Student Question

What are the historical land rights of the Aborigines?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Originally, Aborigines had no land rights under British colonial law. Like other colonial powers, Britain declared the land terra nullius, or empty land, and claimed it under the right of discovery. Aborigines faced genocides attempt by colonists that included warfare, the deliberate spread of disease, and the denial of citizenship until the 1960s.

After a long series of Aboriginal protests, Justice Richard Blackburn admitted that Aboriginals had ritual and economic use rights and lived under their own established systems of law. The Woodward Commission urged recognizing land rights. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act allowed titles—if a people could prove their traditional association with the land.

About half of the Northern Territory became Aboriginal-owned, as did a tenth of South Australia. Mamungari Conservation Park was also returned to its traditional owners. The Aboriginal Land Corporation also helps Aboriginals to acquire and manage land sustainably.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial