Aboriginal people are a part of and related to the natural world.
Responsibility to care for and nurture the land.
Spirit of child belongs to land.
Access to dwelling places and sacred sites important.
Connection with land gave personal identity with a universe which made sense.
1938 Day of Mourning * A 'day of mourning' observed by many Aboriginal people while the official celebrations of the landing of the first fleet of ships of British settlers under the command of Governor Phillip were taking place on Australia Day, Wednesday 26th January 1938 * The idea of a day of mourning began with William Cooper, founder of the Australian Aborigines League (AAL), and arose from his disappointment at the lack of progress in his representations to Commonwealth government for reforms in Aboriginal administration. He persuaded the leaders of the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), John Patten and William Ferguson, to organise a protest. Patten wrote the manifesto Aborigines Claim Citizenship Rights! and the APA announced that, for Aborigines, Australia Day would be a day of mourning.
1946 Pilbara Strike On May Day 1946 more than 800 Aboriginal people went on strike. They walked off pastoral stations, chiefly in the Pilbara but also in the Kimberley and Gascoyne, in protest over the lack of wages. They were demanding more than just flour, sugar and tea for their work - they wanted pay and respect. The strike lasted for years and despite its huge social significance it has remained a little known chapter in the state's history. The more famous Wave Hill strike occurred 20 years later in the Northern Territory.
In 1962, the right to vote for those Aboriginal people not already entitled to do so at Commonwealth and most State elections was granted, with Queensland lagging behind in 1965. Yet 1967 is seen as a much more important turning point for Aboriginal people.
In 1966, Vincent Lingiari led the Gurindji people in a walk-off and strike from the Wave Hill cattle station in the Northern Territory, owned by Britain's Lord Vestey. The Gurindji's initial protest was over wages and living conditions but soon became a claim for the return of their traditional lands.
The eight year strike of Aboriginal stockmen and their families at Lord Vestey's enormous Wave Hill Station in Australia's Northern Territory began in 1966. Author Frank Hardy who wrote a book about the strike, "The Unlucky Australians", was told: "We want them Vestey mob all go away from here. Wave Hill Aboriginal people bin called Gurindji. We bin here long time before them Vestey mob. This is our country, all this bin Gurindji country. Wave Hill bin our country. We want this land; we strike for that."
The Wave Hill Strike resulted in the Prime Minister Gough Whitlam symbolically pouring a handful of sand through Gurindji elder Vincent Lingiari's hands at the hand back of the Gurindji's traditional lands in 1975.
The Constitution The original Australian Constitution made two references to Australia's Indigenous persons in Sections 51 (xxvi) and 127: 51. The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: - (xxvi.) The people of any race, other than the aboriginal people in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws 127. In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.
It is frequently stated that the 1967 referendum gave Aboriginal people Australian citizenship and that it gave them the right to vote in federal elections. Neither of these statements is correct. Aboriginal people became Australian citizens in 1947, when a separate Australian citizenship was created for the first time (before that time all Australians were "British subjects"). Aboriginal people gained the vote in Commonwealth territories in 1965, and in the states, under various state laws, somewhat earlier.
Question: Do you approve the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled 'An Act to alter the Constitution so as to omit certain words relating to the people of the Aboriginal race in any state so that Aboriginals are to be counted in reckoning the population?
In 1968, after their bark petitions to Parliament failed to gain recognition of their rights to land, Yolngu people from Yirrkala in eastern Arnhem Land took their case to the Northern Territory Supreme Court.
The leaders in this action, known as the Gove Land Rights Case, are pictured in Canberra in September 1970, outside the ACT Supreme Court building. The High Court upheld the Northern Territory Decision in1971.
On 26th January 1972, a group of young Aborigines erected a beach umbrella on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra, with a sign saying 'Aboriginal Embassy '.
The embassy, meant to echo the 'fringe-dwelling' conditions experienced by many Indigenous Australians. Over the next months, thousands joined their demonstration, which captured national and international attention, before being finally dispersed by police in July.
Following the Gove case, rather than pursuing a national land rights law which may have been challenged by the States, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam hoped to establish a precedent in the Commonwealth - controlled Northern Territory.
In February 1973 he appointed Justice Woodward to hold a Commission of Inquiry into appropriate ways to recognise Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory.
In April 1974 Woodward presented his second and final report.
1976: Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act Following from the recommendations of the Woodward inquiry, the Whitlam Labor Government drew up this Act and it was later passed by the conservative Fraser Government on December 9, 1976.
In 1985 the title to the rock was handed back to the traditional owners who, in turn, granted the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service a 99 year lease on the park. Today over 30 local Aborigines work in the park and the Board of Management is dominated by the traditional owners.
Not everyone partied on 26 January 1988, the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet. Tens of thousands of Aboriginal people from all over Australia gathered to march in Sydney as a statement of protest and survival. It was the largest Aboriginal demonstration in Australia's history. For many Australians, the British landing in 1788 seemed remote and increasingly irrelevant in a culturally diverse society.
The Mabo Case On 3 June, 1992, the High Court of Australia delivered its landmark Mabo decision which rewrote the Australian common law and gave a massive boost to the struggle for the recognition of Aboriginal land rights.
Put simply, the decision said that under Australian law, Indigenous people have rights to land - rights that existed before colonisation and which still exist. This right is called native title. By a majority of six to one, the High Court ruled that native title to land is recognised by the common law of Australia, throwing out forever the legal fiction that when Australia was "discovered" by Captain Cook in 1788 it was terra nullius , an empty or uncivilised land. The case centred on the Murray Islands in the eastern part of the Torres Strait Islands between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The Meriam people, led by Eddie Koiki Mabo, took the action to the High Court to overturn the doctrine of terra nullius .
Photo of Eddie Mabo, superimposed on the Torres Strait Islander flag (in use since 29 May 1992
It was the first time that the High Court had considered the position of Indigenous people in Australian property law and their judgement was not restricted to the Murray Islands. ... there may be other areas of Australia where an Aboriginal people, maintaining their identity and their customs, are entitled to enjoy their native title. Justice Brennan Reviewing the history of non-Aboriginal Australia, Aborigines were dispossessed of their land parcel by parcel, to make way for expanding colonial settlement. Their dispossession underwrote the development of the nation. Justice Brennan
Successfully establishing that a community continues to possess native title in a particular area is an onerous, one might well say daunting, task under the Native Title Act. To succeed indigenous people must establish:
1. that they have maintained a traditional connection with the lands since the time of British sovereignty (1788 in eastern parts of Australia), and 2. that their interests have not been "extinguished" by inconsistent acts (such as the grant of freehold title etc.)
Even if they are successful they are likely to find that their interests have been at least impaired by any number of other types of lesser grants, which provide other people, government agencies or businesses with ongoing rights in their lands.
The Act (section 212) also provides for Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to ensure the maintenance of any pre-existing public access rights , and public access to waterways , beaches, banks, and foreshores.
The simple truth is that the general public have nothing to fear from a successful Native Title application under the existing Act, notwithstanding the rhetoric of those who see personal political benefit in creating division and conflict.
The Wik case concerned land which is, or has been, subject to pastoral leases.
Pastoral leases are a form of land tenure unique to Australia created by the British Colonial Office after concern by British officials over the massive land grab by squatters in the 1830's and 1840's. The British authorities explicitly stated the leases did not grant squatters exclusive tenure, but that the land was owned on behalf of the Australian public by government.
In the 1890's about 93% of the Territory, and substantial areas of Australia, were subject to pastoral leases.
Aboriginal people were never consulted about the granting of these leases. The pastoral leases conferred exclusive rights of use of the land to graze animals, but not exclusive rights of ownership to the land.
Many of the leases were issued unchecked, to land speculators and were never occupied or developed and came back under government control early this century. These are known as "historic" or "ghost" leases and many of them are now undeveloped land owned by Governments.
In the Wik case, the governments argued that the mere granting of a pastoral lease last century extinguishes native title, even though the land was never developed.
Wik in the High Courts by 4 votes to 3 agreed that native title had not been extinguished merely as a result of granting pastoral leases.
The Wik decision followed action by the Wik people of Cape York in Queensland who claimed native title could coexist with current pastoral leases and by the Thayorre people who claimed native title on neighbouring Crown land which was briefly covered by pastoral leases early this century. The court held that native title rights could exist side-by-side with the rights of pastoralists on cattle and sheep stations. This is called coexistence. But it said that when pastoralists and Aboriginal rights were in conflict, the pastoralists' rights would prevail, giving pastoralists certainty to continue with grazing and related activities. Pastoralists did not lose any rights as a result of this case. Graziers could continue to run their cattle or sheep and undertake all the activities related to doing this such as building fences, dams and other structures. The court explained that pastoralists had an exclusive right to pasture, but not exclusive rights to possession of the land.
Despite this, the Wik decision led to an hysterical attack from pastoralists and conservative leaders, who demanded that native title be extinguished, or wiped out, on pastoral leases. The Howard Government used the decision as an excuse to severely attack native title rights with its Native Title Amendment Bill, based on the so-called Ten Point Plan for native title. The Wik decision was significant not only because it recognised native title rights on pastoral leases, but also because these leases cover a vast area - some 42% of the Australian land mass. The coexistence of native title provides the means whereby thousands of Aboriginal people, previously the backbone of the grazing industry, who were locked off cattle and sheep stations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, may gain some rights to their traditional lands.
The Aboriginal Land Rights Amendment Act 2001 makes certain amendments to improve the operation of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 and the accountability of the Aboriginal Land Councils to the members. The Aboriginal Land Rights Amendment Act 2001 was passed by the NSW Parliament in 2001 and will come into affect by the end of August 2002. In addition, a new Aboriginal Land Rights Regulation 2002 has been drafted, which will repeal and remake the existing Aboriginal Land Rights Regulation 1996. The Aboriginal Land Rights Regulation 2002 clarifies how the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 is to be administered.