Johnston Withers Lawyers has a proud history of acting for Aboriginal people and providing their organisations with legal advice. The founder of our firm, Elliott Johnston QC, was appointed by the Federal Government to conduct the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. In addition, Johnston Withers acted for the Aboriginal people from Maralinga in successfully negotiating millions of dollars in compensation from the UK Government arising from the atomic bomb tests of the 1960s. We have also acted for many Aboriginal groups seeking recognition of their land and native title rights in SA, WA and other parts of Australia.

The following is a summary of the areas of work we currently undertake:

Organisation support

Johnston Withers Lawyers provides legal advice to Aboriginal groups about the appropriate organisation structure for their representative bodies. This involves advising as to the best practice for governance and compliance with the relevant legislation.

In addition our firm provides ongoing assistance with employment matters including representing Aboriginal organisations before employment law tribunals.

We have also acted in specific cases in support of the wishes of Aboriginal communities. For example, Johnston Withers Lawyers successfully opposed the installation of poker machines at a roadhouse near Ceduna which would have had a detrimental effect on the neighbouring Aboriginal community.


Johnston Withers Lawyers provides a wide range of general commercial and corporate legal advice to Aboriginal organisations.  We have a long history of negotiating with mining companies on behalf of Aboriginal people, with regard to access to Aboriginal land and compensation for the impact of mining. We have also assisted Aboriginal organisations in establishing businesses, including buying and selling businesses and appropriate organisation structures.

Native title and land rights

Our firm represents a number of Aboriginal groups in relation to their determined or claimed native title rights, including the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyatjatjara and Eringa people in the far north of South Australia and the Dambimangari people of the Kimberley region in North West Australia.

Johnston Withers Lawyers attend community meetings, advise the Aboriginal group and then represent the claim group in the proceedings of the Federal Court.

We also act for landholding bodies in providing advice as to land management issues, including successfully negotiating with the State Government for Aboriginal involvement in decision making on national parks.

In addition, Johnston Withers Lawyers continues to advise Aboriginal groups on a wide range of other land and sea matters, including clearance surveys to ensure significant sites are not damaged or interfered with by mining companies or other developers.