First Law, black letter law and caring for Country

Join us to hear from First Nations leaders about their work to protect Country and the role of First law and black letter law.  

At a special Reconciliation Week webinar, we’re exploring the question: how do First Nations communities, organisations and campaigners use First law and black letter law in their work to care for and protect country? 

Tuesday, 28 May 2024, 7-8pm AEST
(6:30-7:30pm ACST, 5-6pm AWST)

Online via Zoom, RSVP for the link

Three First Nations leaders and campaigners protecting Country.

This event takes place during National Reconciliation Week, a time for all of us to learn about First Nations history, culture, and resistance.  

Now More Than Ever is the theme for this year’s Reconciliation Week – a reminder of the need to continue the fight for First Nations justice, now more than ever, and despite setbacks and challenges along the way.  

Because there can be no environmental justice without First Nations justice. 


The First Law, black letter law and caring for Country webinar has been postponed.

If you have RSVP'd, please keep an eye on your email inbox for a rescheduled date.

About this webinar

Decolonising Australia's
legal system

According to Nyikina Warrwa academic Professor Anne Poelina, First law is First Nations’ law and the law of Country since time immemorial. 

It is law sourced in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancient and continuing obligations to and relationships with Country.

These laws govern First Nations societies, and the relationship between First Nations societies and land, water, sky, and all they encompass. 

A second kind of law, much newer in comparison to First law, also shapes how First Nations people care for and protect Country: black letter law. 

Black letter law is what we now know as Australia’s constitutional and legal framework. It’s the law deriving from legislation, courts and constitutions.

Colonisers sought to replace First law with colonial law – or the laws and legal frameworks of the British Empire. This legal system was used to justify and legitimise colonisation, and gave rise to legal fictions like terra nullius

Colonial law became black letter law – and came to form Australia’s main legal framework. 

But First Law still exists and still guides First Nations people across the continent.  

By understanding our current legal system as a process of colonisation, we can see how it privileges black letter law over the First law which has existed here since the beginning of time.  

And that’s the first step to decolonising our understanding of Australia’s legal system.