Struggle for Justice: the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern in the 1970s

Stream: Panel 60 - Public Policy & Social Justice: Indigenous Rights in Australia 2 & Politics of Multiculturalism in Asia
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 9.00 am – 10.30 am


The Aboriginal Legal Service was one of the first Aboriginal controlled organisations set up to provide culturally appropriate services for their community in Redfern in the early 1970s. Aboriginal activists, together with their supporters, established the Legal Service as a response to the extensive police harassment experienced by Indigenous people in the inner city. At the time Sydney’s Indigenous population was increasing radically as Aboriginal people migrated from rural to urban areas in search of a better future. However, the Aboriginal Legal Service not only sought to defend Aboriginal people in the Australian justice system. When the Whitlam government shifted from attempts of assimilation to the policy of self-determination, which fell short of Indigenous aspirations, the Legal Service fought and litigated for wider Indigenous rights. Yet, at the same time it relied on government funding for its operation. This paper explores the ways in which the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern pursued Indigenous rights and justice, during this period when the terms of self-determination policy were first negotiated.


Johanna Perheentupa (Presenter), Nura Gili, UNSW
Johanna Perheentupa lectures at the Nura Gili Indigenous Programs Unit at UNSW. She researches in the area of Australian Indigenous history, with an emphasis on urban Indigenous societies, politics, and culture. She is currently completing a monograph on Indigenous activism in Redfern in the 1970s, which explores the ways in which the local Aboriginal organisations pursued self-determination.