The High Court of Australia last week handed down ‘the biggest native title ruling affecting Aboriginal ownership of the land in decades’. According to lawyers representing mining companies the ruling could ‘trigger compensation applications from many of the hundreds of native title holder groups around Australia, which could amount to billions of dollars’.
The ruling recognises two losses with regard to land that are to be legally compensated — the economic loss and the ‘loss of a spiritual connection to the land’ — the latter being a core principle of Indigenous culture and a main component of Indigenous anti-colonial resistance.
The ruling has brought the connection between colonial violence and land exploitation to prominence, in a way that sheds light on historical processes which many governments prefer to ignore. It stands in sharp contrast to Chile and Brazil for example, where both the absence of recognition and planned removal of recognition will continue to limit legal options for indigenous populations, with flow-on effects for the environment.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro remains a prominent example of excluding indigenous communities. At a time when scientists are insisting that indigenous communities are crucial to finding solutions for climate change, Brazil has changed mining regulations in order to open the Amazon to mining companies. Read more.