Drawing on William Dawes' unpublished notebooks on the Indigenous languages spoken around Sydney Cove at the time of white settlement, this article hopes to provoke critical reflection on the limits of the law. Dawes' record of communication with Patyegarang documents a transaction that was both political and erotic, both about the law and in defiance of it. In performances that were gestural as well as verbal, they marked out a middle ground where the laws governing both of them were placed in parentheses and new, provisional, rules of exchange improvised. This article notices the existence of this middle ground, and marks its disappearance in subsequent legal discourse about the status of Indigenous people. Ultimately, it offers a reflection on the laws that govern the meeting place which the middle ground underwrites. That is, before public space became fixed for the legally binding discourse of politics, it was mobile and self-constituting. Is this simply a myth or is it a mythopoetic mechanism for rethinking the grounding of law in Australia? If it is the latter, then the next step will be to establish a middle ground of exchange with Indigenous law-giving systems.
Field of Research
180119 Law and Society 190402 Creative Writing (incl Playwriting)