Indigenous Land Rights

Bella Day

The pursuit of Indigenous Land Rights was 100% successful and fully supported by the Australian population.

Please be aware this flyer contains images of deceased people and may be upsetting for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island People.

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The Indigenous were stripped of what they claimed be there land in 1788 when the first fleet arrived and named the land as ‘terra nullius’. Since then the Indigenous have been through a great deal of suffering, from loss of land, families, communities and culture, the things that were most important to them. These issues have also caused a lot of problems in parliament and since the first fleet arrived Indigenous Australian’s were fighting for rights and some are still fighting today.

History of The Indigenous Land Rights

1826- 40 km2 of land south of Newcastle on the shores of Lake Macquarie was assigned to the trustees of the London Missionary Society for use as an Aboriginal mission.

Late in the 1900’s – The government began placing the Indigenous on reserves far from their traditional land, which they were deeply connected to. The reason for this was to separate the Indigenous people from the Europeans, to help teach them European ways. As the European population grew the Indigenous were moved from reserve to reserve to meet the land needs of the Europeans.

1930’s- This was when the Indigenous began fighting back with protests. The removal of the Indigenous children was also publicized during this time.

1966- The Strike at Wave Hill. The Gurindji people had lived and ‘owned’ the land that a small cattle station existed on. These people were employed as stockmen on the station and decided to go on strike during August to fight for better pay and living conditions. Although, the main reason they went on strike was to reclaim their land.
They refused to return to work and instead established their own cattle station 35km from the homestead at Wattle Creek. The government refused to sign lease for the land until 10 years later Wave Hill Station and the Wattle Creek land was granted to the Gurindji.

1966- The creation of the Aboriginal Lands Trust of South Australia. This Lands Trust was established by the South Australian Government and grants the Indigenous to have their traditional land leased back to them for 99 years.

1968- The Gove Case
The Yirrkala people brought to court that they wanted recognition of Aboriginal Land Title. In 1971, it was stated that ‘Aboriginal people had no legal claims to land’ (Mr. Justice Blackburn, Indigenous Perspective Resource, Dec 2007)

1970- Victoria passed the Aboriginal Land Act.

1972- Western Australia created the Aboriginal Lands Trust

1972- Tent Embassy
The Indigenous set up a tent embassy on the lawns of Parliament House to stress their views even more.

1976- The Aboriginal Land Rights bill was passed

1984- The government introduced the Protection Bill. This bill was put in place to keep the Indigenous sacred sights protected.

Present- Indigenous people now hold about 10 per cent of Australian land. Two-thirds of that land is freehold. Much of the remaining third represents reserve land, which may, with possible State legislation in Western Australia, be vested with Aboriginal people as freehold.


The Indigenous just wanted to be treated equally with the Europeans. They just wanted the favoritism and discrimination to go away. They just wanted a fair go.
Rights for the Indigenous have come along way and improved immensely. Some of the goals they wanted to achieve included:

- To have a vote

- Receive their land back

- Be treated equally throughout everyday life

- For them to be able to live their life the way they wanted (Freedom)

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Key Figures

Eddie Mabo

Eddie Mabo is a famous Indigenous Australian from the Mer Island. Mabo was born in June, 1937 and worked on a sugar cane farm until he became a gardener at University in Townsville. (Pearson, 2013)

Throughout Mabo’s whole life he fought for Indigenous rights but it wasn’t until he started realising that the British people believed that the land was there’s and Mabo took action. Mabo was to fight the Australian government and change Australia’s future and history for the better. (ABC, 2013)

After this Mabo in 1981, attended the land Rights Conference at the university he worked. From this, Mabo went onto fight the high court about the term ‘terra nullius’. Mabo fought for 10 years but the government would not believe that he his father owned land to be passed onto him.

Once Mabo passed away in 1992, in his late fifty’s just months before the High Court passed the decision he fought 10 years for. (Herald Sun, 2013) In remembrance of Eddie Mabo there is a day of the year honored to him. Mabo Day is celebrated on the 3rd of June, to show Mabo’s brave and courageous personalities, sticking up for what he believed in.

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Gough Whitlam

Gough Whitlam was apart of the Australian Labor Party beginning in 1945 and becoming president in December 1972. Whitlam is a well educated completing a law degree at Sydney University. Whitlam also served in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. (Australia’s Prime Ministers, 2013) Whitlam was a key player in the Indigenous Rights issues.

Whitlam established the department of Aboriginals Affairs, which helps Indigenous Australian’s in the development of their communities. (Department of Aboriginal Affairs, 2013) Whitlam’s aim was to achieve freedom for everyone; this shows that he was a good leader as he had everyone’s best interest at heart.

Whitlam also advertised an ‘It’s Time’ campaign. Whitlam said that the upcoming election would be a choice 'a choice between the past and the future'. (, 2013) The campaign went along way into helping the Indigenous achieve the rights they deserved as it made people think twice about the way the Indigenous were being treated.

Whitlam was a hard working man, who just wanted a better nation.

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Key Events

Some of the key events in Indigenous history that had an impact on Indigenous people and their communities are:
1967: The Constitutional Amendment Referendum. This granted Indigenous the right to vote.
1971: The Aboriginal Flag was first flown in Adelaide on National Aboriginal’s Day
1985: Uluru was Handed Back
1989: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act was established.
1992: Native Title. This lead to the Native Title Act the following year.
1998: National Sorry Day. This is to say sorry for the way the Indigenous were treated on May the 26th.

There are key events/dates that are significant to Aboriginal people and communities, these include:
26th January, Survival Day
26th May- 3rd June, National Reconciliation Week
26th May, National Sorry Day
3rd June, Mabo Day


In conclusion, through research it is evident that the Indigenous Land Rights were not 100% successful and were not fully supported by the Australian population.

Although in saying this, there was a small percentage of the Australian population that were not discriminative towards the Indigenous population.

It is evident that today in Australian society the treatment of the Indigenous people has come along way since the 1900's, seeing the Indigenous the right to vote and the right to freedom. However, 3 in 4 Indigenous Australian's still experience racism. (All Together Now, 2013)

The Indigenous Land Rights were unsuccessful because it took the Australian government took many many years to pass the bill. According to Skwirk (2013) throughout the 1960's, 70's and 80's the government began to slow down the process of granting the Indigenous their Land Rights. This was due to the rural area communities not in full support of this, as they would lose their land. This proves that the Indigenous Land Rights were not 100% successful and not fully supported by the Australian population.

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Land Rights Fact Sheet, 2007 Reconcili Action Network, accessed 10 September 2013, <>

Historic Information and Key Dates, 2008 Women's Health, accessed 10 September 2013, <>

The History of Aboriginals Land Rights in Australia, 2007 Resource Indigenous Perspective, accessed 11 September 2013, <>

Land Rights: Then... and Now, n.d., Photograph, Tracker, accessed 13 September 2013, <>

Aboriginal Activists speak on Tent Embassy 40 year old milestone, n.d., Photograph, Green Left Weekly, accessed 13 September 2013, <>

Wave Hill Walk off, 1966-75, 1966, Photograph, National Museum Australia, accessed 13 September 2013, <>

The Fight for Aboriginals Civil Rights, 1940, Photograph, Australian Geographic, accessed 13 September 2013, <>

Campaigning for Land Rights, 1968, Photograph, National Museum Australia, accessed 13 September 2013, <>

Indigenous Australian Flags, n.d., Image, NAIDOC, accessed 14 September 2013, <>

Managing our Park, n.d., Photograph, Australian Government, accessed 14 September 2013, <>

Sorry Day Flowers, n.d., Photograph, South West Sydney Stolen Generations Support Group, accessed 14 September 2013, <>

Photos from Belgrave Survival Day 2012, n.d., Photograph, Belgrave Survival Day, accessed 14 September 2013, <>

National Reconciliation Week 2010, n.d., Photograph, State Library of Western Australia, accessed 14 September 2013, <>

Mabo Day 2011, n.d., Photograph, Shalom Christian Collage, accessed 14 September 2013, <>

Eddie Mabo died just months before the High Court handed down the decision he spent 10 years fighting for., n.d., Photograph, Herlad Sun News, accessed 14 September 2013, <>

Golf Whitlam, n.d., Photograph, Wikipedia, accessed 14 September 2013, <>

Aboriginal land Rights Protest in Brisbane, 1982, Photograph, Corbis Images, accessed 16 September 2013, <>