Closing the Gap

People maintain a distinctive cultural, spiritual, physical and economic relationship with their land and waters

15
People maintain a distinctive cultural, spiritual, physical and economic relationship with their land and waters

Outcome

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people maintain a distinctive cultural, spiritual, physical and economic relationship with their land and waters.

Target

  1. By 2030, a 15 per cent increase in Australia’s landmass subject to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s legal rights or interests.
  2. By 2030, a 15 per cent increase in areas covered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s legal rights or interests in the sea.

Summary on Target

Target 15a captures legal Indigenous rights in land granted under the various land rights regimes of the states and territories and the Commonwealth as well as land subject to a determination that native title exists.

Target 15b separately captures native title rights and interests in the sea2.

Target 15a

From the time of first European settlement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have fought to maintain, and have recognised, their traditional rights to ownership of land.

The modern land rights movement dates back to 1963 when the Yolgnu people from the settlement Yirrkala in north-east Arnhem Land presented the Australian Parliament with a bark petition, seeking the return of their land. Other important events include, the 1966-1975 Wave Hill Station walk off, a strike of 200 Gurindji stockman in protest against working conditions and the taking of traditional lands for pastoral properties. The Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd (1971) decision, which generated greater public awareness of Indigenous dispossession of land, is another example.

In 1966, South Australia became the first state to transfer land back to Aboriginal controlled land trusts. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was the first statutory land rights regime to be established in Australia. Today, similar regimes operate in every state and territory. In addition, the Native Title Act 1993, which commenced on 1 January 1994, establishes a national regime for the recognition and protection of native title rights and interests. Time series data on land under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander native title rights is provided in Table 15a1 and Table 15a2.

Land under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal rights or interests includes land subject to a determination that native title exists as well as land grants under various land rights regimes of the states and territories and the Commonwealth. Historical data on land under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal rights or interests was available for a few years only, and is shown in the 15a trajectory chart. Data show that Indigenous rights or interest have already been recognised over approximately half the Australian land mass.

Target 15b

In October 2001, the High Court’s landmark Croker Island decision confirmed that native title can exist at sea beyond the low water mark. This first determination over sea country recognised the claimants’ non-exclusive native title rights and interests to the sea area surrounding Croker Island in the Northern Territory. Since then, there have been a number of successful native title claims to sea country – including the largest-ever native title claim to the sea in the Torres Strait. The 2013 Akiba decision recognised for the first time the right of the native title holders to access and take marine resources for any purpose, including commercial purposes. There has been an increase in positive sea country native title determinations from under 10,000 sq kms in 2008 to over 90,000 sq kms in June 2020. Historical data on sea country under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal rights or interests is provided in Table 15b.1 and Table 15b.2.

More historical data on native title determinations over land and sea country is available from the National Native Title Tribunal.

2 The National Agreement includes a commitment to develop and Inland Waters target within 12 months of signing the Agreement.

Baseline data

Baseline data for the target measure is presented below at a national level, and for each state and territory where available. This will show starting points for each target, by jurisdiction.

Table 15a.1: Native Title Determination - Native Title exists, by jurisdictions - 2011 to 2020(a)

Square kilometres(b)
As at: NSW Vic Qld WA SA Tas ACT NT Australia
09-May-2020 4,822 14,905 488,897 1,653,575 544,525 0 0 307,277 3,014,001
30-June-2019 4,821 14,905 474,644 1,549,817 543,473 0 0 303,588 2,891,248
30-June-2018 4,833 14,905 469,794 1,357,227 531,333 0 0 301,998 2,680,090
30-June-2017 2,793 14,899 463,555 1,162,431 528,854 0 0 271,001 2,443,533
30-June-2016 2,753 14,899 459,773 1,121,853 528,842 0 0 253,880 2,382,000
30-June-2015 2,749 14,899 402,695 1,090,186 473,578 0 0 198,472 2,182,579
30-June-2014 1,790 14,899 298,407 987,461 390,022 0 0 179,908 1,872,487
30-June-2013 1,113 14,899 214,335 872,045 310,434 0 0 108,868 1,521,695
30-June-2012 1,113 14,899 92,853 849,609 310,434 0 0 95,358 1,364,265
30-June-2011 1,113 14,870 53,441 847,818 144,379 0 0 60,966 1,122,587
% of jurisdiction's land(c)
As at: NSW Vic Qld WA SA Tas ACT NT Australia
09-May-2020 0.6 6.6 28.3 65.4 55.3 0 0 22.8 39.2
30-June-2019 0.6 6.6 27.4 61.3 55.2 0 0 22.5 37.6
30-June-2018 0.6 6.6 27.2 53.7 54.0 0 0 22.4 34.9
30-June-2017 0.3 6.6 26.8 46.0 53.7 0 0 20.1 31.8
30-June-2016 0.3 6.6 26.6 44.4 53.7 0 0 18.8 31.0
30-June-2015 0.3 6.6 23.3 43.1 48.2 0 0 14.7 28.4
30-June-2014 0.2 6.6 17.2 39.0 39.7 0 0 13.3 24.3
30-June-2013 0.1 6.6 12.4 34.5 31.6 0 0 8.1 19.8
30-June-2012 0.1 6.6 5.4 33.6 31.6 0 0 7.1 17.7
30-June-2011 0.1 6.5 3.1 33.5 14.7 0 0 4.5 14.6

Table 15a.2: Land under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal rights or interests, by jurisdiction - 9 May 2020

Square kilometres(b)
Jurisdiction Native Title exists Indigenous estate Total Land area
NSW 4,822 1,581 6,403
VIC 14,905 29 14,934
QLD 488,897 69,480 558,377
WA 1,653,575 241,849 1,895,424
SA 544,525 213,765 758,290
TAS 0 631 631
ACT(d) 0 0 0
NT 307,277 642,583 949,860
Australia (incl overlap) 3,014,001 1,169,918 4,183,919
Overlap  (-) (-) 276,778
Australia (-) (-) 3,907,141
% of jurisdictions' land(c)
Jurisdiction Native Title exists Indigenous estate Total Land area
NSW 0.6 0.2 0.8
VIC 6.6 0.0 6.6
QLD 28.3 4.0 32.3
WA 65.4 9.6 75.0
SA 55.3 21.7 77.0
TAS 0.0 0.9 0.9
ACT(d) 0.0 0.0 0.0
NT 22.8 47.7 70.5
Australia (incl overlap) 39.2 15.2 54.4
Overlap (-) (-) 3.6
Australia (-) (-) 50.8

Source

National Native Title Tribunal

Notes

  1. These tables show data on the land under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Native Title or statutory land rights. Time series data on Native title positive determinations is provided in Table 15a.1. Time series data on Indigenous estate was not available.
  2. Areas are in square kilometres (sqkm) and have been calculated using GDA2020 (EPSG 7844). Pre- 2016 areas are calculated using Australian Albers projection (EPSG 3577).
  3. Based on jurisdiction area sourced from Geoscience Australia (1993).
  4. Includes Jervis Bay

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Table 15b.1: Sea Country - Native Title Exists - Australia - 2011 to 2020

As at: Area (square kilometres) % of jurisdiction's area(a)
02-June-2020 90,252 1.3
30-June-2019 83,644 1.2
30-June-2018 79,627 1.2
30-June-2017 76,570 1.1
30-June-2016 76,656 1.1
30-June-2015 76,074 1.1
30-June-2014 74,264 1.1
30-June-2013 70,960 1.0
30-June-2012 70,958 1.0
30-June-2011 70,477 1.0

Table 15b.2: Sea Country - Native Title Exists, by jurisdictions - June 2020

Native title exists
Jurisdiction Area (square kilometres) % of jurisdiction's area(a)
Commonwealth(b) 19,024 0.3%
NSW 20 0.2%
QLD 26,607 21.6%
VIC 265 2.6%
SA 373 0.6%
WA 40,714 35.1%
TAS 0 0.0%
NT 3,249 4.5%
Australia 90,252 1.3%

Source

National Native Title Tribunal

Notes

  1. Based on approximate jurisdiction areas sourced from maritime boundaries spatial data, Geoscience Australia 2006 (AMB 6th Edition).
  2. Commonwealth jurisdiction area only consists of the area from the 3NM Limit out to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) that surround the mainland States and Territories. It does not include the area surrounding the islands of McDonald & Heard, Christmas, Macquarie, Norfolk, Cocos (Keeling) or the Australian Antarctic Territory.

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National Target Trajectory

The national target trajectories presented below reflect the possible rate of progress over the next decade to achieve the target. In practice, the rate of progress is unlikely to be the same from year to year.

Trajectory chart 15a

* 2020 as at May 9

Source

NIAA analysis of NNTT data

Trajectory chart 15b

Source

NIAA analysis of NNTT data on Sea Country Native Title Determinations