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Aboriginal Australia

             When Australia was first settled in 1788 the international law of terra nullius was applied. The basis of this was that the natives that inhabited Australia did not appear to have a class structure or rule of law and that the land was not being utilised efficiently for agriculture. Australia was annexed under the legal tradition of settlement. At the time of settlement it was noted by Sir Joseph Banks that the land was indeed terra nullius as there was no way to communicate or negotiate with the small population of natives. Over the past century and indeed the last decade Australia's history is being rewritten with the rejection of the doctrine of terra nullius through the High Court. Recognition of Aboriginal law, native title and possession of the land at the time of settlement has come to fruition through legal cases such as Mabo (1992) and Wik (1993) and the establishment of the Native Title Act (1993) and the amended Native Title Act (1998). .
             Major developments in recent history in regards to native title have been the court's decisions in the Mabo case (1992) and the Wik case (1993). The Mabo case (1992) was brought about by Eddie Mabo and a group of Torres Strait Islanders who took the State of Queensland to court. Their case was that they wish the courts to pronounce that the Meriam people held native title over three Murray Islands - Mer, Dauar and Waier. Evidence was provided that supported the islanders" claim that the inhabitants of these three Murray Islands indeed had a class structure that should be recognized under common law. There were in fact two decisions handed down in the Mabo case. The first being that the Queensland legislation was not in keeping with the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and therefore void and the second being that the plaintiff's claim that native title was acknowledged by the common law of Australia. .
             The decision of the High Court in the Mabo case had significant effect in recognizing the rights of indigenous Australians and their native title rights over some areas of land within Australian.

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