Last week, the Morrison Government passed legislation to amend the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) (CATSI Act).

The Native Title Legislation Amendment Act 2020 amends both Acts, and works to better resolve Native Title claims and to more sustainably manage Native Title land.

A spokesperson for Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt said the amendments intend to address uncertainty.

“The amendments also further addresses the uncertainty created by the McGlade decision and validates certain mining and exploration agreements not covered by the 2017 amendments, ensuring that benefits to Native Title groups brokered under these agreements are not at risk of being lost,” the spokesperson said.

The McGlade decision of 2017 brought into question the validity of Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) if they were not signed by every applicant of a Native Title claim.

Specifically, the legislation provides Native Title claimants and holders with greater flexibility in claim management and improved dispute resolution following a Native Title determination.

The spokesperson added that the amendments improve accountability and transparency of Native Title corporations to their Native Title holders.

The amendments implement recommendations from both the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

The consultation process included two stages of public consultation, input from an expert advisory group, and multiple parliamentary committee inquiries.

“The passage of this legislation demonstrates the Morrison Government’s commitment to delivering practical solutions that will ensure the Native Title system continues to meet the evolving needs of all stakeholders,” Minister Wyatt said in a statement.

The amendments have been welcomed and celebrated by members of the mining industry, including Tania Constable, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia.

“Passage of the Native Title Legislation Amendment Act 2020 today completes a comprehensive three-year process to support a practical, equitable and stable Native Title system,” said Constable.

When queried about the Government’s future plans to reform the Native Title system, Minister Wyatt’s spokesperson said they intend to further address the CATSI Act to strengthen the accountability of Registered Native Title Bodies Corporate to their members.

“Native Title is now recognised over 40.5 per cent of Australia and the Australian Government is committed to supporting Traditional Owners to use their Native Title interests for social, cultural or economic benefits,” the spokesperson said.

By Aaron Bloch