While my last post on amendments to the Native Title Act and the workings of ILUAs is a big issue, the much bigger elephant in the room right now is a claim in court (in fact I think it has been awarded recently), that could set a massive precedent and chain of events around Australia. Google “Timber Creek Native Title”…picture above.

Again this article is aimed at Traditional Owners (and their lawyers) who are watching the case very closely. If you are considering travelling down the same path, I urge you to think and plan strategically (ahead of any windfalls). Windfalls without a plan in place have great potential to cause more harm than good amongst families and groups. Planned well, it can result in excellent and sustainable cultural, social and economic outcomes.

But also this topic is important for government, companies and individuals that hold land in certain situations. Be prepared…and not just with a defensive stance. Think outside the box.

For those not so familiar with Native Title, Traditional Owner group boundaries contain a variety of scenarios eg cities, towns, suburbia, pastoralists, infrastructure, desert, sea, etc, which involve a range of different title categories (eg Freehold, Leasehold, Crown Land).

When the Native Title Act was established, it placed different Traditional Owner rights and restrictions on different scenarios. One of the biggest was the “extinction” of Native Title on land in built up environments such as towns and cities. This aspect of the Native Title Act has very understandably always raised the ire of Traditional Owners … at no point in history did they give up any rights, and this particular claimant has successfully argued that fact in court.

When you look on a map, the further you travel away from towns and cities, the less dominant Freehold land becomes. A large landowner for example in outer Brisbane on Freehold (where Native Title has been extinguished) is different to a large land owner in a remote location on Leasehold (where Native Title is not extinguished).

The status quo as I understand (I’m not a Native Title lawyer) is that Traditional Owners have limited rights (including no rights to compensation) on land where Native Title had been extinguished.

What the current court case has tested is the legitimacy of the “extinction” of Native Title in the first place. Many similarly small and also massive cased could follow.

For Traditional Owner groups (particularly those with an established PBC) and the lawyers that represent them, and whether or not such a case is being discussed, I urge you to consider the importance of implementing a Strategic Plan which focuses on a sustainable economic, cultural and social pathway, that will benefit the group’s current and future generations. There are far too many cases of large windfalls resulting in individual, family and group turmoil, with little to see at the end of it.