Key Components of the Native Title Act
The Act established a National Native Title Tribunal to carry out many of the functions identified in the objectives of the Act, including the registration of applications for determinations, the mediation of agreements and the facilitation of negotiations over future dealings in land. In the case of most future dealings (called future acts), native titleholders were to be given the same rights as freehold titleholders. In relation to other acts, such as mining proposals, the Act guaranteed a right to negotiate over the proposal.
The validation of past acts was a compromise for Indigenous peoples. These included acts that would have been invalid because of the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), which had rendered uncertain the validity of titles granted since 1975. To this end, the legislation specifically dealt with the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act. Section 7 of the Native Title Act stated that while nothing in the Act affected the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act, the Racial Discrimination Act would not affect validation provisions.
In effect, the operation of the Racial Discrimination Act was suspended for the purposes of validation. The Commonwealth Parliament is able, by clear and unambiguous legislation, to modify the operation of an earlier Commonwealth Act, even where that earlier Act concerns the protection of rights against discrimination, as in this case. The provision validly authorised the discriminatory treatment of Indigenous peoples rights in order to make more certain the titles granted without regard to native title.
Keywords: Native Title Act (1993), Racial Discrimination Act , 1975 , 1993
Author: Strelein, Lisa