What are the difference between Aboriginal customary laws and Australian contemporary laws?.
Aboriginal customary laws, before white settlement in 1788, were considered primitive by the British, if considered at all. But Aboriginal laws and customs had lasted hundreds of years, based on traditions such as kinship ties and rituals.
These laws were formed by ancestors, spirits, and Aboriginal beliefs, and were passed down the generations by word-of-mouth instead of written down. Being over 500 tribes (each with it's own clans) in Australia at one point, there were many variations to their guidelines, customised to each area of the land. Although the laws varied throughout the ages, this way of life remained until white settlement.
The roots of Australian laws are similar to traditional Aboriginal laws, dating back to before the Norman Conquest in 1066, where each separate village had their own laws developed to their own customs. This changed however, after a centralized legal system was established after 1066. A common law was formed, that applied to all of England. This was later combined with equity law and mercantile law, which is the basis of Australian law today, known as "statute law".
The two forms of traditional Aboriginal law were "sacred" and "secular" laws. Sacred laws were entrusted to the elders, teaching Aboriginal customs, acceptable behaviour, and adequate use of the land. Secular laws focused on the responsibilities of individuals. There were also "secret" laws and different people in the tribes knew different laws, for example, women knew laws that were unknown to men, and vice versa. Children were taught how to be proper children until they were old enough to be told their adult customs.
Australian laws have two forms, public and private law. Public law is an individual versus the Australian government, for example, criminal law, constitutional law and environmental law.