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Reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)

The submission to the Attorney-General’s Department’s Options Paper regarding reforms to the Native Title Act 1993 (the Native Title Act), was prepared by the Law Council and is grateful to the Law Society of New South Wales, the Queensland Law Society, the Law Society of South Australia and its Indigenous Legal Issues Committee for their assistance with the preparation of this submission. 

The Law Council wishes to thank the representatives of both the Attorney-General’s Department and Prime Minister and Cabinet for engaging in consultations with stakeholders, including the Law Council, at the release of the Options Paper.

The Law Council previously participated in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) 2015 report ‘Connection to Country: Review of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth)’ and is pleased to see a number of the recommendations of that report included in the Options Paper.

The Options Paper proposes a number of reform proposals to the Native Title Act which are intended to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the native title system to resolve claims, better facilitate agreement-making around the use of native title land, and promote the autonomy of native title groups to make decisions about their land and to resolve internal disputes.

In general, the Law Council is supportive of reform measures that are designed to promote certainty, efficiency and effectiveness in native title decision-making. These goals, however, must not undermine core principals underpinning this area, including the need for authority, legitimacy and a recognition of the communal character of native title law.

In responding to many of the questions posed within the Options paper, the Law Council has attempted to reach a balance between efficiency and legitimacy. In some cases, views of the Law Council’s various Constituent Bodies have differed. These instances are noted within this submission.

The Law Council looks forward to continuing to work with the Attorney-General’s Department as these reforms are progressed, including through the provision of meaningful submissions to an exposure draft bill, once developed.

You can read the full submission below.

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