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Thematic Issue: Revitalising Legal Authorities

Legislating in Language: Indigenous Languages in Parliamentary Debate, Legislation and Statutory Interpretation


Julian R Murphy

There are signs that Australia is beginning a long-overdue process of incorporating Indigenous languages into its parliamentary debates and legislation. These are significant developments in Australian public law which, to date, have attracted insufficient scholarly attention. This article begins the process of teasing out the doctrinal implications of this phenomenon. The article is in four parts, the first two of which describe and normatively defend the trend towards Indigenous language lawmaking in Australia. The third part looks abroad to how other countries facilitate multilingual parliamentary debate and legislation. Finally, the article examines the interpretative questions that multilingual legislation poses for Australian courts. Potential answers to these questions are identified within existing Australian and comparative jurisprudence. However, the ultimate aim of this article is not to make prescriptions but to stimulate further discussion about multilingual legislation, which discussion ought to foreground Indigenous voices.

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(2020) 43(3) UNSWLJ 1006: