The First Aboriginal Land Rights Case

John Fogarty and Jacinta Dwyer

“It is 40 years since the first land rights claim by Aboriginal people was instituted in Australia. It was dismissed: Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd (1971) 17FLR 141 (the Nabalco case). This loss was a great disappointment to those who had devoted their lives to claims that Indigenous Australians had land rights at the time of British settlement and that where those rights still existed they should be recognised and the land returned to that community.

Less thought was given then to the longer term consequences for Aboriginal people if those claims were successful. What would be the consequences to present and future generations? What if minerals were on the land or were later discovered? It was difficult then to comprehend the future value or impact of mining …”