Acquisition of sovereignty by settlement
There are three established mechanisms by which a state can acquire sovereignty: conquest, cession and occupation of unoccupied land, also known as 'settlement'.
The plaintiffs did not challenge the validity of Queensland's acquisition of sovereignty over the Islands. Rather, as noted by Justice Toohey (at 182), '[t]he plaintiffs accepted that the Islands were settled by Britain rather than conquered or ceded... the position of the Crown as the ultimate owner of the land, the holder of the radical title, has persisted and is not really in issue in these proceedings.'
The difficulty for the plaintiffs was the existence of authority for the proposition that when sovereignty is acquired by settlement, the Crown automatically takes complete ownership of all land within the colony.
Keywords: native title, plaintiffs, settlements, sovereignty, Toohey, Justice
Author: Kenna, Jonathan