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Australia: Aboriginals compensated for loss of land rights

LANDMARK RULING: The decision of Australia's high court has paved the way for future claims

THE HIGH court in Australia has ruled that Aboriginals should be compensated $2.53 million over the removal of their land rights.

The Northern Territory government has been ordered to compensate a group of native title holders in a historic ruling.

The term native title holders is a term ascribed to Australia’s indigenous people and their rights to traditional land and water.

The Ngaliwurru and Nungali people, native title holders, from Timber Creek, argued that their construction of roads and other infrastructure by the Northern Territory government had stripped them of their land rights.

The area of Timber Creek covers roughly 2,360 hectares. Of the population of 230, about two-thirds are Aboriginal, and principally native title holders, The Guardian reported.

The court’s landmark decision, which was delivered on Wednesday, March 13, has set a precedent for future claims from communities who have lost traditional and spiritual land in the country.

A federal court ruling had initially awarded the claimants $3.3 million in compensation but this was reduced by the High Court’s decision.

The compensation accounts for $320,250 in relation to economic loss, $910,100 for associated interest and $1.3 million for cultural loss.

The $1.3 million figure has been deemed excessive by the Northern Territory government.

“What is important is that the component of $1.3m for cultural loss was upheld by all high court and federal court judges”, The Guardian reported Jak Ah Kit, the interim chief executive of the Northern Land Council said.

He added: “This important finding means that the spiritual connection of Aboriginal people to their country is paramount in Australian law – as it should be.”

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