Multiculturalism and Legal Plurality in Australia

28 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2015

Date Written: December 8, 2015


The great multicultural experiment that is Australia has engendered a reconsideration of core values. Even the traditionally conservative legal system has not been immune. While the law remains anchored in its British Christian common-law traditions, the influence of other cultures and beliefs are emerging. The primary two instances of this are the partial accommodation of Indigenous customary law and a debate over the accommodation of Islamic law principles.

The adoption of “foreign” legal concepts goes to the essence of what it means to be a liberal democratic society: does it mean wholesale legal plurality, or are there foreign legal principles excluded because they are unacceptable to a free and equal society? Putting this in the Australian context, should Australia accept the customary and religious laws of minorities, or is multiculturalism about establishing one legal framework that applies to all, equally, and without discrimination?

This article explores the implications for the legal system of an increasingly multicultural Australia. It will be observed that legal plurality does exist in Australia but largely in the shadows where the vulnerable of society lack protection.

Keywords: multiculturalism, legal plurality, Australian culture, customary law, shariah

Suggested Citation

Dabner, Justin, Multiculturalism and Legal Plurality in Australia (December 8, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Justin Dabner (Contact Author)

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