In the 1996 Wentworth Lecture, Justice French focuses on the subject of native title and justice, framed as the question: "Native Title: The beginning or the end of justice?"
The question so posed refers both to the decision of the High Court in Mabo v The State of Queensland [No 2] (1992) and to the enactment and application of the Native Title Act 1993. It raises the general issues: what is the context and content of the search for justice for Australia’s indigenous people; how is that justice advanced, if at all, by what the High Court said in 1992 and by what the Commonwealth parliament said in 1993; and what are its future directions?
An understanding by all Australians that Mabo and the Act are part of a much larger process has important practical implications. For then there can be an understanding that, even if native title is swept aside by the law, country and its concerns remain. And then, too, there can be an understanding that native title represents neither the beginning nor the end of justice.