Quandamooka Coast Claim
By Lindsay Hackett
The Quandamooka Coast Claim was submitted on 8 March 2017 and is now being considered by the Federal Court of Australia. The claim covers the land and waters shown on the map as cross-hatched. Interestingly, this claim does not include Russell Island. Presumably, further claims will follow.
The claim over Stradbroke Island and adjacent waters was granted in 2011 and is coloured green on the map. Not shown is the 2014 claim over all of Moreton Island that is still awaiting a decision.
Native title usually gives Indigenous people the right to hold ceremony, gather bush tucker or have a say on what development can happen on the land. It can also give exclusive rights to possess, occupy, use and enjoy the area to the exclusion of all others. This could include all Council and Government land on the Islands, although not freehold and certain leasehold land.
The claim is unnecessary and divisive. There is no apparent reason for this claim other than the continuing move by the aboriginal industry to exert increasing influence over Australian society now and into the future. Instead of striving for a cohesive society, such claims divide us.
The claim is another of the many incremental aboriginal claims that has resulted in Native Title being granted over 34% of the Australian landmass today, and will lead to Native Title over 62% if all present claims are agreed. Added to this are the Land Rights lands and reserves that are State agreements. In aggregate, there is aboriginal freehold ownership, native title (exclusive and non-exclusive), land rights and reserves, and pending determinations of native title over 72% of the Australian landmass. These numbers do not include the present Quandamooka Coast Claim.
Extensive judicial interpretation of the Native Title Act 1993, Section 223, has resolved, in summary, that when assessing a native title claim, “A threshold requirement is that the evidence shows there is a recognisable group or society that presently recognises and observes traditional laws and customs in the Determination area”. There is no evidence that aborigines have observed traditional laws and customs on Karragarra, Lamb, Macleay, or Coochiemudlo Islands since at least the 1800s and certainly not since 1973 when the then Redland Shire Council became responsible for the Islands, except as entertainment during festivals in recent times.
As well as this threshold requirement, the Native Title Act 1993 clearly states at Part 2, Division 2B, Section 23 that native title is completely extinguished by past valid acts like the grant or vesting of freehold estates, and leases that conferred exclusive possession on others.
By the end of 1865, Robert Campbell and his sister Rebecca Owen had been granted leases over the whole of Macleay Island. In 1873, J. Harris held Lamb Island under lease. In 1889, Karragarra was divided into eleven town lots sold to early settlers including the Scott and Noyes families. These facts should invalidate any native title claim over Macleay, Lamb, and Karragarra Islands. Coochiemudlo Island was developed similarly and should be excluded from the claim.
Similar leases and titles existed over most of the waters claimed by the Quandamooka since the Oyster Act of 1863. The Queensland colonial government’s Oyster Act of 1863 introduced a licensing system for oyster cultivation. The Oyster Act of 1874 implemented further controls and seven-year leases were made available for dredge oyster sections within the Bay. These leases were offered at public auction, and attracted high prices during the late 19th century. The Oyster Act of 1886 offered transferable leases over identifiable oyster grounds in Morton Bay that was divided into thirty-nine sections containing 178 oyster banks. This Act offered transferable 14-year leases over identified oyster grounds.
Why worry? We should worry because the aboriginal industry is incrementally separating aboriginal people from other Australians. Entry to many aboriginal lands and townships throughout Australia is strictly forbidden to non-aborigines. Aboriginal permits are necessary to enter many other townships and lands covered by native title, including on many outback roads. The 1,126 km main route from Yulara in the NT to Laverton in WA is one example. Government and councils often have to pay compensation when needing subsequently to use native title land for community purposes. Use of the waters might be restricted by a need to buy a permit to fish, for example.
The claims of sacredness seem omnipresent and generally seem to be more important than other considerations. This hinders development and the use by all Australians of lands once called “Crown” lands.
Again, I say we should be striving for a cohesive society, one where we all have the same rights and responsibilities, not one based on discrimination and special treatment for different peoples. It is time for Australians to wake up to what is happening in this country. It is time for aborigines and others to move away from their obsession with history and move forward to join with all Australians in this magnificent country that must belong to us all, without favouritism or prejudice. Unless this is done, Australian society will develop internal stresses that will ultimately fragment and destroy it.
The Federal Court should deny the claim as it affects Karragarra, Lamb, Macleay and Coochiemudlo Islands, and most of the waters claimed, based on extinguishment of native title by past valid acts.
Only those whom the Federal Court accepts as parties to this claim can be involved. The Redland City Council is a party and must be asked to act in the wider interests of the community by forcefully objecting to this claim.
If you agree, take action now.
Contact the Mayor at email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lindsay Hackett (3409 5522) 22 July 2018