Towards Truth is a partnership between the Indigenous Law Centre and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. We are researching the vast body of laws and policies that have impacted Aboriginal people since 1788, broken down into four main ‘themes’ - Country, Kinship, Law and Culture, and People.
Towards Truth is the first attempt to map in detail how decisions of our Parliaments and Governments have dispossessed and disempowered First Nations people, and where they have sought to protect and provide for reparation.
It does this by compiling:
laws and policies that have impacted First Nations people since 1788
parliamentary debates that show what the Parliament intended when those laws were passed
articles and reports that discuss and analyse how these laws and policies operated in practice, and
case studies that show their practical effects.
Our work has begun in NSW, with plans to expand to other jurisdictions.
Towards Truth advances the Uluru Statement from the Heart by providing a foundational resource to strengthen First Nations community truth-telling and to support First Nations people seeking to understand how the laws and policies of the day impacted their own families and communities.
Towards Truth is also a resource for policymakers, researchers and educators investigating Australia's relationship with First Nations people, and a tool for advocates working to progress First Nations justice.
Who we are
The Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Sydney
The Indigenous Law Centre has worked exclusively on the right to self-determination for Indigenous peoples for forty years. The ILC UNSW was established forty years ago by esteemed Jewish jurist, Emeritus Professor Garth Nettheim, who also set up the Aboriginal Legal Service. The ILC UNSW continues this important legacy of work today through its partnership with the Uluru Dialogue. Professor Megan Davis, Balnaves Chair in Constitutional Law at UNSW Sydney, has led the ILC UNSW for the past decade, playing a key role in the national conversation on constitutional reform for Indigenous peoples.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Sydney
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is an independent, non-profit organisation that works with people and communities who are marginalised and facing disadvantage. PIAC builds a fairer, stronger society by helping to change laws, policies and practices that cause injustice and inequality.
PIAC has a history of work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on Indigenous justice issues, as well as expertise in supporting truth and accountability processes - most recently through the Sri Lanka Conflict Mapping and Archive Project. PIAC draws on the skills and expertise of lawyers working pro bono as well as volunteers and interns to support this work. PIAC is an active supporter of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
People and Partnerships
The Towards Truth project was conceived and founded by Professor Megan Davis, Professor Gabrielle Appleby, Jonathon Hunyor and Daniela Gavshon. The database that supports the website was designed by our former Technology Officer, Erol Gorur.
We also acknowledge the contribution of First Nations staff at the ILC and PIAC over the life of this project: Noah Bedford, Charisma Cubillo, Kishaya Delaney, Dani Larkin, Jason O'Neil and Eddie Synot.
The Towards Truth project relies on experts to provide input and review of our themes and subjects. All errors and omissions are unintentional and the responsibility of the project team.
We acknowledge and thank the following people for their time and expertise:
- Althea Gibson
- Carmel O'Shannessy
- Dani Larkin
- David Nash
- Emma Buxton-Namisnyk
- Jakelin Troy
- Kathryn Ridge
- Michael Bennett
- Susan Poetsch
Towards Truth has been made possible by generous supporters who have shared our vision. PIAC and the ILC thank:
- Australian Communities Foundation Impact Fund
- Clayton Utz Foundation
- Herbert Smith Freehills
- Lander and Rogers
- Macquarie Group Foundation
- Maple-Brown Family Foundation
- Maurice Blackburn
- Origin Energy
- Tass Nyungar Fund
- Williams Fund
- Fairer Futures Fund
- Robert and Jennifer Gavshon
- Grace Projects
- JRA Support Fund
- Jump Start
- Juno Fund
- Keith & Jeannette Ince Fund
- Sam and Barbara Linz
- Reve Fund
Pro bono partners
The Towards Truth project has received extensive pro bono support from a number of generous partners who have provided high-quality legal research and analysis. We particularly thank and acknowledge:
Volunteers and interns
Towards Truth is supported by volunteers and interns who have given their time to assist with research and other project tasks. PIAC and ILC are very grateful for their work.
The following libraries and agencies have provided helpful assistance to the project team
- NSW Parliament Library
- State Library NSW
The four ‘theme’ images provided by the Uluru Dialogue, photographed by Jimmy Widders-Hunt.
Frequently Asked Questions
How were the research areas decided?
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre and the Indigenous Law Centre created the initial research plan which defined the areas we intend to research. Due to our initial focus on NSW laws and policies, some research areas have not yet been included because they are governed by Commonwealth laws and policies (eg intellectual property). Find out more about our research areas and progress at our Project Map.
What is the research process?
Our pro bono partners do most of the research, with direction, coordination and oversight from PIAC staff. PIAC staff and volunteers add to that research. We consult with subject-matter experts to check accuracy and completeness and finalise the material in consultation with the Indigenous Law Centre.
Does the project include laws that are current or is it only historical?
The project aims to include all laws and policies that have had an impact on First Nations peoples, including those still in force today. However, much of the research has had a historical focus because these documents can be more difficult to find and in response to a desire for historical truth-telling expressed during the Uluru Dialogues.
When will the project be complete?
We will progressively add new research areas to Towards Truth. Sign up to our Newsletter to hear about updates to the website.
We aim to complete our research on NSW laws and policies in 2025. Find out more about our research areas and progress at our Project Map.
How up to date is the research?
We intend to review information published to the website annually, so the current law is up to date. Please contact us if you are aware of recent changes we are yet to acknowledge.
Isn't there a difference between the law and what happened/is happening in practice?
Yes. Laws and policies don't tell the whole story, so we try to include case studies and discussion/analysis materials to help demonstrate what has happened in practice since 1788. It's not always possible to capture practices over time and we do not make assumptions about how a law or policy may have impacted particular Aboriginal people.
What about lore/customary law prior to 1788?
Customary law has sustained Aboriginal people since time immemorial and we respect the role of Aboriginal leaders to speak on this with cultural authority. Our focus is on Western laws and policies, and showing their impact on Aboriginal experiences since 1788.
How is the project funded?
We receive funding from various sources, including private donors, foundations, and corporate sponsorship.
Can I use the information on the website?
Each document published with a pdf on our website can be downloaded and used. If a document's pdf is not available, you can visit the website provided with the document and find more information about how to access it there.
I think you have something wrong or have missed something. What can I do?
We appreciate feedback from our site users and will update information to ensure it is current and accurate. If you would like to suggest an update, please contact us and describe the change you are suggesting.
Donate to Towards Truth
‘This is the engine room of truth-telling, the granular detail of what Australians need to know.’
Scientia Professor Megan Davis, Director of the Indigenous Law Centre
‘Towards Truth is a beacon of hope for me and my community. It has revealed to us that the fate of Aboriginal children and communities was never ad hoc or random. It happened through democratically elected parliaments in black letter law.’
Corey Smith, Towards Truth Project Coordinator
Every Australian should have access to these historical facts.
We need $1.45 million to complete our research on NSW laws and policies by 2025.