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The DreamtimeWhat Rights arise from Native Title?


Indigenous people who hold native title have certain rights that are recognised under Australian law. These rights can vary from a limited right of access to visit important places, to hunt and fish - to a right to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the land in a way similar to freehold ownership. Native title rights may also include the right to carry out other kinds of traditional customs.

Native title holders have the right to be compensated if governments acquire their land or waters for future developments. They may also have a right to negotiate over mining developments and mineral exploration.

Indigenous Australians are not being given land under native title. Groups are asserting that their traditional links to an area have survived and, therefore, they have rights to the area according to their traditional laws and customs.

Where does Native Title exist?

Native title can exist in areas where it has not been extinguished (removed). Indigenous people may apply to have their native title recognised and a court or other recognised body determines whether or not native title still exists. This is done either by a consent determination, in which native title is agreed on without going to trial, or a litigated determination of native title.

The court also decides what sort of native title rights and interests exist in an area. The court does not, however, hand over a title deed of that land. The recognition of native title cannot take away or interfere with the rights and interests that other people have over the same area, including owning a home, holding a pastoral lease or having a mining lease.

Nevertheless, native title rights can exist and be exercised alongside the rights of other people. Where native title rights and the rights of another person conflict, the rights of the other person prevail. Therefore native title claims often are made for non-exclusive or shared rights.

Native title may exist in areas such as: vacant (or unallocated) Crown land; forests and beaches; national parks and public reserves; some types of pastoral lease; land held by government agencies; land held for Aboriginal communities; or oceans, lakes, rivers, etc and other waters that are not privately owned.

Based on material supplied by the National Native Title Tribunal

Back to Page 1 of Native Title and Land Rights

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