate judgments, held that Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Australians cannot be considered “aliens” in accordance with the ordinary
understanding of the word “alien”. This is because Aboriginal Australians have a
special cultural, historical and spiritual connection with the territory of Australia, which is
central to their traditional laws and customs and which is recognised by the common law.
“The majority’s decision recognises the central importance of the connection of Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the territory of Australia and that this connection must
be recognised by lawmakers ,” said Liberty Victoria President, Julian Burnside AO QC.
“Any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians currently held in immigration
detention should be released immediately,” Mr Burnside said.
“We call on the Federal Government to review its harsh, punitive and unfair visa cancellation
policy, which is causing harm to numerous Australian people and communities,” Mr
Liberty Victoria has previously expressed the view that it was profoundly concerned that the
existing character test in the Migration Act disproportionately affects people identifying as
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Liberty Victoria opposed the arbitrary and inconsistent
standard of ‘character’ identified in the Migration Act, anticipating the kinds of injustices laid
bare by the High Court this morning.
It is an irony that we, who came recently to this country, would claim the right to expel
people who have occupied the land for at least 50,000 years.