Our National Treasure

A National Treasure in the Pursuit of Justice

Gaining a national treasure was a feat for AFLSSQ. Before joining AFLSSQ our CEO Ms Susan Hamilton gained recognition as someone of whom our country is very proud. Susan became the first Torres Strait Islander to serve as a barrister in the High Court of Australia, and changed the law.

Native Title Decision

Susan represented the Torres Strait Regional Authority Native Title Office as they sought to maintain native title rights against an appeal by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments to fish for commercial gain.

Susan said,

I am privileged and honoured to be the first Torres Strait Islander to appear as a barrister before the High Court, particularly on a matter relating to the Torres Strait Islander beliefs and rights that affect all Torres Strait Islanders, including all of my family, my children and my grandchildren.

In the appeal case of Akiba v Commonwealth (2013), the High Court upheld the original decision of 2010. This was the first time that native title rights that included commercial use were recognised in Australia.

Akiba v Commonwealth

Susan studied law as a mature age student and her unwavering commitment to the law led to major legal success.

She said,

I became a lawyer to acquire an understanding of the Anglo-Western law as it is applied to Indigenous peoples in Australia. The application of the law to Indigenous people is immediate and has an impact on our everyday lives instantaneously.

Since the Akiba v Commonwealth ruling, there has been much discussion about how other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples may secure greater economic benefits from their native title rights.

An Exhibit in Recognition of Susan’s Contribution

Susan’s story is an important inclusion in the National Museum of Australia’s Gallery of First Australians. The Museum acquired the courtroom outfit Susan wore at the High Court hearing on 12 February 2013. The Museum hope that the display of Susan’s gown, jabot (collar) and wig will serve as an inspiration to all.

 

News Source: National Museum Australia, Goree Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander news from the National Museum of Australia, 17 June 2016, Author: Andy Greenslade, Photographer: Peter Waddington.

 

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