Yirrkala & Gove
The special sittings have heard evidence from several people on the island village on claims by Eddie Mabo.
Mabo wants a ruling which would give him sovereign rights over the land he claims is his That would then pave the way for others on the island to stake a legal claim on their land which is handed to them traditionally by tribal right or by marriage.
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The Murray Island case is only the second time in two hundred years of European settlement that indigenous Australians have tried to prove traditional property rights within common law.
In 1971, the Yirrkala people of Gove in the Northern Territory took the Australian Government and mining company Nabalco to court.
The government had licensed Nabalco to establish a bauxite mine on reserve land the Yirrkala claimed to have lived on since time immemorial.
Mr Justice Blackburn delivered a judgement against the Yirrkala. He acknowledged that the Aboriginal people had their own system of land law. But because they didn't cultivate, buy and sell, or exclude others from their land, they had no form of title vhich British common law was obliged to recognise. Nabalco soon began mining on the reserve.
In 1970 a Supreme Court judge of the Northern Territory decided that Aboriginal people did not have any customary title to their land, or, and if they did, they couldn't prove it in event.
We think that he made some errors of history, and some errors of law, and we hope that we will be able to overturn the result of that case and establish that traditional rights have come through the act of colonisation and that all Aboriginal and islander people in Australia have the right to have their traditional title recognised by the Australian judicial system.
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Increasing Popularity Of Land Rights
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The Whitlam Government & Land Rights
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Northern Territory Land Rights Act
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The Gove Case
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The Gove Decision Questioned
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Tent 'Embassy' defiant
Mar, 4, 1972
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