Early Land Rights Acts in Australia
In 1973 the federal government created a commission to report on how land rights might be granted to Aboriginal people. Following the commission’s report, the government passed the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act in 1976. The act transferred several large tracts of land to some Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and allowed other Aboriginal communities to claim lands in the territory if they could prove that they had a continuing spiritual connection with the land since before European settlement. The act also created four Aboriginal land councils to oversee the transferred lands and several Aboriginal land commissioners to judge the legitimacy of native land claims. As a result of the 1976 act, more than 40 percent of the Northern Territory was transferred to native communities; the period for making claims ended in June 1997. This includes the widely visited Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to the monolith Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) and the grouping of rock domes known as Kata Tjuta (Olga Rocks). Aboriginal people now lease this area to the Australian Parks and Wildlife Service. Nonetheless, the act is limited in scope. Aboriginal communities have no claim to land that is occupied by the towns, farms, or homes of non-Aboriginal people, even if such land was traditionally inhabited by Aboriginal people. Although mining is sometimes possible, much of the land that has been transferred to Aboriginal people is inhospitable desert, often useless for agriculture and far from any services. Consequently, many of these traditional communities rely on government-provided economic support.
In 1981 and 1984 the government of South Australia passed land rights acts returning traditional lands to the Pitjantjatjara and Maralinga Tjarutja communities. The lands lie in the desolate northwest section of the state, hundreds of kilometers from any large towns. Part of the Maralinga Tjarutja lands remain contaminated from nuclear weapons testing performed by the United Kingdom in the 1950s and early 1960s. Still, until the passage of the 1993 Native Title Act, South Australia and the Northern Territory were the only two states or territories in Australia in which Aboriginal communities had reclaimed a significant amount of land.
- Early Discrimination of Aboriginal Australians (egrejeen.wordpress.com)