Law Reform/ Native Title Essay

1131 words - 5 pages

Law reform in regards to Native Title concerns the process of changing and evolving the law to meet the needs of the Indigenous population of Australia to ensure justice has been achieved. Law reform has responded by creating new laws concerning Indigenous land rights and correcting defects in current laws/ getting rid of them entirely if they are unjust. This has allowed for Indigenous people to reclaim their rightful land in specific areas if they are able to prove that the doctrine of Terra Nullius is invalid, and that their tribes have been situated in that area for centuries before white settlement. Law reform plays an essential part in the justice system as laws must be constantly changed and reviewed in order to match the current needs of society since as the world continues to evolve; issues that may have not been present decades ago arise and must be addressed. Terra Nullius translates from the Roman law meaning ‘Nobody’s land’, that states that a territory which is uninhabited or unsettled can be acquired by occupation by any state.
When the British first settled in Australia, they claimed that the land was ‘Terra Nullius’, and disregarded the inhabitancy of the Indigenous people due to their different way of life and customary laws, that did not embody those of the British legal system. The case Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) HCA 23, was a significant case in Australian history which recognised the doctrine of Native Title for Indigenous populations for the first time and assisted in the abolishment of Terra Nullius. The case was led by Eddie Mabo and others from Murray Island in the Torres Strait who challenged the High Court and the existing Australian legal system by rejecting the assumption that Indigenous people did not have a concept of land ownership before the arrival of British colonies in 1788, and that sovereignty and settlement of the land delivered complete ownership to the Crown and abolished any rights that may have existed previously. Therefore, the claim of ‘native title’ to the Murray Islands was made and the High Court officially recognised the fact that Indigenous peoples had lived in Australia for thousands of years and enjoyed rights to their land according to their own laws and customs. This ruled that the Murray people were entitled to complete possession, occupation, use and enjoyment of most of the lands of the Murray Islands. The case of Mabo v Queensland (1992) HCA 23 has been mostly effective in achieving just outcomes for and meeting the needs of the Indigenous population, specifically the Murray community by recognising their rightful land ownership and granting them the ability to use their land however they like.
The quote, “No issue... is more important for Australia than resolving the relationship between the indgigenous peoples... and the non-indigenous communities... we have been attempting to resolve issues according to non-indigenous ideas of what is best”, spoken by Garth Netteim, represents...

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