Indigenous Access To Land Now Easier With Changes to Native Title Act
Twenty years after Mabo, the Federal Government has announced changes to the Native Title Act 1993 that could make it simpler for traditional owners to prove they have a connection to the land. Under the changes proposed last month, Indigenous land-use agreements would become less technical and more flexible, with moves to; make native title grants no longer subject to income and capital gains taxes; to assign new legal powers to force parties to negotiate seriously; and to give new access to areas such as parks or reserves, by disregarding the historical extinguishment of native title in those areas. The Federal Government has also previously expressed its receptivity to the idea of reversing the onus for some aspects of native title claims. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has stated however that the only changes the government will commit to are ones that they believe are achievable. The reforms have previously come under fire from some Indigenous groups who claim that the changes are purely bureaucratic and that further reform is needed ensure Indigenous communities reap the full benefits of the money paid by mining companies for access to their land. Many Indigenous groups also support reversing the onus of proof, reverting the responsibility of proving if a claim is valid or not from the native title applicants to claim respondents. Greens Senator Rachel Siewart has backed reversing the onus of proof, stating that reversing the onus of proof is the key amendment needed to ensure the native title system is more effective.