The Native Title Act 

On this page:

Native title legislation

The Native Title Act 1993 (Cwlth) was enacted as a result of the decision made by the High Court of Australia in Mabo v Queensland (No.2) 1992. The Federal Parliament reviewed and amended the Native Title Act in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2010.

Federal Court

The Federal Court of Australia is responsible for the management of all applications made under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cwlth) or a determination of native title or for compensation for the loss or impairment of native title. Those applications must be filed in the Court.

As of 1 July 2012, the Federal Court is also responsible for mediation of native title claims and Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUA) negotiations related to native title claims mediation.

The Court has wide powers to manage native title cases. It can:

  • make directions about how the application is to be progressed
  • decide whether or not the application should be referred to the National Native Title Tribunal or another appropriate person or body for mediation
  • determine who are the ‘parties’ to the application (the people involved in a case)
  • adjourn the proceedings to allow time for the parties to negotiate
  • make orders to ensure that native title applications which cover the same area are dealt in one proceeding
  • strike out or dismiss an application, which brings the case to an end
  • set an application down for hearing
  • make a determination recognising that native title does, or does not, exist
  • decide whether compensation for the loss or impairment of native title should be paid.

National Native Title Tribunal

The National Native Title Tribunal was set up under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cwlth) and commenced operations in January 1994.

The Tribunal is an independent statutory body with a wide range of statutory functions.  It also provides services,  including the provision of  information and assistance to persons  involved in native title processes and the wider public. The Tribunal administers part of the future act process - that is, generally, the process that deals with future acts relating to mining and some compulsory acquisitions. The Tribunal's role includes mediating between parties, conducting inquiries and making decisions (called ' future act determinations') where parties can't reach agreements.

In addition the Tribunal also manages ILUA negotiations that are not related to native title claims mediation.

The Tribunal also maintains the Registers of Native Title Claims, Native Title Determinations and Indigenous Land Use Agreements

Representative bodies for Indigenous Australians

Under the Native Title Act, Native Title Representative Bodies are organisations with the primary role of representing Indigenous Australians within their designated region by providing support for native title determination and compensation applications, responding to proposed future acts and negotiating indigenous land use agreements.

Please see the Native Title Representative Bodies map for the location and details of these organisations.

Not all claimants are represented by native title representative bodies or service delivery agencies. Some claimants choose private solicitors or other people to represent them or are unrepresented.

Government agencies

The Commonwealth Attorney-General is responsible for Commonwealth courts and tribunals. The Attorney-General also approves the state and territory alternative native title regimes.

The Attorney-General's Department of the Australian Government administers a legal aid fund for non-Indigenous parties responding to native title claims.

As managers of Crown lands or state lands and waters, state and territory governments are involved in every native title application within that state or territory. State and territory governments also provide the land tenure information the Tribunal requires for public notification and deal with most of the future act process.

Where to get a copy of the Native Title Act

The Native Title Act is available in both electronic and print formats. It sets out the native title process and establishes the framework for the management of that process.

Electronic versions are available from comlaw.gov.au and hard copies can be purchased from:

Canprint Information Services (servicing ACT, NSW, NT, WA)
Telephone: 1300 656 863
Fax: 02 6293 8333
Postal address: PO Box 7456 Canberra MC ACT 2610 (for mail order sales)
Street address: 16 Nyrang Street Fyshwick ACT 2609 (for over-the-counter sales)
Email: legislation@infoservices.com.au

Information Victoria
Street address: 356 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: 1300 366 356
Fax: 03 9603 9920
Email: legislation@infoservices.com.au

SDS Publications (servicing QLD)
Street address: 371 Vulture Street Woolloongabba QLD 4102
Phone: 1800 801 123
Fax: 07 3883 8720
Email: sdscustomerservice@sds.qld.gov.au

Printing Authority of Tasmania
Street Address: 2 Salamanca Place Hobart TAS 7000
Phone: 1800 030 940
Fax: 03 6223 7638
Email: sales@pat.tas.gov.au

Service SA Government Legislation Outlet
Street Address: Ground Floor 101 Grenfell Street Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: 13 23 24
Fax: 08 8207 1949
Email: servicesa@saugov.sa.gov.au
Website: www.service.sa.gov.au