Aboriginal timeline: Land & land rights

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1982

  1. Eddie Mabo commences land rights proceedings in the High Court of Australia.

1983

  1. Aboriginal Land Rights Act (NSW) recognises dispossession and dislocation of NSW Aboriginal people with land tax funding as compensation, and sets up a 3-tiered system of Aboriginal Land Councils (state, regional and local).

1985

  1. In the ‘Come to Canberra Campaign’ joint land councils from the Northern Territory and the States go to Parliament House, Canberra to protest against the proposed changes to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act of the Northern Territory and the inadequate provisions in Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s visions of ‘Uniform National Land Rights’.

  2. Commonwealth government returns Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park (including Uluru/Ayer’s Rock) in the NT to its traditional Aboriginal owners.

    There were dire warnings that The Rock belonged to everyone and fears that it would be taken away by Aboriginal people. As you can see, the rock is still here, people got their land rights and the sky hasn't fallen down.

    — Gina Smith, Central Land Council, NT
  3. The Pitjantjatjara council makes an agreement with Amoco Petroleum for exploration on 20 000 square kilometres of their land.

1988

  1. High Court judgment affirms power of Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act over discriminatory state based legislation. The Court hands down decision on a claim by Mer people for native title rights to the Murray Islands. It allows the original claim to be heard, which the Queensland government had attempted to block by introducing retrospective legislation abolishing land rights.

1991

  1. Legislation providing for land rights in Queensland is passed - the Aboriginal Land Act 1991 and the Torres Strait Land Act 1991. The laws are greatly inferior to the standard set by the Northern Territory legislation.

  2. The Upper House in Tasmania rejects land rights legislation for Aboriginal people.

1992

  1. Minister for Aboriginal Affairs invokes the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Act to protect women’s sites near Alice Springs, threatened by a dam proposed by the Northern Territory government.

  2. The High Court of Australia hands down its landmark decision in Mabo v Queensland (Mabo case, Mabo decision). It rules that native title exists over particular kinds of lands - unalienated Crown lands, national parks and reserves - and that Australia was never terra nullius or empty land.

1993

  1. The Wik Peoples make a claim for native title in the Federal Court of Australia for land on the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland. Native Title Act does not pass through parliament until December 1993.

  2. Ayers Rock is renamed "Ayers Rock / Uluru", becoming the first official dual-named feature in the Northern Territory. The order of the dual names was officially reversed to "Uluru / Ayers Rock" on 6 November 2002 following a request from the Regional Tourism Association in Alice Springs.

  3. In response to the landmark 1992 High Court Mabo decision the federal government passes the Native Title Act 1993 after one of the longest and most divisive parliamentary debates in Australia’s legislative history. This law recognises Aboriginal peoples' land based on the recognition by the common law and allows Indigenous people to make land claims under certain situations. They cannot make claims on freehold (i.e. privately-owned) land.

1994

  1. Native Title Tribunal is established to hear land claims. Indigenous Land Fund is established as part of federal government’s response to the Mabo decision.

  2. Native Title Act 1993 becomes law.

1995

  1. Justice Drummond in the Federal Court makes a decision that the claim of the Wik and Thayorre Peoples could not succeed over the areas that were subject to pastoral leases. The judge’s reason was that he considered that the grant of pastoral leases under Queensland law extinguished any native title rights.

1996

  1. The Jawoyn people in the Katherine region of the Northern Territory sign on to the largest single commercial deal in Australian history involving Aboriginal interests. The signing is a major expansion of Aboriginal involvement in the Pegasus Mt Todd Gold Mine.

  2. The Wik Decision - the High Court reversed Justice Drummond’s judgement. The High Court found that pastoral leases did not necessarily extinguish native title and that both could co-exist but where there was a conflict native title rights were subordinate to the rights of the pastoral lease holder. The federal government develops ‘Ten Point Plan’ outlining a proposed legislative response to the High Court Wik decision, with the aim of limiting Aboriginal land rights.

1997

  1. Hamersley Iron and the Gumala Aboriginal Corporation finalise a unique regional land use agreement making the way of the $500 million Yandicoogina iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The agreement was the result of 20 months of consultation and negotiation.

  2. Alcan South Pacific Pty Ltd enters into a detailed Heads of Agreement with the Aboriginal community in Weipa, Cape York, Queensland, for a proposed bauxite mining and shipping operation from Alspac’s existing mining lease at Ely, north of Weipa.

References

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[10021] 'Anangu are still sharing culture', Koori Mail 488 p.13

Cite this page

Korff, J 2022, Aboriginal timeline: Land & land rights, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/history/australian-aboriginal-history-timeline/landrights?page=3>, retrieved 12 August 2022

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