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Aboriginal I Claims to Seas in Australia

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

In 1992 the famous judgment in the Mabo (No.2 case), in the High Court of Australia, determined that the common law of Australia recognised and protected native title claims in accordance with traditional laws and customs. Within six years nearly 800 claims had been lodged with the Native Title Tribunal and 70 per cent of them were in Queensland and Western Australia. Nearly one-third of those claims included areas of sea. Before 1992 scholars had demonstrated that clan estates included marine sections along tropical coasts. Only two claims to seas or sea-bed have been tested in the courts. This paper reviews five questions that will recur in future similar cases. They deal with the location of claims, their possible extent, the evidence that will justify them, the delimitation of successful claims and accommodations regarding the use of claimed seas between indigenous and other peoples.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Melbourne


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