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Aboriginal Land Rights

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Aboriginal Land Rights Introduction Aboriginal Australians have always had an eternal bond with the land. For the 50,000 years or more, they have occupied the continent; the land provided not only the basic needs, but also the spiritual beliefs. In the Dreaming, the forms of the land, mountains, rivers, landscapes and animals took shape and the spirit of ancestors resided in places that became sacred sites to the Aboriginal people. The land to these people were their most precious commodity. When white settlement began in Australia in 1788, the concept of terra nullius {the land belonging to no-one} was adopted by the British. This was assumed because the Aboriginals had not cultivated the land, so it was uninhabited. However, the Mabo Case in 1992 changed this notion. The Mabo Case 1992 In May 1982, Eddie Mabo and four other Meriam people of the Murray Islands in the Torres Strait area went to the High Court of Australia, seeking confirmation of their traditional land rights. They claim that Murray Island or Mer, and the surrounding islands and reefs had been continuously inhabited by the Meriam people, but accepted it as part of Queensland. ...read more.


* It creates a land acquisition fund to meet the needs of dispossessed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who would not be able to claim native title. Wik Case 1996 After the Mabo Case resolved the land rights dilemma of Aboriginals, there were unresolved conflicts on the issue of pastoral leases, which take up a significant 42% of land in Australia and 93% in the Northern Territory. These pastoral leases were a form of land lease unique to Australia created by the British Colonial Office after concern by British officials over the massive land grab by squatters in the 1830's and 1840's. The lease stated the leases did not grant squatters exclusive possession, but that the land was owned on behalf of the Australian public by government. Aboriginals argued that native title rights co-existed with pastoral leases, while the government claimed that the mere granting of a pastoral lease last century extinguished native title, even though the land was never developed. These blocks of undeveloped were called "ghost leases" and many of them are still empty. ...read more.


This Bill, launched by Prime Minister John Howard, was labelled as "racist by the UN and many Aboriginal groups lobbied against it. However, even with public disapproval of the Bill, it was passed through Parliament with great controversy. b) Discuss how the cases and Acts above have helped the reconciliation process. What other areas also need to be addressed to achieve reconciliation? The cases above helped create reconciliation between Aboriginals and Australians because Aboriginals and the general public gained more awareness of Aboriginal Land Rights through court cases such as the Mabo and Wik case and legislation such as the Native Title Act. However, some legislation, such as the Wik Bill or the Native Title Amendments have been clearly discriminatory towards Aboriginals. Other areas that also need to be addressed to achieve reconciliation include: * Acceptance of Aboriginal culture * Equal treatment of Aboriginals * Educating young Australians about Aboriginal culture to gain greater understanding * Educating young Aboriginals, leading to the next point: * Greater employment rates of Aboriginals * Less scrutiny and harassment by police With these areas addressed, Aboriginals and Australians can live together in peace and harmony with reconciliation between these two groups. ...read more.

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