25 June, 2007

Native Title Myths

I'm still working on my other post, a response to current issues, but in the mean time I think it would be beneficial to go through some myths about Native Title, and what it means in Australia. These myths and misconceptions I have heard from speaking with other people, listening to the media and from reading a number of articles. It is by no means a comprehensive list of misconceptions about Native Title in Australia. If anyone has any questions about Native Title, I'll try to answer them to the best of my ability (I have some cultural heritage management knowledge, but I'm not a lawyer).

Myth 1: Native Title means that all our land can be taken.
Native Title is only applicable over land which has a demonstrated continual connection with land for Indigenous people. When this connection has been demonstrated, Native Title will only apply on land in which that Title has not been extinguished. This is the result of the Mabo decision.

Myth 2: Aborigines can take over our backyards.
Most people's backyards are freehold properties. Freehold land has had all Native Title extinguished. That means your backyard is safe and it is impossible for Native Title to ever be successfully claimed by and a claimant group.

Myth 2.1: But Aborigines claimed Perth.
Aborigines claimed the land over Perth for technical reasons. All freehold land, and other land in which Native Title has been extinguished, will never be part of the claim. The claim was simply a claim over all "claimable" areas left in Perth, meaning all non-extinguished land.

Myth 3: Aborigines are going to force farmers from their land.
The Wik decision found that Aborigines were able to claim Native Title over pastoral lease land, when that claim does not impinge on the land-holder. This court case decided that Native Title is a bundle of rights, and as such Aborigines can claim Native Title over pastoral leasel land, and will be given Title and Rights over the land for only a segment of the entire Title which does not conflict with the land-holder. This means that Aboriginal parties can undertake traditional activities, such as hunting, clearing, and traversing the country, when these activities are not in contradiction with current activities.

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