Native title and long term, secure and tradeable land tenure

Wednesday, 1 June 2016
Zoe Ramsay
Wayne Bergmann

The ability of Traditional Owners to assert their rights and interests is being stymied. In large part, this is a result of native title failing to deliver the benefits it should. Underpinning this is failure to treat native title as the sovereign right it is. While recognised as a valuable property internationally, in Australia native title is undervalued, underutilised and seen as an inconvenient hurdle to development. Regarded in this way, it fails to attract secure investment and facilitate economic participation. In most jurisdictions, land administration is dysfunctional, disempowering and acts as a deterrent for Indigenous participation in the mainstream economy.

While not without their challenges, the development of efficient tenure models and the rationalisation of land tenure in certain jurisdictions have helped to attract secure investment, incentivise and enhance Indigenous participation in the economy. However, more work remains to be done. Adjustment is required to the application and management of native title law across Australia to afford traditional lands the sovereignty, security and tradability they can provide. Building on the important work underway in certain jurisdictions, Traditional Owners are empowered to realise the full value of their rights in everyday life.