Aboriginal timeline: Land & land rights

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1975

  1. Gurindji people receive leasehold title to some of their traditional land (Wave Hill Station) in the Northern Territory.

  2. Ranger Uranium and Environmental Inquiry examines the effects of mining on Aboriginal people.

  3. Racial Discrimination Act is passed in the federal parliament. The Australian Senate unanimously endorses a resolution put up by Senator Neville Bonner acknowledging prior ownership of this country by Aboriginal people and seeking compensation for their dispossession.

1976

  1. Commonwealth Aboriginal Land Rights (NT) Act implements the main recommendations of the Woodward Report. The most significant land rights legislation in Australia, the act transfers reserve land to Aboriginal ownership (around 11,000 people) and administration to Land Councils. It gives statutory recognition to the Northern Land Council and the Pitjantjajara Land Council is formed. In first claim under the Act, Mr Justice Fox, who ran the Ranger Uranium and Environmental Inquiry recommends that traditional owners in the Alligator River region be granted land. Mining and tourism continue to operate in the area.

  2. Three Land Councils are founded and an office of Aboriginal Land Commissioners is created.

1977

  1. The first land claim hearing to Crown land at Borroloola in the Northern Territory commences.

  2. More than 200 Aboriginal people meet at the Black Theatre in Redfern and form the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) as an independent, non-statutory organisation and lobby for Aboriginal land rights. Chaired by freedom fighter, Kevin Cook, it demands the abolition of the Aboriginal Lands Trust and begins to lodge land claims.

1978

  1. The Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Ordinance is passed, instituting prosecution for trespass and desecration of Aboriginal sites.

  2. Land titles are granted to 15 Aboriginal Land Trusts in the Northern Territory.

  3. Western Australian government agrees that some of the money earned by mining land held by the Aboriginal Lands Trusts “would go to the Aborigines”.

  4. The Northern Land Council and Commonwealth Government signed the Ranger uranium mining agreement.

1979

  1. In “Coe vs Commonwealth”, Aboriginal barrister Paul Coe is unsuccessful in challenging the legal concept that Australia had been an uninhabited land which had been settled not conquered.

  2. By 1979 NSW Land Trust had gained 144 properties, all former Aboriginal reserves.

  3. The Western Australian Supreme Court grants an injunction against the American-based Amax company which wants to explore Aboriginal-owned Noonkanbah pastoral lease for oil. The cattle and sheep station in the state’s northwest was purchased by the Commonwealth for local Aboriginal people, who were surprised to find that 497 mining leases and an oil exploration permit had already been granted on their land. Test drilling finally went ahead despite Aboriginal resistance, supported by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people across Australia. In 2007 Aboriginal people win native title rights over land including the station.

1980

  1. The Pitjantjatjara Council advises the Aboriginal Affairs Minister of the possible radioactive contamination of Aboriginal people at Wallatinna Station, South Australia, as a result of atomic bomb tests. The ‘Black Mist’ of 1953 is brought to public attention with symptoms of sight loss and skin rashes reported. A number of Aboriginal people die and up to 1,000 are directly affected as a result of the bombs exploded by the British military with Australian government approval. Aboriginal people living in the area were not informed about the explosions.

  2. Dispute at Noonkanbah, Western Australia, over drilling on sacred sites draws national and international attention to Aboriginal rights.

1981

  1. Pitjantjatjara people of South Australia are granted land under the Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act (SA). A large area of the state is returned to the Anangu Pitjantjatjara. Anangu Pitjantjatjara, a corporate body, is established to administer some 100,000 square kms of land for the Anangu people.

1982

  1. Victorian Premier John Cain announces legislation is to be passed recognising the Aboriginal ownership of the Framlingham Forest near Warrnambool.

  2. Aboriginal people at the Hermannsburg mission (131 km southwest of Alice Springs) are granted freehold title.

  3. The Northern Land Council sign an agreement with Pancontinental Mining Limited allowing the company to mine uranium at Jabiluka, 230 km east of Darwin in the NT. The mine site is surrounded by, but not part of Kakadu National Park. World Heritage listed for both its environmental and cultural importance, Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park. In 1998 thousands came from around Australia and across the world to support the Mirarr people and blockade the proposed Jabiluka mine.

Cite this page

Korff, J 2022, Aboriginal timeline: Land & land rights, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/landrights?page=2>, retrieved 12 August 2022

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