In this report Jon Altman seeks to explore the ramifications of the Native Title Act Reform Bill, a private senator’s bill introduced by Senator Rachel Siewert of the Australian Greens. The Bill seeks to amend the Native Title Act 1993 (NTA) to effect reforms that target two key areas for native title claimants: the barriers that registered native title claimants experience in making the case for determination of native title rights and interests, and procedural issues relating to the complex future act regime. These issues need to be addressed in the interests of native title claimants, but also in the wider national interest. Concuring with the view in the Explanatory Memorandum for the Bill that, if passed into law, it will implement important and arguably long overdue reforms to the NTA that will enhance its effectiveness.
Of particular significance here is the attempt to move the NTA in a direction that is more consistent with principles enunciated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which was belatedly supported by the Australian Government in April 2009. Domestically, changes to the future act regime are likely to ensure more equitable and efficient processes for negotiating resource development projects on land where there is a registered native title claim or a determination of native title.
The issues that this Bill seeks to address have been highlighted for a number of years and are complex, indeed so complex and politically contentious that they have been largely ignored. So as an academic whose research over the past three decades has focused on Indigenous development and policy, Altman commends the Australian Greens for developing and tabling this comprehensive reform package in the Australian Parliament.