The Noongar Settlement: Australia's First Treaty
(2018) 40 Sydney Law Review 1
38 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 8, 2018
There has been a resurgence in debate over the desirability and feasibility of a treaty between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the Australian State. The discussion has proceeded on the assumption that no such treaties exist. But is this correct? In this article, we examine the concepts and ideas underlying a treaty, with a view to determining a standard against which agreements and negotiated settlements can be assessed. The standard we apply is informed by the modern treaty-making process in Canada to locate it in contemporary practices and values. We then examine whether any agreement reached in Australia can be regarded as a treaty, including settlements reached under the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) and more recent agreements made outside that regime. We conclude that the South West Native Title Settlement, a negotiated agreement between the Noongar people and the Western Australian Government, is Australia’s first treaty.
Keywords: Indigenous peoples, treaty, public law, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, native title
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