'Your job is to meet with government and shape policy by advising them. Not to go to court' said Minister Ruddock.
I wanted to keep suing the Territory and Commonwealth Governments in the courts the way I had been over the last 7 years. That's why I was in his office.
'But government would never listen to us.' I said. 'The interests of Aboriginal people are routinely trodden on, if they are not ignored outright and this ability to go to court is the only way we could conceivably get them to listen to us. Without it we would be worse than useless as advocates.'
In 1999, some Aboriginal men employed a lawyer, Chris Howse, to seek out injustices to Aboriginal people wherever they may be found. And to agitate them in the civil courts of the Northern Territory. With a four wheel drive, a rented office and a complete lack of any secretarial help, he issued and brought to conclusion more than thirty pieces of litigation on behalf of the Aboriginal public including many coronial inquests. Talking to people. Getting their stories where they lived, be it never so remote. Getting back to Darwin and fighting in the court room. This was his modus operandi. Even if it caused a bit of trouble.
It caused a great deal of trouble…
This is the story of that abundant life of the Aboriginal Territory. Flourishing yet, even in the worst of strife. It tells of what it will take to transform how we approach the Aboriginal way. And how worthwhile things are to be done, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.
Chris Howse worked as a barrister for several years in Melbourne. He has since worked as a criminal lawyer in the Northern Territory, and as Executive Officer of the Aboriginal Justice Advocacy Committee.
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