Recent Cases

Yunupingu on behalf of the Gumatj Clan or Estate Group v Commonwealth of Australia [2023] FCAFC 75 (22 May 2023) (Mortimer CJ; Moshinsky and Banks-Smith JJ)


Catchwords:


NATIVE TITLE – claim for compensation under Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (NTA) – where the applicant, on behalf of the Gumatj Clan or Estate Group, contends that, in the period from 1911 to 1978, a number of grants or legislative acts took place in the Northern Territory which, if valid, would have been inconsistent with the continued existence of the claimants’ non-exclusive native title rights, and would have extinguished those non-exclusive native title rights at common law – where the applicant contends that the grants or acts purported to effect an acquisition of property within the meaning of s 51(xxxi) of the Constitution, and that they did not provide just terms within the meaning of that provision – where the applicant contends that, the NTA apart, the grants or acts were invalid by reason of the failure to provide just terms as required by s 51(xxxi) – where the applicant contends that each of the grants or acts falls within the definition of a “past act” in the NTA – where the applicant contends that, by operation of the NTA, the grant or act was effective to grant or vest the rights that it purported to grant or vest, and the claimants are entitled to compensation under the NTA in respect of the acquisition of property – where the Commonwealth contended that the applicant’s claim should fail on a number of bases – where separate questions considered and determined by a Full Court in the exercise of the Court’s original jurisdiction

NATIVE TITLE – extinguishment – pastoral leases granted between 1886 and 1903 – reservations of minerals – where the Commonwealth contended that the effect of those reservations was to vest title to minerals in the Crown and thereby to extinguish the claimants’ native title mineral rights (if established) – held: any native title mineral rights not extinguished

NATIVE TITLE – extinguishment – Mission Lease granted in 1938 – where the Commonwealth contended that the grant of the Mission Lease extinguished (or purported to extinguish) any native title rights in the claim area that then subsisted – where the Commonwealth contended that the legislative instrument provided for the grant of a common law lease and thus the lease conferred exclusive possession on the lessee – where the Commonwealth contended in the alternative that the Mission Lease was a statutory lease that granted rights that were inconsistent with the claimed non-exclusive native title rights – held: the Mission Lease did not extinguish or purport to extinguish the claimants’ claimed non-exclusive native title rights

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW – s 51(xxxi) of the Constitution – acquisition of property on just terms – where the Commonwealth contended that the just terms requirement contained in s 51(xxxi) does not apply to laws enacted pursuant to s 122 of the Constitution – where the Commonwealth submitted that Teori Tau v Commonwealth [1969] HCA 62; 119 CLR 564 is the binding authority on this question – where the Commonwealth submitted that Wurridjal v Commonwealth [2009] HCA 2; 237 CLR 309 did not overrule Teori Tau – held: Wurridjal did overrule Teori Tau and the just terms requirement contained in s 51(xxxi) does apply to laws enacted pursuant to s 122

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW – s 51(xxxi) of the Constitution – acquisition of property on just terms – where the Commonwealth contended that the relevant grants and acts were not capable of amounting to an acquisition of property within the meaning of s 51(xxxi) because native title was inherently susceptible to extinguishment by a valid exercise of the Crown’s sovereign power to grant interests in land and to appropriate to itself unalienated land – held: native title rights and interests are proprietary in nature and constitute “property” for the purposes of s 51(xxxi) – held: a grant or act that extinguishes native title rights and interests is capable of amounting to an acquisition of property within the meaning of s 51(xxxi)