Namatjira v Raabe

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Citation: Namatjira v Raabe [1959] HCA 13

This information can be found in the Textbook: Prue Vines, Law and Justice in Australia: Foundations of the Legal System, (2nd ed, Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 125-8 or here.


Background facts

  • The Defendant [Namatjira] was an aboriginal who was granted an Australian citizenship (thus not legally consdiered an Aborigine anymore)
  • He was thus allowed to drink alcohol.
  • He supplied alcohol to Raberaba, another Aboriginal (thus a 'ward of the state') during a taxi ride.
  • Sentenced to 6 months imprisonment – appealed to High Court.


  • The declaration of Raberaba as a ward of the state was void. One should have the opportunity to challenge a declaration of wardship, and that independent investigations should be conducted to check if he should be a ward.

Legal issues

  • The impact of settlement on the indigenous inhabitants - the power of the state to discriminate against aboriginals:
    • Is the state allowed to declare aboriginals as 'wards of the state' in bulk or does it need to be an individual process?
    • Does the ward have the right to object?


  • Aboriginal people as a whole require special care and therefore it is perfectly valid to declare them 'wards of the state' in bulk.
  • The legislation does not imply that there is a need to issue individual notices or deal with the subjects individually.
  • Accordingly, the people which have become wards are declared so in the Gazette, and are then allowed to appeal.
  • Raberaba did not appeal, and therefore he is a ward.
  • On the facts, the court is convinced that the Defendant indeed supplied alcohol to Raberaba, and thus is guilty of supplying alcohol to a ward.


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