Aboriginal People and Wills

Project Director: Prof Prue Vines

Indigenous peoples in Australia have a low rate of will making.  This applies to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal people are subject to a number of myths that obscure the problem of inheritance. This includes the myth that Aboriginal people have no property or interest in property beyond land and secondly that Aboriginal people either live totally in a traditional or urbanised Western lifestyle. 

This project aims to create a methodology for creating effective and appropriate wills for Indigenous people which will address the issues of proper kinship identification, managing burial disputes and passing on of culturally significant property including secret matters if required.

It is expected that by the end of 2010 we will have published a book outlining the issues and including a set of instruction-taking protocols and wills precedents which are suitable for creating culturally appropriate wills for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This will be published by NSW Trustee and Guardian and will be made freely available ( in hard copy and on the internet) to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Aboriginal Legal Services, lawyers and any other people interested.

Relevant publications:

Prue Vines, 'Aboriginal WILLS HANDBOOK' NSW Trustee and Guardian (2013), available here.

Prue Vines, ‘When cultures clash: Aborigines and Inheritance in Australia’ in Miller, G (ed) Frontiers of Family Law (2003) 98-119.

Prue Vines, ‘Consequences of Intestacy for Indigenous People in Australia: the passing of property and burial rights’ (2004) 8(4) Australian Indigenous Law Reporter 1-10.

Prue Vines, ‘Resting in peace?: a comparison of the legal control of bodily remains in cemeteries and Aboriginal burial grounds in Australia’ (1998) 20 (1) Sydney Law Review 78-107.

Prue Vines, ‘Wills as Shields and Spears: the failure of intestacy law and the need for wills for customary purposes in Australia’ (2001) 5(13) Indigenous Law Bulletin 16-19.

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