The recognition of native title has altered the established legal assumption that Australia was terra nullius, or empty land, at the time of the arrival of the first European settlers in 1788, an assumption that had underpinned Australia’s land law until 1992. However, various jurisdictions across Australia had attempted to address Indigenous peoples’ land and other rights in some legislative form or another before the recognition of native title. In this context, it is important to understand the difference between native title and other land rights legislation. Land rights legislation provided for statutory rights over land, created by governments. In contrast, native title is a pre-existing right, that derives from Indigenous peoples’ law and customs. It existed before the European settlement of Australia began in 1788. Native title is not a grant or right created by Government.
Nevertheless, native title is now part of the patchwork of legislation concerning land and Indigenous peoples’ rights over land. Volume 1 of this Guide provides an overview of the broad array of legislation of relevance to native title, from specific native title and land rights legislation, through to legislation with more indirect implications for the operation of native title in NSW, VIC, QLD and SA.
The guide does not purport to evaluate the effectiveness or otherwise of the legislation covered and, while employing our best endeavours, it is possible that, given the scope of the work, minor omissions or errors may have occurred. The Guide is divided by jurisdiction (the States, Territories and the Commonwealth) and then further divided into subject areas, including land and environment, heritage, local government, marine, minerals and native title. The title of each Act is found in the margin accompanying an outline of the provisions of the Act. Legislation is listed alphabetically under the subject headings. Lists of Acts accompany each of the respective jurisdictions and are compiled for the complete work at the end.