Native title claim generates hysteria

The long time festering issue of land rights in Australia has again been greeted by hysteria. Native title to land has been something the mining sector in Australia is dark on as what gets done on any acre of the continent can often be decided by indigenous groupings who possess title over the intended hole in the ground.

But in a landmark ruling the Australian Federal Court on September 19 granted to the Nyoongar people of Western Australia one of the nation’s largest native title claims. Covering more than 193,000 square kilometre from Hopetoun in the south to north of Jurien Bay, including metropolitan Perth, the decision has sparked a response reminiscent of the hysteria generated by the historic 1992 Mabo ruling.

Given the weight the resources industry carries both politically and economically in this country the whole issue of land rights is sure to be reviewed by a seeming bipartisan federal parliament. The standard ‘legal’ view had been that Australia was Terra Nullius — “empty” — when it was invaded by Britain in the late 18th century.The federal opposition leader, the ALP’s Kim Beazley (a Western Australian)has sided with the government on the issue.

Good review of the debate here on my blog by Russell Pickering.

Indigenous Australians don’t have a treaty with their white colonizers and the debate these last 40 years has centred on what constitutes their rights under the Australian constitution. It wasn’t until 1967 –as a result of a federal referendum — that aborigines were allowed to vote or were counted in the national statistics.

Folk interested in the topic may want to background themselves with such excellent films such as The Tracker. The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, and the newly released, Ten Canoes. before they hit the books. Green Left Weekly will be covering the issue.Also there’s a quick review of the genocide and relations between Indigenous and migloos (as whites are called in my area by local Murris) here.

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