An overdue victory for Aboriginal Australians

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It’s taken over 200 years, but at last an Australian First Nation has won court recognition of sovereignty over a major urban area. In September, a judge ruled that the Noongar people have native title over an area the size of Kansas centered on Perth, Western Australia’s capital.

Native title is the Aboriginal right to use land for traditional economic and cultural purposes. As legally defined, it requires arduous proof of continuous indigenous connection to territory since the European conquest. Because the forced removal and mass murder of indigenous people are excused by law, they have no bearing on Aboriginal claims.

In the far west, however, conquest only began in 1829, and government lawyers were forced to concede that many descendants of the original owners remain. Noongar people have proven that their culture, though damaged through two centuries of genocide, is a living one.

Business is worried that it might finally have to pay for use of the country’s vast natural resources, and the state and federal governments are challenging the victory.

To oppose the appeals and demand negotiations for compensation and a treaty, email state premier Alan Carpenter via www.premier.wa.gov.au/index.cfm ?fuseaction=home.feedback and Federal Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock via www.ag.gov.au/agd/www/ministerruddockfeedback.nsf/feedback. Indigenous peoples have waited too long for recognition of their 70,000-year custodianship over Australia.

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