Australian Aboriginals Win Right to Sue for Colonial Land Loss


The High Court of Australia has handed down the biggest "native title" ruling affecting Aboriginal ownership of the land in decades by deciding in favor of the Ngaliwurru and Nungali Aboriginal groups from a remote part of the Northern Territory. "Native title" refers to the rights of Australia's indigenous people to their traditional land and water recognized by Australian common law. The Native Title Act allows aboriginal groups to file native title claims over large parts of the country.

The unprecedented ruling addresses compensation for the loss of those rights, namely the loss of income related to the land and the loss of a spiritual connection to the land. In other words, it puts a financial price on the severing of cultural ties. Lawyers, including those representing mining companies, said the ruling paves the way for billions of dollars in compensation nationally.

Megan Brayne, a native title lawyer and director of the Comhar Group said it was the most important native title ruling in more than 20 years. "This is a very important case because it is the first time the High Court has set out the principles for compensation. State lawyers will be particularly interested in analyzing their compensation liabilities.”

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Al Jazeera