The federal government is looking at ways to shore up its ability to deport convicted criminals following a High Court ruling that Aboriginal people are exempt from immigration laws.
The court found in a 4-3 majority decision on Tuesday that Aboriginal people hold a special status after considering the cases of two convicted criminals the government wanted to deport.
The two men, who were born overseas, were facing deportation after failing the character test, having been jailed for serious assault.
Neither man holds Australian citizenship, but both identify as indigenous and each has one Australian parent.
Attorney-General Christian Porter said the government was now working through the repercussions.
“That obviously has very significant, immediate ramifications for … people who are born overseas, who aren’t Australian citizens, but may be able to show indigeneity and who are in Australia on a visa and commit an offence and we would otherwise want to deport them,” he told 6PR radio.
“But it may have broader implications.
“It creates an entirely new category of people in terms of what the government can and can’t do.”
He noted the chief justice was one of the three judges in the minority.
“It was a very close run thing.”
Labor MP and Wiradjuri woman Linda Burney welcomed the decision as “incredibly significant”.
“It reinforces Aboriginal connection to country in Australia,” Ms Burney told reporters in Canberra.
“(It) reaffirms the important connection, the special connection, that Aboriginal people have to Australia and their historical connection.”