‘Native title’ refers to the communal or individual rights and interests of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in relation to land or waters, held under traditional law and custom.
Native title is recognised and protected by Australian law.
The Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and corresponding State legislation provides a national legislative framework for:
The Annual Report of the National Native Title Tribunal contained in Part 5 of the Federal Court of Australia Annual Report states that as at 30 June 2021 there had been 517 registered determinations of native title. This covered:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage refers to the knowledge, traditions, beliefs, customs, values, places and objects that are valued and are culturally important to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Commonwealth and each State government have specific legislation for the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage. Queensland also has legislation for the protection of Torres Strait Islander cultural heritage.
The nature of the cultural heritage that is protected, together with the level of protection that is afforded, differs between the Commonwealth and States. State legislation differs in a number of factors. Two key differences between the States are where Aboriginal people or the State approve an impact to Aboriginal cultural heritage and the extent to which intangible forms of cultural heritage are protected.
Under the Commonwealth and State legislation it is a criminal offence to unlawfully impact or harm protected Aboriginal cultural heritage. The penalty for an offence includes fines and potentially imprisonment.
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