07 June 2013

ALRC Native Title Inquiry

Commonwealth Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC has released draft terms of reference for the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC)  inquiry into Native Title law.

The Attorney-General’s media release states that
The Native Title Act turns twenty this year. The time has come to consider how to improve native title law and encourage faster, simpler resolution of native title claims for all parties. We must make sure that the law helps to unlock the economic potential of native title for Indigenous Australians. The draft terms of reference focus on proving connection to land and waters and authorisation, the laws which establish who can negotiate in particular circumstances. These are complex issues, which need detailed analysis and broad community consensus. 
 The Minister for Indigenous Affair indicates that the Government will "consult widely on the terms of reference and was open to adding new key issues to the Inquiry". "We want to hear from Indigenous peoples, representative bodies, farmers, miners, pastoralists and environmental groups about the issues they want considered by the Australian Law Reform Commission.”

The ALRC is to inquire into -
the native title system in relation to two specific areas, as follows:
• connection requirements relating to the recognition and scope of native title rights and interests, and
• the identification of barriers, if any, imposed by the Act’s authorisation and joinder provisions to claimants’, and potential claimants’:
o access to justice, and
o access to and protection of native title rights and benefits.
The Commission is consider what, if any, changes could be made to improve the operation of the native title system.It is to consider:
 (a) the Act and any other relevant legislation
(b) any relevant case law
(c) previous reports, reviews and inquiries regarding the native title system and the practical implementation of recommendations and findings
(d) opportunities presented by native title processes for Indigenous communities, through a range of native title and native title related outcomes (such as sustainable Indigenous economic development, heritage protection, employment and housing opportunities), and
(e) any other relevant matter concerning the operation of the native title system. 
In undertaking the reference, the Commission is to identify and consult with key stakeholders, including:
(a) relevant Commonwealth, State, Territory and local Governments and agencies
(b) the Federal Court of Australia and the National Native Title Tribunal
(c) Indigenous groups, Native Title Representative Bodies and Prescribed Bodies Corporate
(d) industry, including the agriculture, pastoral, fisheries, minerals and energy resources industries, and
(e) any other relevant groups or individuals.