This article explains Australian Aboriginal land rights as the just claim of a long historical movement, driven by Aboriginal voices of resistance to dispossession. The land rights movement – demanding the return of land stolen from Aboriginal communities, or compensation for dispossession – grew out of civil rights campaigns, stretching back to the beginning of the 20th century. National land rights claims grew in the 1960s and 70s, leading to a series of partial victories, but for a minority of Aboriginal communities. ‘Native title’, on the other hand, is a non-Aboriginal accommodation. It offers a weak form of title to some communities, but the ‘extinguishment’ of claims for the vast majority. State responses usually mediate popular demands, but the native title response is often misunderstood as actually representing ‘and rights’. Nevertheless, the land rights movement has survived the native title era, and the more recent attacks on existing community title. Recent advances, for example in Tasmania, demonstrate that strong Aboriginal voices can defend and extend land rights for Aboriginal communities.
Australian Journal of Human Rights, 12(1)