Antipodean Law: a legal geographical critique of Australian legal history (14291)
Until the late 20th century, the law of Australia was regarded as essentially English. Revisionist legal historians contended, in the 1990s, that in fact Australian law was not English, but local and therefore Australian. This paper questions and extends that legal history through the twin lenses of legal geography and environmental history. The paper argues that Australian law is only Australian, that is to say local, to the limited extent that local is defined as not-English. In other words, Australian law is different from English law to the extent that it has been applied differently in Australia due to material geographical differences. However, the fundamental qualities of Australian law remain European and alien. Using a legal geographical analysis it is now possible to see that, to the extent it has been adapted to Australian conditions, the law in Australia is maladapted. As such, the paper argues that Australian law is better understood as being neither English nor Australian, but as Antipodean: an identity cast not through place but through a space ultimately constructed by and for an Imperial purpose (Beilharz 1997: 97).