“Where are we today in terms of relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians? What do we still need to do? Has law reform achieved justice for Indigenous Australians in regards to Native Title”?
The Australian legal system ambition to control the nation to a safe community through the capability of its operations. This constitutes law reform, which is the action of opening adjustments to current laws in the legal system. Native title is a case of an issue and topic which was both damaged by the effectiveness and the finite effectiveness of the law reform process.
Native title attributes to the right of Indigenous people to their traditional lands. Law reform has resulted in adequate decisions and legislations such as the Mabo 1992 case which started to the Native Title Act 1993 nonetheless has also not accomplished in cases such as the Wik decision and the establishment of the Native Title Amendment Act 1998. Native title has improved justice for Indigenous people’s rights to a moderate amount as it has been useful to multiple land claim cases such as the mabo vs state of queensland 1992 case. However the law reform process to achieving native title has been extremely difficult due to claim of terra nullius of australia by captain cook in 1788 when he arrived with the first fleet. Terra nullius means, ‘land belonging to no one’ therefore this meant that the land would belong to the crown.
A successful case which was a milestone in aboriginal and torres strait islander peoples history is the mabo case 1992. The mabo decision was the first legal recognition that the indigenous people of australia had a system of law and ownership of their lands that existed long before the european occupation and settlement. Due to the doctrine of ‘terra nullius’. The australian indigenous peoples occupation of the unique connection with the land were not recognised and the british took the land without agreement. The mabo case was presented with the aim of regaining the meriam peoples right to occupy and control murray island.
It is evident that the decision of the mabo case 1992 was able to be fairly enforced and as a result the law was reformed to achieve justice to the indigenous community. The mabo decision was constructed by the high court who found that native title did not exist and it covers possession, occupation and enjoyment of traditional land as long as the people who want to claim the land were able to prove their continuous connection to the land prior 1788, lived a traditional existence and did not transfer the ownership of the land. However the law reform process showed its limited effectiveness to a certain extent because the native title is not a freehold title meaning it can not be sold or developed, despite this, the decision made by the high court highlights the effectiveness of the law reform process and how it is able to enforce upcoming decisions to justice.In regards to native title, the law reform process overall has been relatively effective in achieving just outcomes for Indigenous Australians. In terms of delivering just outcomes in regard to native title, the law reform process has finally overturned the colonizing concept of terra nullius, a major obstacle to achieving native title. However, although many agreements have been negotiated since the Mabo case, it remains relatively difficult to prove and questions remain about how native title ranks as a title to land and how secure the title is.
To conclude, the Native Title Act 1993 has shown some improvements in regards to indigenous rights; however, it has not been enough to full achieve justice for Aboriginal communities.