Shelter NSW was pleased to see a long-running Aboriginal land claim over the 1.5 hectare Yasmar site in Haberfield settled last month. The site will be part-owned by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council after an Aboriginal land claim was approved. While additional housing may not emerge from this agreement, it is encouraging to see such a significant, metropolitan site returned to Aboriginal ownership.
The NSW Auditor General (AG) has recently reviewed how the NSW Government administers Aboriginal land claim processes, making quite a damming assessment. As a reminder (and according to the AG) The Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 (NSW) provides land rights over certain Crown land for Aboriginal Land Councils in NSW. If a claim is made over Crown land (land owned and managed by government) and meets other criteria under the Act, ownership of that land is to be transferred to the Aboriginal Land Council.
Importantly, the purpose of the process is to provide compensation for the dispossession of land from Aboriginal people in NSW and is a different process to the recognition of native title rights under Commonwealth law. Of the significant Yasmar site, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council chief executive Nathan Moran noted in the Sydney Morning Herald “This is great news and some recompense in recognition of historic dispossession of land” . According to the NSW Auditor General‘s report, at the Government’s current rate of claim processing it would take 22 years to resolve all claims; 70% of all claims lodged with the NSW government in the last 40 years are still awaiting a decision. In Shelter NSW’s view, this is definitely a case of ‘justice delayed being justice denied’. We hope to see additional commitment and funding to address this backlog in this month’s state budget.