Two Laws


White people don't understand that there are two laws--white people have different laws from Aboriginal people.

Two Laws is a film about history, law and life in the community of Borroloola in far North Queensland. The films offers viewers a remarkable and different way of seeing and hearing. The concept of two laws – being colonial and Indigenous law – can also be spoken about as two ways of storytelling. The film delves into what two laws stand for, two ways of being and two ways of perceiving.

Like the film Backroads it is one of the few productions at that time in which Aboriginal people had creative input. The impetus for Two Laws came from the community themselves. There was substantial collaboration with the film makers before and during the shooting period. It is one of the most outstanding films to be made during the 1980s. It is an historical analysis of what, nearly forty years later, is an increasingly contemporary question.

Two Laws was made by peoples belonging to Mara, Yanula, Garrawa and Gurdandji language groups. It is in four sections: Police Times, Welfare Times, Struggle for Our Land and Living with Two Laws.

Clip notes: In re-enactment, Constable Stott menaces Dolly, who is tied up to a tree. An elder now directs the action of the re-enactment, and the group collectively decide the details of the events and how they unfolded.

Part 1 – Police Times

Borroloola in the 1930s. Dramatic reconstruction of a conflict between Aboriginal people and new white settlers and police in 1933.

Part 2 – Welfare Times

Describes life of the Borroloola community under the Welfare system of the 1950s to the present day.

Part 3 – Struggle for Our Land

Describes Aboriginal attachment to land; land conflict over sacred sites; the 1977 Borroloola Land Claim; the bargaining strategy of the people between the government, the cattle stations and the mining company.

Part 4 – Living With Two Laws

Describes the present movement back to traditional land, the assertion of ceremonial practice and the setting up of cattle outstations.

No other documentary has come anything like as close to uncovering the richness and the everydayness of modern aboriginal life, without every romanticising it.

— John Hinde, ABC 3/05/1982


The Borroloola community
Release dates
1981 - Australia
PG - Parental guidance

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Cite this page

Korff, J 2020, Two Laws, <>, retrieved 25 July 2024

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