Mervyn Eades, an Indigenous leader from WA involved in the Federal Court Case Image: The Wire
The Australian Federal Labor Party has backed a suite of amendments to that country’s Native Title Act. The amendments come after a Federal Court ruling that threw into doubt a proposed agreement between the West Australian Government and local Indigenous people. The pushed through changes to the Native Title Act in order to circumvent the decision by the full Federal Court, that rejected a land use agreement connected with a $1.3 billion native deal involving the Western Australian Government. According to Federal Attorney General, Senator Brandis;
"To make this matter certain and to remove the commercial uncertainty in particular that was created by the decision of the full Federal Court the week before last."
According to reports at the time "the $1.3 billion Western Australian land use agreement with the Noongar people covers vast swathes of the state's South West, and included a benefits package with annual payments of $50 million into a Noongar Future Fund over 12 years, and 320,000 hectares of land handed over to Noongar ownership." (ABC Australia)
At the time of the case being bought one of the claimants, Mervyn Eades, said:
"We live in a democratic society and it wasn't a democratic process.
"They were destined to extinguish our native title rights and all rights to country.
"We will discuss on other terms now and we will be part of the negotiations and not have a deal dictated to us by the state."
Protesters outside a Senate hearing made it clear the amendments were being rushed through and Indigenous people were not being consulted: "[They] are not properly consulted about what's happening, so how can they make changes about us without us?" Nicole Hutton said (Seed; the youth Indigenous Climate Network) – “Basically the changes are a sham.” Hutton went on to say that "The changes to native title have a lot to do with our land and our land use and that has often got a lot to do with mining. When mining companies come in to use our land that's something that's really, really important to us,"
The reversal of the Federal Court ruling via legislative amendment was supported by the Labor Party caucus at its meeting in Canberra on Tuesday under pressure of dozens of lease deals being bought into question if the ruling stands. No statement was issued by the Australian Labor Party, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten or any other member of the party.
Comment has been sought from the Federal Australian Labor Party.
In other Native Title news Curtin University in Western Australia has issued a landmark research report that looks at the major agreements associated with Native Title in that State. The report found that
“When considered as a means to achieving self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, as well as equality in socio-economic outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, there are major shortcomings of the agreement making process established under the Native Title Act (1993). One of the chief limitations is that the native title process positions traditional custodians primarily as bound beneficiaries of the exploited resources on their land, rather than as having rights to govern and steward it in wholly self-determined ways.”
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