Yorta Yorta Survival Weekend

To: David McDonald <>
Subject: Yorta Yorta Survival Weekend
From: Frank O'Connor <>
Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2003 19:17:19 +0800
This is not a birding-aus subject, but David McDonald raised the subject of Native Title, so a quick comment.

The main problem with Native Title is that most people (including unfortunately the traditional owners) view Native Title as being the same as ownership (i.e. Land Rights). This was never the case. Land rights was never intended to be the case. Native Title is the recognition of the traditional owners existing rights to their area of claim. i.e. hunting, sacred sites, ceremonial traditions, access to land, land management, etc. In the case of the Murray Islands (the Mabo case) this included habitation and so effectively ownership or a form of land rights. Native Title can (and should) coexist with pastoral and mining leases. The Native Title legislation also included the right to compensation where these native title rights are affected or removed, and a fund for 'traditional owners' who had lost all contact with their traditional areas.

A continuing relationship with the areas was always going to be next to impossible to prove for traditional owners in the south east such as the Yorta Yorta people. The legal system did not fail here. The court ruled as the legislation was intended. So blame the politicians (and all of us), not the legal system.

Don't get me wrong. I strongly support the Native Title legislation, and more. And I feel that the government should fund test cases such as the Yorta Yorta claim. But I feel that the Yorta Yorta got some very bad legal advice if they seriously thought that they had a chance of winning their case.

Land rights is a separate issue to Native Title. This had progressed some way, until the Howard government was elected. This is one area where Howard has buried his head in the sand and pretends that the issue no longer exists. This issue must be addressed before reconciliation has a chance of succeeding.
Frank O'Connor     Birding WA
Phone : (08) 9386 5694                Email : 

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