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 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 3 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 4 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 5 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
Tube strike July 2015: Is it still on? Everything you need to know about the industrial action
Eiji Tsuburaya: Godzilla co-creator honoured in today's interactive Google Doodle
Florida teacher sentenced to 22 years in prison for sexually abusing three pupils
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...
£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...