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The Native Title and Protected Areas Project



| Indigenous views | Scope of the issues | Queensland government & native title | On-line research |


Indigenous people's views

The Native Title and Protected Areas project acknowledges and accommodates indigenous peoples' views. The project is committed to gaining a proper appreciation of the indigenous perspective on matters pertaining to protected areas, environmental management, native title and other indigenous rights and interests. Interests includes cultural, social and economic.

The project is also a sign of the commitment many ENGOs have to working cooperatively amongst themselves and with native title representative bodies, aboriginal agencies and traditional owners to resolve these important and complex matters.

The project is seeking to deal with several factors:

~ the changes to environmental practices flowing from the statutory recognition of native title and from the legal principles and interpretations found in the native title rulings of the High Court and the Federal Court

~ the traditional law of the first peoples of Australia and its application to environmental thought

~ the need to understand the contemporary perspective of indigenous people as they seek to resolve a range of issues confronting them.

Many difficulties have arisen from the impacts on aboriginal land and people as a result of the arrival and expansion of the non-aboriginal population. These impacts have also taken a massive toll on the Australian environment.

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Scope of the issues

Research by the project identified issues as falling within the following six main policy areas -

  • Native title and other indigenous rights

  • Protected Areas - the Protection of Biological Diversity and Natural and Cultural Heritage

  • Tenure of national parks and other protected areas

  • Management interests in protected areas

  • Partnership agreements for resolution of rights and management issues

  • Building cooperative management – legislative, institutional and community

These six main areas outline the scope of the issues to be covered in a comprehensive ENGO position on native title and protected areas. The first two areas deal with "first principles". The next two areas deal with the major implications of native title rights and indigenous interests for protected area tenure and management. The last two areas deal with the reform agenda necessary to a response to native title and protected areas issues - a response consistent with a policy of developing cooperation.

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Queensland government and native title

The Queensland Government under Premier Beattie has a policy of negotiation over litigation in resolving the complex array of issues associated with native title. The Premier and Cabinet set up Native Title Services to develop the Government's negotiated responses to native title matters. Building Reconciliation (PDF file) is a document outlining the major native title issues in Queensland and setting out the protocols of negotiation between the Government and the Queensland Indigenous Working Group.

The Government's main stated policy aim is to resolve native title issues through negotiation with indigenous representatives, rather than by opposing them in the courts - 'negotiate, don't litigate'..

A review of legislation relating to the tenure and management for existing and future protected areas, including National Parks, has been proceeding since the early days of the Beattie Government.

Three-quarters of the existing protected area estate in Queensland is subject to native title. Indigenous traditional owners may claim the right to a partnership with the Government in the management of protected areas. Consequently, a more conciliatory and cooperation-based outcome, rather then a unilateral exercise of power by the State, is required. This is the ‘historical compromise’ of native title that is at the basis of what is now often called 'joint management'.

A further dimension to the native title and protected area debate involves new National Parks or other protected areas over public lands. The issues of continuing dispossession and cultural impact are brought to the forefront. Progress on new protected areas may stall, or be unduly prolonged, because tenure and management issues remain unresolved and unsupported by legislation. State reform is required.

The Beattie Government set out to develop a State-wide consistent policy framework in which a complex set of indigenous rights and environment protection matters could be worked out through negotiation. This is an important initiative that has not been attempted elsewhere in Australia. The Government remains tentative on these issues and it is still unclear whether it's stated policy of negotiation and building reconciliation can be achieved. Clearly this approach requires a significant degree of cooperation and community support. Alternatively, matters will be tested through the courts before further development.

The project has submitted to the Minister for the Environment an assessment of the legal principles and issues between the State and traditional owners as they relate to protected areas.

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On-line research resources

There are extensive research resources available on-line covering topics considered in this policy project. Topics include native title, indigenous rights and interests, cultural heritage, conservation, environmental management and protected areas, Government agencies, indigenous and community groups. For a brief review of, and a complete list of links to, a range of sites go to this site's on-line research resources. This web site aims to supplement these available research resources. You can submit links to other sites for inclusion on this site by e-mailing the project coordinator.

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Native title and protected areas project
E-mail: The project coordinator
Mail: QCC, PO Box 12046,
George Street Post Shop, Brisbane, 4003
Ph: 07 3221 0188 Fax: 07 3229 7992