National Reconciliation Week- Recent legal cases on Native Title and Aboriginal Cultural Heritage

The Ngaliwurru Nungali People of Timber Creek in the Northern Territory received a recent High Court award of compensation of around $2.5 million dollars for the impairment and extinguishment of their native title rights.

Grants of development rights, Crown leases, freehold grants and the construction of public works over 127 hectares of land effectively diminished, impaired and extinguished native title rights. The land was part of the 2053 hectares of land around Timber Creek that the Ngaliwurru Nungali People were recognised in 2007 as holding as native title.

The High Court recognised that there should be significant compensation for spiritual loss as well as the economic value of the native title rights. While the area affected was much smaller than the entire native title rights area the High Court indicated that the damage caused by the Crown leases, freehold grants and construction of public works was like punching holes in a painting and the damage should be considered on the overall tapestry of native title rights or country.

Closer to home – a quarry site near Roma in Queensland – the Karingbal People were recognised as the Traditional Owners of the area. The site was leased and significant clearing of land and earthworks creating bund walls resulted in the destruction of at least 3 Gumbi Gumbi trees and the damage or displacement of over 50 Aboriginal Cultural artefacts.

The Court decided that the harm went beyond physical damage to any particular artefact and resulted in significant harm to the spiritual culture of the Karingbal People. Under the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act 2003 the quarry operator was fined $188,000 and ordered to pay $250,000 to the Department towards the cost of restoring the site.

So in the spirit of reconciliation it is important both spiritually and economically to consider and respect the rights and interests of native title holders and cultural heritage before going ahead with development plans.

We can help navigate the complexities of Native Title and Aboriginal Cultural heritage issues. McLaughlins Lawyers have experience in negotiation and understand the process of litigation in construction and commercial disputes.

If you need advice or help concerning your property or commercial matter, please ask for Teresa Kearney or Matt Kollrepp for construction and litigation advice. McLaughlins Lawyers, your experienced Gold Coast lawyers, can help, give guidance and stand beside you in any negotiation or dispute.



Author: Teresa Kearney

Director: Ian Kennedy

Date: 31 May 2019