Indigenous Land Reform: the question of incorporation of Indigenous land titles into land registration systems?

Wednesday, 7 June 2017
Margaret Stephenson

Indigenous lands cover more than 25 per cent of the land mass of the Australian continent. With the increasing number of native title determinations in Australia and a government with an agenda for individualising and formalising Indigenous land titles, it is crucial to consider if native title should be integrated within a land registration/management system. This paper will assess the benefits and costs that might accrue due to registration as well as the legal feasibility of such an approach. It will draw on both property rights scholarship and land title formalisation in other jurisdictions to consider potential models for registering Indigenous peoples’ land titles. 

Key questions addressed are:

  • At a conceptual level can Indigenous relationships with land, as recognised within the native title system or statutory Indigenous tenures, be adequately represented within an integrated land registration and management system?
  • Is the incorporation of Indigenous land interests within a registration system likely to promote improved economic and cultural outcomes for relevant communities?
  • How can international experience in recording/registering Indigenous titles in countries such as Canada, where innovative Indigenous land registration systems are in place, inform policy development and provide the basis for an assessment of potential legal models?