ABORIGINAL PEOPLE REMAIN THE MOST VULNERABLE SECTORS OF THE SOCIETY

AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL PEOPLE

Aboriginal people have occupied Australia for at least 60 000 years and they had once lived under their own rules. In 1788 British occupation of Australia began. In 1889 the government resident’s reports on the Northern Territory 'After careful inquiry I am of the opinion that this is the attitude of the aborigines towards Europeans: Entrance into their country is an act of invasion. It is a declaration of war, and they will halt at no opportunity of attacking the white invaders.' Aboriginal people fought hard to defend their land; however, spears and boomerangs proved no match for gunfire. Thousands of Aboriginal people were brutally massacred; even more died from introduced disease and sickness. Since the invasion of Australia, Aboriginal people resisted the colonisation of their land. The settlers pushed Aboriginal people off the fertile lands into controlled settlements; and justified their actions by a belief of their superiority. Inaccessible and unwanted lands were given ownership to Aboriginal people through the land rights act 1976.

The Australian Aboriginal communities remain the most vulnerable sectors of the society throughout Australia. The Australian government still refuses to acknowledge Aboriginal people as the first inhabitants of Australia through its constitution. The Australia’s injustice was systematically engineered by the power elites to make sure that Aboriginal communities won't progress to have knowledge, in order to control Aboriginal people’s resources freely. It is very apparent that at each historical point in time, Aboriginal communities have suffered from a deep rooted distrust of giving practical effect to their rights, and the idea of justice. Among Australia's elite today, there is a habit of blaming Aboriginal communities for their harsh lifestyle in order to hide Australia’s injustice. The lack of justice is affecting all citizens; it is especially affecting the white Australians ethically. This deficit of justice has impacted the Aboriginal communities adversely throughout many generations. Most importantly, this phenomenon has been manifested not only during the British colonization, but also in the present.

A historic national referendum was took place in 1967 by the Aboriginal communities’ and their supporters’ hard work and determination. The majority of Australians (91%) voted ‘Yes’ to amend the constitution to give power to the federal government to make special laws on Aboriginal affairs. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 was a fundamental piece of social reform much needed to solve land disputes. This act was the first attempt by an Australian government to legally recognise the Aboriginal people’s land ownership. The land rights act has provided land for many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory and enabled them to re-establish their cultural identity. When the Act was passed; inaccessible and unwanted lands became Aboriginal land. The only land able to be claimed is unalienated Crown land – land that no-one else is using. As a result of an amendment to the Aboriginal land rights act by the Hawke Government, no more land claims could be lodged after June 30 1997.

Establishment of Land Councils: The Land Rights Act established the Northern Land Council and Central Land Council. The Land Councils are representative bodies of elected Aboriginal people. The councils determine policies and employ expert legal, anthropological and land management staff to assist Aboriginal people in the claiming and management of their land, the protection of their sacred sites and the financial management of income received under the Act. The Land Rights Act sets out how exploration and mining must be done on Aboriginal land. All mining companies must provide details of their plan and a land council must consult with the traditional landowners. Traditional owners have two years to make a decision. If traditional owners say no, the mining companies will be blocked for five years, unless the land council applies to remove this block. If traditional owners say yes, the mining company and traditional owners must make an agreement about the exploration. 

Allocation of the funds: All profits from mining and other land uses are held in trust by land council for traditional owners. Land council must pay profits to traditional owners within six months of receiving the money, generally pays to royalty associations which have members. When a royalty association distributes money, it must record all payment details. All royalty associations must report the names of people who receive payments, and the dates, amounts and purposes of payments. The land rights act also established the Aboriginals Benefit Account (ABA). Payments are made to the ABA based on mining on Aboriginal land. Around 40% of the ABA money has been used to fund the land councils, 30% goes to the areas affected by mining, and the balance is for the benefit of Aboriginals living in the Northern Territory, community grants and administration of the ABA. The ABA Advisory Committee advises the Minister how to use the balance of funds for the benefit of Aboriginals living in the Northern Territory.

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