Native Title Law In Australia

Essay by bevank_88High School, 12th grade September 2004

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On June 3rd 1992, the Australian High Court trailed a man that would change property law in Australia, as we knew it. The case of Eddie Mabo vs. The State of Queensland was the first successful case to bring about recognition of the concept of native title in Australia. Native title is the name given to the traditional land system of indigenous Australians, which was developed over thousands of years. In 1992, with Mabo, the Australian High Court finally recognized that Australia was not simply an empty piece of land when Captain Cook sailed up the coast in 1770 and claimed the eastern part of a continent which had already been occupied by our indigenous people for at least 40,000 years as a piece of British real estate.

Unlike 'land rights', which are created by governments, 'native title' is a right that existed before the coming of the Europeans to Australia.

As you can imagine the concept of native title have had important consequences for property law in Australia. The precedent case judgement overthrew the legal fiction of 'terra nullius' stating that the land of Australia had belonged to no one when the British arrived in 1778. The judgement found that a native title to land existed in 1778 and may continue to exist provided it has not been extinguished by later government acts and provided Indigenous groups continue to observe their traditional laws and customs.

In the Native Title Act 1998 it was decided that a claim of native title could be made over land in Australia, provided the following two elements are satisfied:

(a)         That those indigenous people (Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders) claiming the land or waters can prove a continuing association with the land claimed (physical, cultural or spiritual).

(b)         That there has been no act...