Prior to the colonization of Australia by the British in the late 1600's, large group of natives called Aborigines lived there. They received the name Aborigine due to the translation of the word "the people who were here from the beginning" (Internet, Aboriginal history and culture). The Australian Aborigines occupied the entire Australian continent, which included the large island of Tasmania. By the time the British arrived, the Aborigines established a culture to include Art, multiple languages, social structure, and religious and spiritual ideas. It is very important to understand the land of Australia, and the development of the government, which as change the way of life for these people.
Australia is the smallest of the world's seven continents and the only one that is comprised of a single political unit. (See Map) The population of Australia is 1,8031,000 with an area of 2,971,081 square miles, (4,753,730 square kilometers), it ranks as the sixth largest country in the world (Oceania, 1995). Australia is divided into seven territories; New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Northern Territory. The city of Sydney, in New South Wales, is the largest city with a population of 3,500,000.
The natural vegetation of Australia is comprised of six types, rainforest, sclerophyll forest, woodland, grassland, shrubland, and desert. The interior is comprised of desert, shurbland, and grassland. The Northern Territory, the location of most aboriginal clans and tribes, has woodland along the coast and grasslands and shrublands in the interior.
Ayers Rock in the Northern Territory is a very spiritual symbol for the Aborigines. (See Picture) The most important possession of the Aborigines is the land they live on. They have a special connection with everything that is natural. Aborigines see themselves as part of nature (Internet, Culture and Art). They see Ayers rock as a spiritual site because the rock rises from the land with nothing else in site. The Ayers rock was recently given back to the Aborigines, October 1985, but the Australian government has control over the tourism that takes place there.
The legislation regarding the land rights of the Aborigines has been debated for many years in Australia. Until recently the aborigines had few rights. These are the important legislation with regards to Aboriginal land rights.
Legislation with regard to Aboriginal land right
1970 James Cook lands at the cost of Australia where today
there is Sydney. He takes possession of the land because he has the idea of 'terra nullius" (= land that doesn't belong to anyone). As they see "not one inch of cultivated ground" they occupy the land in the name of this concept.
1967 An addition to the constitution transforms the right to pass laws concerning the Aborigines from the individual states to the Federal government. The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders get the Australian citizenship.
1975 The Racial Discrimination Act is enacted. It determines the equality of the Aborigines before the law and in daily life.
1976 The federal government passes the first land right law: The Aboriginal Land Right Act. It concerns the Nothern Territories and allows the Aborigines to claim land where a traditionally relationship can be established.
1983 The New South Wales Land Right Act recognizes that land in this state was traditionally owned by Aborigines, and allows them to claim vacant, unused Crown Land.
1980`s The government policy changes from integration to self-determination. The resistance from the governments of the individual states increases. In prisons young black people die and proof is found of racial behavior.
Oct. 1985 Uluru (better known by its European name 'Ayers Rock') is officially transferred to the Mutijulu Aboriginal community, on condition that continued access to the
Monolith is guaranteed.
June 1992 The so-called "Mabo" decision from the High Court recognizes the existence of land title before the first European settlement. It says that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders should be able to claim native title if they could show a "close and continuing" relationship with the land in question. That law overturns the concept of "terra nullius". The Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are acknowledged as the original owners of the continent. The "Mabo" decision tries not to disturb lawful
Non-Aboriginal land title.
1993 The government enacts the Native Title Act, which states in a preamble that pastoral leases extinguish Aboriginal land rights. A federal tribunal is founded to validate existing land titles and to decide on compensation if Aboriginal claims are extinct. Most states take over this legislation, except Western Australia, where mining interests are particularly strong and where about 40 per cent of the state could fall subject to native title claims. The government of Western Australia legislates to extinguish all native titles and offers only some "rights to traditional usage" of land.
March 1995 The High Court rules that the Native Title Act is valid, and declares Western Australia's rival legislation to be unconstitutional. About 33% of the Northern Territory was granted to Aboriginal people on 30th September, 1989. Only in South Australia the Aborigines own larger parts of the land because white people are uninterested in this parts. The Northern Territories are located 1000km from all coasts; they haven't changed except in the last ten years because of the rising number of tourists. Still the implementation of land rights legislation differs from state to state. Australia has a long way to solve the problem.
Dec. 1996 The High Court of Australia overturns the longheld assumption that Aborigines have no claim to government-owned land leased out for farming and mining activity (so-called pastoral leases). About 40 percent of Australia are leased land. The 4-to-3 decision started heavy discussions between all groups.
(Source-Internet, Chronology of legislation)
The Aboriginal Flag was designed by Harold Thomas in
1971. The Flag was designed to be an eye-catching rallying symbol for the Aboriginal people and a symbol of their race and identity. (See Flag) The Aboriginal flag was first raised on National Aboriginal day in 1971. The Flag was soon adopted nationally by the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in 1972 (Internet, Aboriginal Flag).
The Aborigines have ...
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