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Western Australia - Publications Details

Journal Article

Martyr, Philippa
Equal under the Law? Indigenous People and the Lunacy Acts in Western Australia to 1920
UWA Law Review
No. 35, 2011, pp. 317-339

This article from the UWA Law Review reviews how Aboriginal people in Western Australia were dealt with under the Lunacy Acts of 1871 and 1903. Using historical medical and other records, the author covers four topics: How the Lunacy Acts operated; Pleading insanity in court; Admission of Aboriginal people to lunatic asylums; Use of the Lunacy Acts by Aboriginal communities and families to protect themselves. The author concludes that Aboriginal people were not treated equally under these laws, yet those who were admitted had personal characteristics that were similar to white admissions. That is, they generally were either male labourers, vagrants, had been to prison, were elderly and physically sick, or were females with little family support. Dr Martyr also suggests that more research should be undertaken in this area.