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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 542

(Question No. 1477)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, upon notice, on 21 June 1994:

  With reference to the sale of 64 blocks of crown land in Broome in April 1994 by the Western Australian Department of Planning and Urban Development (DPUD) and Department of Land Administration (DOLA):

  (1) Is the Minister aware that this land was sold without consultation with the Aboriginal people of the area and before it is known whether the Yawuru people have a native title claim over the area.

  (2) What redress do Aboriginal people have if their land is converted to freehold title before they mount a native title claim over the land.

  (3) Has the Government considered intervening to halt similar sales of crown land; if so, what action is available to the Government; if not, why not.

Senator Collins —The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs has provided the following information in response to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) The precise details of the land dealing in question are not known to the Government. The sale of the land is understood to have taken place in April 1994 on the basis of public consultation, however there was apparently no direct consultation with Aboriginal people. The sale took place after the lodgment with the National Native Title Tribunal of a native title claim over the area by the Yawuru people, but before this application was accepted by the Tribunal and registered on 26 May 1994.

  (2) The Native Title Act 1993 (the Native Title Act) places restrictions on the doing of acts affecting native title. It provides that non-legislative acts occurring after 1 January 1994 may validly affect native title only if they meet the requirements of the "permissible future act" test contained in the Native Title Act. In the case of onshore places, a permissible future act is one that can be done over ordinary title land (which in the case of Western Australia is freehold land). The Native Title Act provides that any future acts which do not permit the permissible future act test are invalid. Aboriginal people who consider that an act which affects their native title is or will be invalid under the Native Title Act may seek redress in the courts.

  (3) On 1 June 1994, the Prime Minister wrote to the Western Australian Premier indicating that titles issued in disregard of the provisions of the Native Title Act may be rendered invalid if the High Court rules in favour of the Commonwealth in the challenge to the Act's validity. The Prime Minister suggested that the procedures under the native Title Act be used so as to reduce the number of potentially invalid titles issued prior to the High Court's decision.

  The Government has not considered intervening in an attempt to halt the sale of land in Broome. It would not be appropriate for the Government to supervise every land dealing in a State or Territory whenever it was possible that the dealing was invalid under the Native Title Act.

  As indicated in relation to question (2), native title holders may themselves seek redress in the courts where they consider that land dealings by a State or Territory are inconsistent with the Native Title Act. Financial assistance may be available to the native title holders for this purpose from ATSIC or from a representative Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander body determined under s. 202 of the Native Title Act. Representative bodies may also provide legal assistance.