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Indigenous Law Bulletin

Indigenous Law Bulletin
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Editors --- "Recent Happenings" [1997] IndigLawB 92; (1997) 4(6) Indigenous Law Bulletin 21

Recent Happenings

26 June

The National Indigenous Working Group on Native Title said that the Federal Government's 10 Point Plan response to the Wik decision 'has shown that the Government is intent on completing the final theft of land that might remain to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people'.

1 July

The Premier of Queensland, Mr Rob Borbidge, announced that the Federal Government's 10 Point Plan response to the Wik decision would exclude nearly 3,000 Queensland leases from native title claims. The leases would be deemed 'Grazing Homestead Perpetual Leases' under an amended Native Title Act 1993 (Cth), and thus not liable to native title claims. This would reduce the land area of Queensland potentially claimable from 85% to 50%. A spokeswoman for the Parliamentary Secretary for Native Title, Senator Nick Minchin, described Mr Borbidge's announcement as 'pre-emptive'.

2 July

It was announced at the NSW Judicial Commission that Dr Pat O'Shane had withdrawn her April resignation as a magistrate. Dr O'Shane is the first Aboriginal Australian to have become both a barrister and a magistrate.

3 July

Mr John Dixon, President of the National Prison Officers' Association, the main national prison officers' union, said most prison officers were unaware of the findings of the Royal Commission Into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. He commented that 'Officers may recognise at-risk behaviour but because of the culture and lack of responsibility they may not react'.

4 July

The NSW Attorney-General, Mr Jeff Shaw, said that Australia should consider adopting a parliamentary system with a quota of reserved seats for indigenous representatives.

5 July

Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Chairman of the Northern Land Council, called for Australian laws to mirror the French Droit de Suite resale royalty laws, and allow artists to benefit from the secondary sales of their artworks. The call was prompted by the sale of the 1972 painting 'Water Dreaming at Kalipinypa which fetched the record price for an indigenous Australian artwork of $206,000 at a Sotheby's (Armadale, Victoria) auction on 30 June. The artist, Mr Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, originally sold the painting for $150 and some food. He now lives in poverty.

9 July

The Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, announced a new Commonwealth authority will be established to help govern the affairs of the Torres Strait islands. ATSIC will be split under this proposal, and may lose its status as the peak representative body for indigenous Australians.

20 July

A 28 year old Aboriginal woman from Bourke died from asphyxiation in Dubbo Base Hospital, NSW. The woman had been detained in a police station cell at Brewarrina on 17 July, where she was found unconscious shortly afterwards. She had then been transported to Dubbo Base Hospital.

23 July

Greenfell Resources announced the conclusion of negotiations with the SA Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement over the first native title agreement allowing mineral exploration in the Gawler Craton. The agreement covers native title and heritage issues, and could serve as a model for future negotiations over mineral resources in the area.

31 July

The High Court handed down its judgment in Kruger, Bray v Commonwealth. The Court found that the Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 (NT), under which the plaintiffs were removed from their families, was Constitutionally valid. The Court also found that the Ordinance did not authorise genocide under the terms of the 1948 Genocide Convention. (See casenote from page 26 of this issue).

31 July

Sir Ronald Wilson's term as president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission ended. Sir Ronald commented he believed that Federal Government efforts to refer to indigenous children removed from their families as 'separated children', rather than 'stolen children', were not likely to be successful.

5 August

Alcan Aluminium announced it had reached an agreement with Cape York Peninsula indigenous communities for the development of its $200 million Ely bauxite mine in Queensland. Under the agreement, native title issues will be policed by a management committee including four community representatives.

13 August

Ms Annette Peardon, secretary of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, accepted an apology from all parties in the Tasmanian Lower House for the removal of indigenous children from their families. In doing so, she became the first non-parliamentarian in over 100 years to address the House of Assembly. Ms Peardon called for the Prime Minister to similarly apologise.

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