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Shelley Bielefeld, The Dehumanising Violence of Racism: The Role of Law (D Phil thesis, Southern Cross University, 2010).

Copyright Shelley Bielefeld 2010


My thesis explores numerous issues ranging from justice, ethics, law, truth telling and responsibility. These issues are significant in light of the llegitimate foundations of the Australian nation and the subsequent genocide perpetrated against Indigenous peoples. The colonial quest for white supremacy, racial purity and accumulation of property has been facilitated by oppressive exercises of parliamentary power. This thesis analyses several legislative examples of this type, highlighting the trauma that has arisen from past oppressive exercises of parliamentary power and continues due to contemporary legislation. I also critique a selection of cases which have challenged this contemporary legislation, examining the manner in which legal positivism and formalist methodology ensure that white privilege continues to be maintained at the expense of Indigenous Australians. These cases demonstrate the inherent racism of law and the lack of effective checks on oppressive exercises of parliamentary power. Where governments engage in abuses of power the courts are often looked to in the hope that justice will flow from on high. Yet courts are also part of the structure of government and consequently have been instrumental in upholding and justifying the colonial status quo. Along with the parliament and the executive the courts have been instrumental in carrying on the tradition of Australia’s racist colonial legacy. This has resulted in ongoing injustice and trauma for Indigenous Australians. The legacy of white sovereignty in Australia has brought colonialism, parliamentary sovereignty, Social Darwinism, white supremacy, capitalism, legal positivism and the propaganda needed to reinforce this dominant discourse. The consequences of this legacy disadvantage Indigenous Australians to this day, and maintain the status quo of oppressive colonial power relations that first began with the planting of the British flag, and the myth of terra nullius, the fiction that the land belonged to no-one. My thesis explores the racist laws and policies detrimentally affecting Jews under Nazi Germany and Aborigines in Queensland, highlighting parallels between them and the way they reveal an intersection between law and trauma. I investigate the role that law plays in facilitating violence to groups who are targeted as undesirable by government on the basis of race, and the manner in which the past continues to permeate the present. The racist foundations of the Australian nation remain in place, ensuring that Aboriginality sovereignty is ignored by colonial governments and that self-determination for Aboriginal peoples remains elusive. Indigenous perspectives require the development of a different legacy, one that acknowledges Indigenous sovereignty, their right to self-determination and their right to freedom from oppressive exercises of parliamentary power.

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