Past government policies which have disadvantaged ATSI in terms of land rights can be traced as early as settlement times in the late 18th century with the concept of Terra Nullius, to the still limited status of ATSI in owning traditional lands with the 1970s-present policy of self determination. These government policies have not only brought problems concerning land rights, but also other issues which continue to impact contemporary Australia, such as the Stolen Generation and Assimilation.
The disadvantages of ATSI in recognition of Land Rights stems from the legal concept from which Australia was settled in the 18th century- Terra Nullius. British settlers had claimed sovereignty of the land citing that its indigenous inhabitants had a system of law which was primitive (due to their nomadic lifestyle) and not recognised by the Crown; hence, the land belonged to nobody. Claiming the land as theirs, the British had ignored ATSI customary and spiritual law who saw themselves as 'guardians' and 'custodians' of the land as opposed to owners.
Misunderstandings to the British common law system, such as of private property, saw the ATSI lose their land and waterholes to pastoralists and farmers.
Due to their misunderstanding of the common law system, many ATSI were imprisoned for crimes such as taking farm animals. ATSI were often targeted by police for crimes which non-ATSI would have not been imprisoned for, due to the belief that they were sub-humans.
The early 1800s saw the dispersal and dispossession policy where landholders, assisted by police and officials, systematically shot and poisoned ATSI, or drove them inland away from traditional lands. Examples include of Port Phillip and Bathurst 1824, where ATSI were killed for their lands- by 1850s; ATSI had been reduced from 85000 to a few thousand, with acts such as...