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MABO LAWYER - Native Title agreements affirm the sovereignty of the British Crown Callum Clayton-Dixon


First Nations Telegraph talked to Greg McIntyre QC at the 5th Annual Native Title Law Summit in Brisbane on June 17 about Aboriginal sovereignty in action. Mr McIntyre assisted Eddie Mabo in his High Court case which overturned the legal doctrine of Terra Nullius. FNT: How do you think the sovereignty argument and push for a Treaty fits with Native Title? McIntyre: Not at all really - Native Title is based on the assumption of the sovereignty of the British Crown. Aboriginal people, if they’re claiming sovereignty, have to front up to the Australian Government and say ‘we are a competing sovereign with you’. That then has to be recognized at an international level. Native Title is below that level and it’s accepting the sovereignty of the British Crown, and Native Title is accepted as part of the common law which the British Crown recognizes.

Greg McIntyre QC (LEFT) assisted Eddie Mabo in his High Court case which overturned the legal doctrine of Terra Nullius in 1992.

McIntyre: Maybe – they’ll have to convince the other nations of the world of their sovereignty. I think the Australian Government should have done what happened in the United States of America in the 1820s, where they recognized dependent sovereign nation status [of Native American tribes]. I think the debate is better framed in the ‘self-determination’ discussion which goes on at the United Nations.

FNT: Back in the 70s and 80s, Aboriginal people were marching down the streets demanding LAND RIGHTS, not Native Title. Do you think there has been a big back step compared to the 1976 Northern Territory Land Rights Act?

McIntyre: The Land Rights Act of the NT gives a much more secure and recognizable form of tenure which has similarities to freehold title and the FNT: Do you think individual legislation also creates a veto power in FNT: Australia is the only Aboriginal nations would be better relation to mining exploration – so in Commonwealth country without a off going to the UN to get that sort of those respects, it is stronger than the kind of title you can get out of Native Title. Treaty with its First Nations people. Do recognition? you think there every will be a Treaty? McIntyre: That’s where it [the listen to FNT’s interview with Greg

McIntyre: I’d certainly like there to recognition] will ultimately come from. be one. Whether it’s one or many – I think there’s an argument for having an overall agreement between the Australian Government and Aboriginal people as whole, and there could be multi-tiered agreements which accommodate the fact that Aboriginal people are not all speaking with one voice. FNT: The Murrawarri people have made a renewed push for independence, having declared themselves a republic and sent a letter to the Crown requesting documentation proving how the Australian Government has sovereignty over their lands. Do you think that is the sort of action that First Nations people must take in order to get the sovereignty argument to the next level? June 18, 2013


Greg McIntyre QC delivering his keynote speech at the 5th Annual Native Title Law summit in Brisbane (June 17, 2013). IMAGE: Callum Clayton-Dixon


Mabo lawyer native title agreements affirm the sovereignty of the british crown