Magazine article New Internationalist

Slippery Solution: Mabo Case Highlights Aboriginal Land Rights

Magazine article New Internationalist

Slippery Solution: Mabo Case Highlights Aboriginal Land Rights

Article excerpt

ABORIGINAL leaders in Australia have rejected the Labor Government's response to the controversial Mabo land - rights case. The High Court ruling in the case of Mabo vs Queensland in June 1992 overturned the assumption that Australia belonged to no - one before white colonization. The Government's 33 - point response largely overlooks the Aborigines' own eight - point charter for reform. Noel Pearson, director of the Cape York Land Council, described the response as 'slimy', attempting as it did to reduce the debate to an issue of land management. Mick Dodson, aboriginal social justice commissioner and former director of the influential Northern Land Council, has called for the debate to be centred clearly on human rights. He said the oppression of, and violence against, Aborigines had been perpetrated first by guns and strychnine, then by word - processors and bureaucrats.

The figurehead of the Mabo case was Eddie Mabo -- the traditional leader of the Meriam people of Murray Island in Torres Strait -- who died in January 1992 from cancer. Two other plaintiffs also died before the High Court handed down its ruling.

Central to the Government's response is the proposal that each state should establish a tribunal system to decide aboriginal land claims. It would also validate all mining, farming and tourism leases granted before 30 June 1993. Aboriginal groups would be able to claim compensation, but would have no right of veto. Leases signed after 30 June would give Aborigines both native title claims and the right of veto. …

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