Australian Native Title



Wave Hill

Gove Land Rights Case 1968–1971

Aboriginal Land Rights Acts (Northern Territory)

National Native Title Tribunal Maps

Native Title Act 1993

Native Title Preamble

Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders were the inhabitants of Australia before European settlement. They have been progressively dispossessed of their lands. This dispossession occurred largely without compensation, and successive governments have failed to reach a lasting and equitable agreement with Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders concerning the use of their lands. As a consequence, Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders have become, as a group, the most disadvantaged in Australian society.

The people of Australia voted overwhelmingly to amend the Constitution so that the Parliament of Australia would be able to make special laws for peoples of the aboriginal race.

The Australian Government has acted to protect the rights of all of its citizens, and in particular its indigenous peoples, by recognising international standards for the protection of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms. The High Court has rejected the Terra Nullius doctrine and held that common law reflects a form of native title.

Refer to the Federal Register of Legislation on Native Title (below) for more information.


The landmark Mabo Case and subsequent Native Title Act promised a lot for Aboriginal people. Many saw it as the final recognition that the Australian nation always was Aboriginal country and that Aboriginal people had distinct governing laws and traditions.

This article provides reflections from the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community with regard to the High Court Mabo Decision of 1992, Land Rights and Native Title. All reflections were recorded between November 2016 and April 2017 unless otherwise stated. (Aboriginal Affairs, State Library of Western Australian and The Western Australian Museum, 2018)

Terra-nullius 1788

Yikkala Bark Petitions 1963

Eddie Mabo

Mabo Decision 1992