In this thesis I describe the colonisation of the Groote Eylandt archipelago and explore the interaction between the indigenous and non-indigenous legal orders on Groote Eylandt between 1921 and 1960. I apply the concept of legal pluralism in the interpretation of the ethnographic and historical data and examine the changing legal context.
Law is about relations between people and between people with respect to things and the formal institutions of law do not of themselves create legal order. Despite the assumption of soverignty and the change in power relations, Australian law could neither be easily imposed nor completely transform the indigenous legaJ order. Indigenous jural principles and regulations governing social practice continued to be part of the social order on the Island and these were recognised by non-Aboriginal authorities as co-existing along with the Australian legal order. The colonial encounter with the pre-existing indigenous legal order created a situation of legal pluralism and contested jurisdictions emerged within the shared social field and are explored in this thesis.