The Aboriginal people of Australia have for many year sought rectification of past injustices. The absence of political structures whereby Aboriginal people can communicate their views; govern themselves in regard to their traditions and culture; and promote their interests in similar way as applies to other indigenous people in the world has been identified as a major shortcoming in the institutional arrangements in Australia. It is especially since 1992 when native title had first been recognised in Australia that Aboriginal people have attempted to utilise their land rights as a basis for a form of self-government or autonomy. The shortcoming of this approach is, however, that native title only exists in certain areas; native title is a relative weak right; and native title does not entail any self-governance rights. Recently the federal state of Western Australia broke new ground when it concluded an agreement, which has been described by some as a “treaty,” with a large community of Aboriginal people in the south west of the state. This agreement, referred to as the Noongar Settlement, has the potential to serve as a model not only for other parts of Australia, but also beyond the shores of Australia. It recognises the traditional ownership of the land of the Noongar people, but then it goes on to establish for the Noongar people self-governing corporations. The corporations are not public law institutions, but in effect the powers and functions they discharge are of such a nature that they form in effect a fourth level of government. The corporations can exercise powers and functions not only in regard to aspects arising from traditional law and customs, but also in socio-economic fields such as housing, welfare, land management, conservation and tourism. The Noongar Settlement places Australia in a leading position when it comes to the holistic settlement of a land claim and the recognition of Aboriginal people.
Part of the book: Indigenous, Aboriginal, Fugitive and Ethnic Groups Around the Globe