Major Issues

13 Points on LAND RIGHTS for Aboriginal People

  1. For at least 40,000 years Aboriginal people lived on this continent, owning, caring for and being sustained by the land. With their deep knowledge of nature and respect for the environment in which they lived, they developed a successful economy and a rich spiritual and cultural life.
  2. In 1788 the British invaded this land and used military force to begin the land grab which continues to this day. The Aboriginal people fought back to protect their lands. Aboriginal people suffered murder on a huge scale, death through new diseases and poverty, and the destruction of much of Aboriginal traditional society.
  3. Despite having to fight a war for the land, the British declared this continent terra nullius — that the land was empty and belonged to no-one when they colonised it.
  4. For over 200 years the lie of terra nullius was the cruel and brutal cover for the mass murder, for the refusal to recognise Australia’s indigenous race as people, for the forced removal of children from their families, for the inhuman exploitation of the labour of Aboriginal people, for the racist treatment and apartheid Aboriginal people have been subjected to. Terra Nullius was the justification for the denial of LAND RIGHTS.
  5. But the Aboriginal people have survived and their struggle for LAND and JUSTICE has never ceased.
  6. In June 1992, the High Court of Australia recognised the concept of Native Title, stating it had existed before settlement and had continued after colonisation. However, it said Native Title was extinguished whenever land had been sold or set aside for some other purpose.
  7. The Howard Government’s amendments to the Native Title Act have opened the way for another massive land grab by miners and pastoralists — including Kerry Packer, Janet Holmes à Court and the Sultan of Brunei — as their leases are converted (de facto) to freehold.
  8. This may bring “certainty” to miners and pastoralists, the certainty of knowing their ill-gotten wealth and profits are secure. But for Aboriginal people it is, as Northern Land Council Chairman Galarrwuy Yunupingu said, “the final drink from the poisonous water hole”.
  9. Even though Native Title opens the way for only a small number of Aboriginal people to make land claims, it should none-the-less be protected from efforts to destroy it.
  10. The High Court’s extremely narrow interpretation of Native Title in effect cuts off most Aboriginal people from making legitimate claims to land.
  11. Aboriginal people should not be forced to accept the racist legal fiction that land they have been forcibly prevented from maintaining a “continuing association” with is therefore the property of the colonisers for all time.
  12. In addition to Native Title for the few, there should be LAND RIGHTS for ALL Aborigines
  13. LAND RIGHTS mean recognition of Aboriginal prior ownership of all the continent of Australia. There must be legislation to return land to its traditional owners on the basis of traditional ownership, religious association, long occupancy and / or need, including full rights to minerals and other natural resources.