Aborigines win right to claim their land
Thursday 23 December 1993
They hailed the legislation as a new beginning in relations between black and white Australians because it recognises the basis of their long and bitter land-rights struggle. Paul Keating, the Prime Minister, embraced Aborigines who had gathered in Canberra for yesterday's vote and said: 'We should take this legislation to be a victory for the Australian nation because it is a profound event. This will be a great day for indigenous Australians, and I hope a great turning point in their history.'
The Native Title Bill follows a landmark judgment by Australia's High Court last year which overturned the legal notion that Australia was terra nullius, or unoccupied land, when the British settled it in 1788. It became known as the 'Mabo judgment' after Eddie Mabo, a native elder of Murray Island, off the north Queensland coast, who launched the court action 11 years ago. Mabo died before the judgment, but it made him a national hero and he was named Australian of the Year last January.
Adopting the main premise of the Mabo judgment, the legislation sets up a system whereby Aborigines can claim ownership to land based on traditional or historical association - a right they have never had in most parts of Australia. It gives them the right to resume native title over land once a mining lease has expired, and protects their hunting and fishing rights over pastoral land. However, the homes, farms and commercial land that non-Aboriginal Australians own will be protected: the bill enshrines the priority of existing freehold and leasehold grants over native title.
In practice, therefore, the new law will apply to very limited parts of Australia. But its psychological impact has been huge. Lois O'Donoghue, head of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, and the chief Aboriginal negotiator over the bill, said: 'We hope you will all rejoice with us at the end of what we see as a historic day.'
Mr Keating had turned the passing of the Native Title Bill into a personal crusade against strong opposition from some state governments, and from the pastoral and mining industries which argued it would deter foreign investment.
The law still faces a stormy future, particularly in Western Australia whose vast outback, much of it vacant Crown land, could be the focus of many title claims. The conservative state government recently passed a law invalidating native title claims, and this is bound to face a constitutional challenge.
- 1 Woman 'suffocates newborn baby in plastic bag and puts it in her desk minutes after giving birth'
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Chinese student carries disabled friend to school every day for three years
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...