"What do we want?" sings Archie Roach in Too Many Bridges. “Land Rights! Land Rights is what we say.” Songs cry for it. Red, black and gold marches pound the streets for it. Laws enact it. But how does the land rights system work in NSW? And is it working hard enough?
Aboriginal people can claim land through two processes – Land Rights and Native Title. While both enable communities to build a land base and have the potential to generate income, the two systems operate under different laws and grant different rights and titles to land.
In 1983 the NSW parliament passed the NSW Aboriginal Land Rights Act (ALRA). This gave Aboriginal people a powerful legal right to make claims on Crown lands. If these lands are not used, occupied or needed they are claimable and must be returned to Land Councils through a freehold grant.
The ALRA aimed to compensate for two centuries of dispossession and recognised the enduring disadvantage found within Aboriginal communities. The mechanism is established through NSWALC and a network of 120 Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs).
Successful land claims enable Aboriginal communities to create and manage their own wealth base. They also encourage cultural and social revitalisation. All of this provides the key foundations for Aboriginal communities being more in control of their futures.
Read the full feature here.