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Aboriginal occupation of Australia Archaeologists and prehistorians have dated the presence of Aboriginal people in Australia back about 50000 years It has been estimated that between 300000 and 750000 Aboriginal people were living in Australian in 1788 Each group had spiritual and economic links with particular areas of land These groups had well defined rules which regulated the relationships of people within each group and the ways in which neighbouring groups or strangers interacted In 1971 Blackburn J decided that certain Aboriginal clans in the Gove Peninsula area of the Northern Territory had a legally recognisably system of law a subtle and elaborate system highly adapted to the country in which the people led their lives which provided a stable order of society and was remarkably free from the vagaries of personal whim or influencea government of laws and not of men British colonisation and sovereignty British claims of sovereignty were made over different parts of Australia between 1788 or possibly 1770 and 1879 Formal possession on behalf of the British Crown of the whole of the eastern part of the continent and Tasmania was taken on 7 February 1788 when Captain Phillips commission was read In the legal theory of the formative years the land known as Terra Australis or Terra Incognito was regarded as terra nullius - a territory belonging to no one According to that doctrine the colony was desert and uncultivated a term which includes territory in which live uncivilised inhabitants in a primitive state of society Courts proceeded on the basis that the colony was settled rather than conquered or ceded The legal consequence is that all English laws applicable to the colony were immediately in force upon its foundation By contrast the laws of a conquered or ceded colony remain in force until altered Before 1992 the courts generally accepted that the classification of the colony as settled was a matter of law which was not to
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