Aboriginal responses to land & water rights, native & High Court Decisions

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Aboriginal responses to land & water rights, native & High Court Decisions

Bark Petition by the Yirrkala situated on the Gove Peninsula in Arnhem Land
This petition was sent to the Commonwealth House of Representatives written in their own language.  It was to do with the decision to take land from the Arnhem Land Reserve for bauxite mining.  While this did not result in full land rights, the Yirrkala people were compensated in part by way of land grants.

The Gurindji people living on the Wave Hill cattle station in the Northern Territory went on strike for award wages and better living conditions
At the heart of this struggle was the issue of land rights and the return of their traditional homeland.  This case saw Gough Whitlam hand over the lease of traditional land to the Gurindji people.

Freedom rides
A group of University students, including Charles Perkins
travelled throughout the country area highlighting racism and discrimination.  Various incidents were publicised in the media gaining national support for Aboriginal people.

Prior to 1967 Aboriginal people were subject to State government 
decisions about their welfare and were not counted in the census as Australian citizens.  The referendum resulted in just over 90% of Australians in favour of the Commonwealth government assuming control of Aboriginal Affairs and including them in the census.

Tent Embassy
Aboriginal people believed the referendum of 1967 would see an 
improvement in their lives.  This was not to be the case.  In 1972 political activists set up tents on the lawns of Parliament House and called it the Tent Embassy.  The black, red and yellow flag, designed by Harold Thomas of the Arrente tribe in SA, was flown as the symbol of the Aboriginal people.  This action took the plight of the Aboriginal people to an international audience and laid the foundations of the Labor Partyís win later that year with their Itís Time slogan.

Mabo Decision
1992 Mabo Decision by the High Court of Australia. This historic decision overthrew the concept of terra nullius in Australia.  Although it was a ten-year struggle, which Eddie Koiki Mabo did not live to see completed, the Meriam people proved ownership of the Murray Islands on the principles of British common law.  This in turn led to the Native Title Act 1993 that allows other Aboriginal groups to put in similar land claims. 

1996 Wik decision by the High Court of Australia.This was another landmark in the history of Aboriginal land rights.  After the Mabo case it was believed that pastoral leases extinguished native title.  The Wik decision highlighted that it was possible for native title and some types of pastoral leases to co-exist.  Each state however and each case would have to be reviewed on its own merits.  The Wik decision does not mean all other similar claims will be successful.

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