Aboriginal Land: more ‘bucket loads of extinguishment’ …

Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Andrew Cripps, announced on 9 May 2014 further amendments to the Land Act 1994 to make way for the wholesale privatisation of communal land held by Aboriginal Trustees in remote communities like Yarrabah and Cape York. Formerly leasehold land will be converted to freehold land.

Previously, Cripps stated in February 2014 his plan to introduce rolling leases that make pastoral land freehold and diminishes native title even further. :

This year, we will deliver reforms to the Land Act, resulting from the recommendations that came from the State Development, Infrastructure and Industry Committee into the future relevance of state owned land in Queensland. We are going to be delivering land reform that will further send correct signals, positive signals to the rural sector about their opportunities to invest in agricultural industries in Queensland.

Property developers, tourism entrepreneurs and the banks must be rubbing their hands together with glee with prospect of getting hold of prime Deed of Grant in Trust DOGIT land.

There is 80% unemployment in these communities and with the possibility of banks, developers and pastoralists controlling the land and having a readily available aboriginal workforce to do their bidding in mining and tourism industries.

Here is one excerpt from the proposed legislation:

“The bill amends the Native Title (Queensland) Act 1993, together with supporting amendments to the Acquisition of Land Act 1967, by providing another way in which non-native title rights and interests can be acquired where native title rights and interests are being compulsorily acquired, to assist in meeting requirements under the Commonwealth Native Title Act 1993.”


This is a long held scheme of Noel Pearson [the Cape York Institute] to convert land from collective ownership under DOGIT leases to private freehold title. Cripps referred to this in his speech to the parliament as long ago as 13 May 2008.

I have spoken before in this place about the report released in May 2007 by the Cape York Institute titled “From hand out to hand up”. That report proposed a series of welfare reforms for Indigenous communities which were subsequent ly implemented through the passage of the Family Responsibilities Commission Bill in March last year. During the debate on that bill I mentioned that I attended a conference organised by the Cape York Institute where this proposal was discussed.

How can communities that have 80% unemployment possibly buy land and hold it for any length of time before the banks and land sharks move in?

W Sanders’ paper Housing Tenure and Indigenous –Australians in Remote and Settled Areas looks at ideas about promoting home ownership in remote Aboriginal communities. It argues that this is a largely unrealistic policy goal, given the underlying income and employment status of Indigenous people in these communities. [Interview W Sanders from ANU?]

Ian Curr
9 May 2014


3 thoughts on “Aboriginal Land: more ‘bucket loads of extinguishment’ …

  1. Ian,

    There are many issues associated with the denial of the right to own private homes in DOGIT communities. It is true that there are problems with white land developers but this problem does not in any way justify the status-quo racially specific systematic denial of property rights. Things aren’t as simple as you suggest.

    But in terms of the issues of my comment…. In white law, customary land tenure has been extinguished, in the first instance by Torrens title and secondarily by the Native Title Act. There is no customary law argument for land (in white law).

    However, so-called native title is the only element of customary law that has ever been extinguished by statute because it is the only element that has ever been acknowledged by statute to exist in the first place (until the act of recognition). Consequently all other elements of customary law have not been extinguished – except for the High Court’s flawed common law blanket extinguishment on the basis of the racial discrimination act (which wasn’t even a full bench).

    An example – It is futile to argue that anyone has the right to light a fire in Musgrave on the basis of DOGIT or native title – these white forms of law are tied up tightly to protect white interests and there is no basis for a case, even if there were not complications such as the Turrbul/Yagera conflict. However if someone claimed an individual personal obligation and responsibility in customary law other than land rights (e.g eldership, mens business etc) – and provided factual evidence of that obligation/responsibility – then there may well be a case. In the first instance the lower court will rule out the defense on the basis of the High Court’s blanket extinguishment (as Coco and Hamish’s magistrate did) but I am suggesting that the act of recognition provides a stepping stone to the high court to appeal the lower decisions.

    The question should be, for example – did Coco have a customary law obligation or responsibility to paint the sign? rather than does DOGIT or Native title entitle him to paint the sign? – which seems to be how the case was run… http://unlearningtheproblem.wordpress.com/

  2. Sovereign rights of the traditional owners says:

    On Tuesday 20 May (2014) our Euahlayi Rates Case was before the Supreme Court of Queensland where the Balonne Shire and the Queensland Government admit they do not have any documents to show how Euahlayi allodial title to land was transferred to the Crown land tenure system.

    I reminded the Queensland Supreme Court that: “You cannot benefit from murder and that is what happened. Time does not erase murder.” The High Court Mabo No.2 judgment affirmed that Aboriginal ‘Native Title’ burdens the Crown’s assumed radical title.

    So how does the Commonwealth government’s “Recognise” campaign for a referendum to for the recognition of Aboriginal people as the preamble to the Constitution fit with the Sovereignty movement.

    The short answer is – it doesn’t.

    michael anderson (ghillar)

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