Sunday 3 June 2012 will mark the 20th anniversary of the High Court of Australia’s historic decision in Mabo v Queensland (No 2).
In the lead up to this milestone, the National Native Title Tribunal, which was established under the Native Title Act 1993, has published a commemorative brochure summarising key developments, determinations and trends in native title.
Tribunal President, Mr Graeme Neate, said “As the nation marks the 20th anniversary of the Mabo judgement, we should celebrate the positive and substantial outcomes that have been delivered, whilst acknowledging the complexity and limitations of the native title system.
“The statistics tell part of the story, with native title determinations since 1994 covering 17 per cent of the country and more than 600 Indigenous land use agreements registered.”
Determinations of native title, Indigenous land use agreements and other agreements have been made at the far points of Australia and many places in between. They cover islands of the Torres Strait in far north Queensland, part of the south eastern coastline of Victoria, Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia and Byron Bay in NSW.
Twenty years of native title has also seen trends towards Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together to reach agreements and achieve outcomes rather than litigate before the courts.
“Agreement-making has become the usual way of resolving native title claims and other native title issues,” Mr Neate said.
“Indigenous land use agreements are often part of a package of agreements which record the settlement of a native title application between all the parties involved.”
In addition, the rising number of agreements about exploration and mining, and other uses of land and waters, demonstrate how native title parties engage collaboratively with others in making a shared future for communities around Australia.
Looking to the future, Mr Neate said “Although many positive and substantial outcomes have been achieved, much remains to be done.
On this 20th anniversary, it is appropriate to celebrate what has been achieved, to concentrate on the challenges ahead, and to cooperate in meeting those challenges so that just and enduring outcomes are achieved.”
Maps of the areas of Australian land and waters covered by determinations of native title and by indigenous land use agreements can be accessed through the Tribunal website here
- The Tribunal’s ’20 years of native title – a summary of key dates and determinations’ brochure provides statistics (as of May 2012) that demonstrate the changes in activity in the native title system. It can be accessed through the Tribunal website here.
- Mr Neate has also contributed a chapter for The Limits of Change: Mabo and Native Title 20 Years On, a book published by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), which provides reflections on developments in native title since Mabo v Queensland [No 2]. The book will be available for order after 6 June 2012. For more information please email NTRU@aiatsis.gov.au
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