The Bjelke-Petersen (National Party-Liberal Party coalition) Government removed two reserves - Aurukun and Mornington Island - from Queensland's system of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander reserves in April 1978, when the Commonwealth Government (under Malcolm Fraser) was about to legislate for self-management by the reserves residents and owners. Under Queensland's Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Act 1978, the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island were given 50 year leaseholds with an option to renew, but they were still subject to many State government powers over their land use.
In 1982 the Bjelke-Petersen's Land Act (Aboriginal and Islander Land Grants) Amendment Act gave a form of land ownership (called 'deeds of grant in trust', or DOGIT) to the Indigenous councils elected from residents on the remaining reserves.
Murray Island, or Mer in the Torres Strait was the only Indigenous community in Queensland not to implement the 'Deed of Grant in Trust' because of the Mabo Case action in the High Court. These tenures were reformed by the Goss (ALP) government in 1991, whose Aboriginal Land Act and Torres Strait Islander Land Act created freehold title in DOGIT land and Aurukun and Mornington Island shire leaseholds. As well, these statutes set up a land claims process, relevant to certain Crown lands, similar to that used in the Northern Territory. Land owners, acting through incorporated Councils, may refuse consent to mining, though the Governor-in-Council may override that decision.
Keywords: Aurukun, Deed of Grant in Trust, Fraser, Malcolm, land rights, Mer, Murray Island, Queensland, reserves, States' rights, Torres Strait, 1978-1991
Author: Rowse, Tim and Graham, Trevor