Kings Return to Grass Castles: the Future of Aboriginal Pastoralism

Tuesday, 16 June 2015
Jim Hackett
Martin Dore

Commonly, Native Title (NT) is 'non-exclusive'; ancestral lands are shared with (usually non-Indigenous) pastoralists. Two questions: First, if the Prescribed Body Corporate (PBC) takes over from a pastoralist at the end of his lease, how does that affect NT? Second: Can a PBC in fact take over? Or has the pastoralist some sort of 'right' to a renewal?

If the PBC takes the lease, exclusive NT flows back; this means that the lease is very likely to stay with the PBC for ever. If the lease were not renewed, the PBC would get major compensation.

Until recently, the PBC could apply for a pastoral lease when it expired, and might have succeeded. 'Heritage' was important. However, in 2014, Queensland changed the law to allow existing pastoralists to 'roll over' leases indefinitely, thus shutting out PBCs for ever. Also, Queensland encourages pastoralists to turn leases into freehold, suggesting that the pastoralists ‘buy out’ NT rights.

Not all hope is lost. The provisions locking a PBC out can be repealed. Also, they may be unconstitutional. As the non-Indigenous can always obtain complete ownership of their land held by (leased to) another, the Indigenous must, under law, enjoy the same privilege.