Native Title Holders as Vulnerable Publics: Conflict between Spatial Planning and Native Title Law in Australia

  • John Sheehan University of Technology Sydney
Keywords: Indigenous Public, Native Title as Land Tenure, Statutory Spatial Planning


Surviving rights and interests comprising the native title of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders within the Commonwealth of Australia were recognised in 1992 in the ground breaking Mabo decision of the High Court. Over the past 17 years since Mabo, inclusion of this significant public in spatial planning has been only occasionally egregious, although more often spasmodic, and even begrudging and perfunctory. Constitutional responsibility for spatial planning lies almost wholly within the aegis of the six original colonial States who federated in 1900 to become the Commonwealth. Local Government is delegated by the States to undertake most spatial planning, and continues to struggle with the reality that native title is not a land use waiting to be regulated, but an ancient land tenure. A blunt assessment of the entire spatial planning process reveals this continuing failure to comprehend the nature of native title.


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