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Contemporary Aboriginal Issues

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Contemporary Aboriginal Issues

Assignment 3- Essay

Topic 3: Discuss the political struggle for recognition of indigenous rights to land. In your answer, consider the benefits and limitations of the Native Title Act and recent United Nations criticisms of the current Act.

For years we have witnessed the Indigenous population's political struggle for recognition of rights to Australian land. At times the effort appears to be endless and achieving recognition almost seems impossible. Native Title and Land claims have become a step closer in achieving this recognition; however, for land rights to exist in an absolute form, they cannot exist as a mere Act of Parliament but must form a fundamental part of the Australian Constitution. This seemingly gigantic task is part of the incessant political struggle that the Indigenous population will continue to face. The United Nation's is an integral part of the political struggle between the Australian government and the Indigenous people and have on many occasions fought to raise the issue of human rights violation within the Australian constitution.

When Captain Cook arrived in 1788 and the colonisation of Australia began, the Indigenous people of Australia struggled and fought to protect their country from infringement, theft and violation. The Indigenous people were faced with a dominant military force and an extremely different view of the world. Over one hundred years ago, the colonists understood this land to be open for the taking and the rightful first owners were treated as intruders on their own land. In 1901 the commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed and a supposedly new era was to occur for this "lucky country" and its inhabitants. However, for Indigenous Australians, this year marked a 113 years of resistance, removal, withdrawal and dispossession. Over one hundred years later, the Native Title act is passed and Indigenous Australian's continue their political struggle for land rights

Land rights are defined as the entitlement to inhabit and use the land. Indigenous Australian communities seek to gain land rights or "Native Title" over certain parts of Australian land. This allows the Indigenous Australians the right to hunt, fish and inhabit the land and also gives them the right to contribute to decisions over construction, fishing or mining of that land. The struggle to return the right of communal ownership of the land, the sea and waterways to the Indigenous people of Australia has been a long one. Native Title aims to allow Indigenous communities the right to use the resources of the land and provides the necessary material base for a self-sufficient existence, including the right to self govern within a multicultural nation.

Native Title is the name that is used by the Australian "High Court" to describe the rights and interests Aboriginal people have over their lands. These rights and interests are called "Common Law". It is important to note that Native Title is not a new type of land grant but a common law that dates back before the European settlement of Australia.

The Native Title Act is different to the Land Rights Act because the claimants don't obtain "Aboriginal freehold title" to that land. Native title may exist on unoccupied land of the Commonwealth such as, national parks, public reserves, other public lands and also on pastoral leases. Native title cannot be claimed on land where there are privately owned homes or other private property such as commercial or residential property under freehold title.

The Native Title Corporations of Australia say that The Native Title act requires every victorious title "claimant group" to form a corporation to manage their title. This corporation will then become the groups "face" in all its Native Title dealings.

However, to get to this stage of the Native Title claim takes much time, effort and money. There are many court appearances, negotiation case meetings and dealings with the National Native Title Tribunal (NNTT). The NNTT's role is to mediate the meetings between Indigenous community negotiations. It is in these meetings that the benefits and limitations of the Native Title Act become clear.

There have been many limitations with the various Native Title Acts since 1998. Problems with the Acts themselves have caused much uproar with the Indigenous people of Australia, the Australian government and the United Nations Committee (UN). For example, on the 11th of August 1998, the UN committee on the elimination of Racial Discrimination requested that the Australian government provide it with information on the amendments to the Native Title Act 1993. The main idea of this request was to attend to the committee's concerns that the Native Title alterations may not be attuned with Australia's responsibilities under the "International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination".

This outlines one of the major limitations of the Native title Acts. It demonstrates that although the Acts are formulated to benefit the Indigenous people of Australia and there rights to Australian land, they do raise issues as to whether they are in favour of other issues that would benefit the government over the Aboriginal people of Australia. This is demonstrated through the Native Title Research Unit which stated, "The 1998 Amendments to the Native Title Act were strongly opposed by Indigenous peoples. They appeared to be balanced in favour of other interests, at the expense of the interests of Indigenous peoples and to the detriment of Native Title."

Another Native Title Limitation is the lack of education to the people of Australia when it comes to the idea of claiming land rights. Most Aboriginal people have a good understanding of the legal situation itself, however, white Australia has been turned into total chaos thinking Indigenous people are claiming their land, taking their backyards



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