March/April 2007 Volume 6, Issue 26

It has been a long time since the Indigenous Law Bulletin last focused on issues surrounding native title.  Over time, significant court rulings have changed the landscape of native title, perhaps the most recent important decision being that of Wilcox J in Bennell v Western Australia (2006) 153 FCR 120 – the first to recognise the existence of native title over a capital city. In this edition, Vance Hughston SC, counsel representing the claimants, details the applicants’ arguments and the subsequent decision of the Federal Court before analysing the court’s reasons for judgment.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough, has, for the past 12 months, championed the introduction of 99-year leasing as a pathway to Indigenous home ownership and commercial business development.  On the Tiwi Islands, however, Indigenous people have expressed concern over what they see as a distinct lack of information on the practicalities of such a change. Samanti de Silva, from Tiwi News, writes of the Tiwi Islanders’ experiences over the past year.

Graeme Neate, president of the National Native Title Tribunal (‘NNTT’) has contributed to this edition with an abridged version of a paper he presented most recently at the Negotiating Native Title Forum in Melbourne, February 2007. This article outlines the amendments to the native title claims resolution process, particularly as they relate to the powers and functions of the NNTT.

Negotiating native title is certainly a process endorsed by governments, the NNTT and native title representative bodies. Litigation is costly, time consuming and exhausting. But do the processes set out for this negotiation deal effectively with power inequities? Professor Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh from Griffith University has examined agreements resulting from the provisions of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) for the right to negotiate and has determined that only a minority of these has actually delivered anything more than minimal economic benefits to native title groups. In his article, O’Faircheallaigh looks for answers to these outcome imbalances and proposes modes by which more equitable agreements may be reached.

Lisa Strelein published Compromised Jurisprudence: Native Title Cases Since Mabo in 2006, through Aboriginal Studies Press. This book provides an invaluable evaluation of native title case law since the momentous 1992 decision. Sean Brennan reviews this book for the Indigenous Law Bulletin.

As we have mentioned previously, the Indigenous Law Bulletin is planning two more Special Focus editions for 2007 – ‘Policing and Indigenous Australia’ in June-July and ‘Women’ in September-October. Should any readers be interested in contributing to either of these editions, please do not hesitate to contact the editors

Archives of the ILB from Volume 1, Issue 1 (1981) to 6 (19) 2006 are available online at <> and <>.

Special Focus Edition: Native Title

No Longer 'Throwing Money Over the Fence'
by Samanti de Silva

Native Title and the Bennell Decision
by Vance Hughston SC

New Powers and Functions of the National Native Title Tribunal
by Graeme Neate

Native Title and Mining Negotiations: A seat at the table, but no guarantee of success
by Ciaran O'Faircheallaigh

Book Review - Compromised Jurisprudence: Native Title Cases since Mabo
by Lisa Strelein (review by Sean Brennan)

Special ILB Anniversary Reflection

Changes to Native Title Since Mabo
by Jason Behrendt

Aboriginal Law Bulletin Volume 3, Issue 61, April 1993

Redfern Park Speech
by the Honourable Prime Minister, Paul Keating MP

Warning: Readers are advised to note that the above section may contain names of and references to Indigenous persons who are now deceased.


News and Projects
Recent Happenings March 2007
Recent Happenings April 2007

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