Blackburn Lecture: Graeme Neate AM

50 years after the Gove land rights judgment: Sir Richard Blackburn and Aboriginal land rights

In April 1971, Mr Justice Blackburn of the Northern Territory Supreme Court delivered the landmark judgment in Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd,  the Gove Aboriginal land rights case. On key questions of fact and law, he ruled against the plaintiffs’ submissions. The decision was controversial and provided an impetus for Aboriginal land rights legislation for the Northern Territory, legislation which behind-the-scenes his Honour recommended. Although his rulings on fundamental legal issues, such as whether native title formed part of the common law of Australia, were subsequently reversed by the High Court of Australia in Mabo v Queensland (No 2), aspects of his judgment have been quoted with approval, including by the High Court, over the past 50 years. This lecture will explore the context in which the judgment was delivered, Sir Richard Blackburn’s role in encouraging legislation to overcome the effect of the decision, and the circumstances in Australia and Canada in which the judgment has been quoted.

Graeme Neate AM

Graeme Neate was appointed as President of the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) in September 2016.

Prior to his appointment to the ACAT, he was Commissioner of the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (2014-16), and is remembered and honoured for his 17 years of leadership and service to the National Native Title Tribunal, including the presidency (1999-2013), and membership activities (1995-1999).

He was appointed a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia in 2015 for his significant service to the law as a leading contributor to Indigenous land rights, and to legal education.

He is the author of Aboriginal Land Rights Law in the Northern Territory (1989), and is author of numerous published articles, book chapters and conference papers relating to Aboriginal land rights, native title and cultural heritage issues.

He was involved with the establishment of the Indigenous Law Program and the Indigenous Law Centre (Research and Study facilities) at the University of New South Wales.

His career highlights also include: Inaugural Chairperson, Land Tribunals (1992-2001); and Memberships of the Land Court of Queensland and Land Appeal Court of Queensland (1992-2000); the Taxation of Native Title and Traditional Owner Benefits and Governance Working Group; and, the Advisory Committee, Australian Law Reform Commission. He has also held roles as the Principal Legal Officer, Constitutional Commission (1986-88); an Associate Principal Research Officer Legal and Counsel Assisting, Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Commissioner (1980-82); and a Director, Legal Advising Section, Department of Aboriginal Affairs and employee (1982-86).

Event details

  • When: Tuesday 11 May 2021, 12.30-2pm
  • Where: Johnson Auditorium, Pilgrim House Conference Centre, 69 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra City
  • Cost: Free entry, or optional contribution (please note no refunds can be made)

About Law Week

Law Week is an annual event held in May across Australia to promote public understanding of the law and its role in society. Each year in Canberra the Law Society and its partners run a range of events to celebrate and engage the local legal profession, and to educate the public about the role of lawyers in our society. 

Law Week is made possible with the support of LawCover, the principal Law Week sponsor — they have been a longstanding supporter of Law Week, and we thank them for their ongoing sponsorship.

If you have any questions about Law Week in the ACT, please contact Nicole Karman on 02 6274 0300 or

ACT Law Week, in concert with the ACT Law Society Foundation, raises money each year for a local Canberra charity.

In 2021, ACT Law Week is supporting Raw Potential Canberra, a charity which empowers disadvantaged youth by providing non-judgemental support and opportunities for a bright future. 

Read more about Raw Potential, or make a direct tax-deductable donation, on their website at

Law Week events include fully paid as well as free events.

In past years, free events have operated on an 'entry by donation' basis. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions, we cannot safely collect coins at the door. To overcome this issue, we have listed free events with optional 'contributions', so that attendess can choose to contribute to the cost of running of the event as they see fit.

Profits from Law Week every year are disbursed to the Law Week charity, via the ACT Law Society Foundation.

The ACT Law Society Foundation was originally seeded with three years’ worth of Law Week profit (2013, 2014 and 2015), matched by Law Society funds. Each year, around September, the Foundation's annual disbursement is paid directly to the Law Week charity. The corpus of the Foundation is grown by splitting Law Week profits between the Law Week charity and the Foundation (generally a 50/50 split, up to the disbursement amount). This arrangement ensures that the Foundation will continue to grow, allowing greater disbursements in future.


Registration details

Fees are payable upon registration. 30 days payment invoices are available to members at the discretion of the Law Society. A 1.3% surcharge may be incurred on online payments. The Society reserves the right to cancel or alter events at its discretion, and in such circumstances, attendees will be notified via email. 

Cancellation policy: All cancellations must be made in writing, and all cancellations will incur a fee, however, no charge will be incurred for substituting another person. Outside of the cancellation periods given below, a $10 administration fee will be incurred for any cancellation made. If a registered attendee fails to attend without notifying the Society in writing, no credit or refund will be offered and 100% of the total cost will be retained by the Society. CPD Events — In the case of CPD events held at an venue other than the Law Society, no refund can be made after the RSVP date of the event. In the case of CPD events held at the Law Society, for cancellations made within two working days of the event, 50% of the total cost will be retained by the Society as a cancellation fee and the balance may be used as a credit towards other CPD events or be refunded. If you choose to keep a credit it will remain valid for 12 months from the event date, after which time it will expire. Webinars — In the case of live or on-demand webinars, as connection details are sent when registration is completed, no refund or cancellation is available. Social events — In the case of social events, no refund can be made after the RSVP date of the event.

Definitions: 'Registration' means any booking given to the Society in writing, on our website, or by phone. 'Member' means any member of the ACT Law Society, including associate members and honorary members. 'Young Lawyer' means any member who has held a practising certificate for five years or less. 'CLC' means any member working for a recognised community legal centre, or holding a volunteer practising certificate. 'Student' means a full time student studying law at a recognised Australian tertiary institution.

The Law Society is enforcing covid-safe measures as set out by ACT Health at all our face-to-face events. 

If you are sick, have recently visited a COVID hot-spot, or are in close contact with someone in either situation, please stay at home.

For the comfort and safety of our members, many of our CPD sessions continue to be available either online or in-person. If you choose the live-stream option you can still interact, ask questions, and be a meaningful participant at the seminar.

For more information about online CPD, please contact Carissa on




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Sponsors & Supporters

Message from the Sponsor

In recognition of our longstanding support of the ACT legal profession, and the excellent work of the ACT Law Society, Lawcover is delighted to renew our sponsorship of Law Week 2021.

Our unique position as a profession-owned, licensed and regulated professional indemnity insurer grants us deep insights into both legal practice and the community it serves. We are honoured to be associated with Law Weeks’ goal of promoting the public’s understanding of the law, and its role in society, as well as its fundraising efforts on behalf of local charities.  

As an insurer of the legal profession, and also a member of the profession, we are proud of our performance in delivering lower premiums and expanded services. We remain focused on continuing to provide enduring insurance protection and claims prevention support to ACT lawyers while promoting best practice of the law. 

Thank you to the ACT Law Society for the work you do on behalf of the profession and for the opportunity to sponsor Law Week 2021. Our very best wishes for a successful week.

Kerrie Lalich
Chief Executive Officer, Lawcover

For more information about Lawcover, visit, or call 1800 650 748.