Can the common law adjudicate historical suffering?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Melbourne University Law Review, 2012, 36 (2), pp. 618 - 655
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The case of South Australia v Lampard-Trevorrow opens up key questions about the capacity and willingness of the common law to adjudicate past acts of the state. This article considers the significance of the appeal decision by examining what distinguishes the case from past, unsuccessful claims and considers its implications for future claimants from the Stolen Generations. In addition, we consider what the case means in terms of the law's acceptance of a practice of historical and evidential interpretation that is different from previous cases, and how this is particularly important regarding the issue of parental consent. We argue that the role and interpretation of consent have broad ramifications for law's potential to adjudicate responsibility for historical harms. We also argue that the findings in relation to false imprisonment and fiduciary duty limit the potential of the Trevorrow cases. In particular, we examine, and lament, the Full Court's more limited reading of false imprisonment in contrast to the trial judgment.
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