This high court decision provides a real opportunity to re-examine relationships with Indigenous peoples
The high court decision in the Timber Creek case has awakened an issue that has long been sleeping within the Native Title Act (NTA). In 1993, the Keating government championed the NTA as the central element of the response to the profound issues highlighted in the high court’s Mabo decision. The NTA’s main goal was to marry the long-delayed recognition of the inherent legal rights of Indigenous peoples to their traditional lands to a legal system that had been based on a notion that Indigenous people had no rights to land.
Once again, the high court has made a major decision on the rights of Indigenous peoples in relation to land. This time the court has articulated principles as to how the NTA is to be applied when calculating compensation for the loss of native title rights. Already speculation is occurring that the high court decision will trigger claims amounting to billions of dollars and there’s no doubt the decision can be a catalyst to reframing the wider agenda of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationship.