|Australia to speed up native land claims|
|Tuesday, 12 June 2012 18:57|
Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said the reforms to the Native Title Act, which come 20 years after the historic Mabo ruling, would include creating clear requirements for negotiators to act in "good faith".
In a native title claim, parties engage in mediation at the National Native Title Tribunal. If no agreement is reached, the application may have to be determined by a court following a trial.
But Roxon told ABC Radio that some parties waited out the tribunal process without a genuine attempt at negotiation until the case ended up in court.
"We want people to genuinely negotiate an outcome and... (that) will mean that some matters will be resolved much quicker and won't need to go to the courts," she said.
Roxon said the government would not reverse the onus of proof on traditional owners who must at present demonstrate a continuous association with the land they are claiming.
The Mabo ruling marked a turning point in Australia's relationship with its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by overturning the British idea of "terra nullius" - that Australia had not belonged to anyone when the European settlers arrived in 1788 and dispossessed them of their lands.
Eddie Mabo and four others from the Meriam people from the Torres Strait Islands of northern Australia began action in the High Court in 1982 seeking confirmation of their traditional land rights over Murray Island and surrounds.
While conceding British sovereignty over the islands and surrounding reefs, they claimed these had been continuously inhabited and possessed by the Meriam people and these rights had never been extinguished.
Mabo died aged 55, five months before the High Court's final ruling in his favour in 1992.
The native title act is designed to balance the rights of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders with those of miners, pastoralists and governments, with a regime providing for compensation of traditional owners.
Aboriginal people are the nation's most disadvantaged, often living in remote outback communities which lack amenities and have high rates of alcohol and drug consumption. - Sapa-AFP.