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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is native title?

Native title is a form of land title that recognises the unique ties some Aboriginal groups have to land. Australian law recognises that native title exists where Aboriginal people have maintained a traditional connection to their land and waters, since sovereignty, and where acts of government have not removed it.

Native title was first recognised by the High Court of Australia in 1992 with the Mabo decision. The Mabo decision overturned the idea of 'terra nullius', that the Australian continent did not belong to anyone at the time of Europeans' arrival. It recognised for the first time that indigenous Australians may continue to hold native title and to be uniquely connected to the land.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can apply to the courts to have their native title rights recognised under Australian law. Native title holders have the right to be compensated if governments acquire their land or waters for future developments.

Native title can co-exist with other forms of land title (such as pastoral leases) but is extinguished by others (such as freehold).

The native title of a particular group will depend on the traditional laws and customs of those people. The way native title is recognised and practised may vary from group to group, depending on what is claimed and what is negotiated between all of the people and organisations with an interest in that country.


What kind of land tenure extinguishes native title?

Freehold extinguishes native title. Some other forms of land tenure also extinguish native title. For example, in August 2002 the High Court found that the vesting of reserves under section 33 of the Land Act 1933 totally extinguishes native title in Western Australia.


What is a future act?

A "future act" is a proposed activity or development on land and/or waters that may affect native title, by extinguishing it or by creating interests that are inconsistent with the existence or exercise of native title. Common examples of future acts in Western Australia are the proposed grants of mining or land titles by the Department of Mines and Petroleum and the Department of Regional Development and Lands respectively. 

For further information read the About Future Acts page.


What is an Indigenous Land Use Agreement?

Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) is a voluntary agreement between native title groups and others about the use and management of land and waters. What distinguishes an ILUA from other kinds of agreements is that it may be registered on the Register of Indigenous Land Use Agreements which is held by the National Native Title Tribunal. A registered ILUA binds all persons who hold native title to the terms of the agreement, whether they were parties to the agreement or not.


What is a Native Title Representative Body?

A Native Title Representative Body (NTRB) is an organisation representing native title applicants rights and interests. For further information see the Native Title Representative Bodies page.


What is a connection report?

A connection report is material provided by the native title applicants to the State to support their native title claim. The report outlines the evidentiary basis of the native title application. Reports are usually written by expert historians, anthropologists or linguists after consultation with the Aboriginal people claiming native title rights.