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Our Greatest Challenge: Aboriginal children and human rights


Hannah McGlade’s new book bravely addresses the complex and fraught issue of Aboriginal child abuse. She argues that Aboriginal child sexual assault has been formed within the entrenched societal forces of racism, colonisation and patriarchy, yet cast in the Australian public domain as an Aboriginal ‘problem’, with controversial government responses critiqued as racist and paternalistic. McGlade highlights that non-Aboriginal society has yet to acknowledge the traumatic impacts of the sexual assault on Aboriginal children which was part and parcel of the European project of ‘civilisation’.

She provides detailed analysis of the legal systems response. While child sexual assault is a criminal offence, the Aboriginal experience of the law is tainted. Despite reforms to the law, the courtroom experience is based on re-victimisation and trauma which prevents the fundamental principle of equality before the law.

McGlade believes that we should be guided by Indigenous human rights concepts and international Indigenous responses in addressing the problem. In doing so she believes that we can help to stem the harm to future generations.

Winner of the 2011 Stanner Award.

Hannah McGlade is a Noongar woman living in Perth. She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Murdoch University 1995), a Masters in Law (Murdoch University 2001) and a PhD (Curtin University 2011). Admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor to the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 1996, Hannah has specialised in human rights law and her work has been the subject of many publications and test cases concerning Aboriginal human rights. She is a member of the WA State Administrative Tribunal – Human Rights stream and an Adjunct Researcher at the Curtin Centre for Human Rights Education.

Reviews and endorsements

'This book should be compulsory reading for judges, lawyers and human service professionals whose work involves children.'


Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs AO, University of South Australia

'[McGlade] analyses the failure of government responses, and in particular the failure to develop processes which would facilitate Aboriginal communities working in partnership with government to solve the problem of Aboriginal child sexual assault.'


Professor Chris Cunneen, University of Sydney

'Professional understanding, combined with painful personal experience, make this a work of compelling advocacy for children’s rights to protection.'


Professor Chris Goddard, Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia

'…a passionate reminder of a child’s right to security of their person, their dignity and their right to grow and prosper in an environment that supports and fosters their chances.'


Dr Ailsa M Watkinson, University of Regina, Cana

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