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A just accommodation of customary land rights in conventional and contemporary land use planning systems (V2)

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conference contribution
posted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by E Wensing, Garrick SmallGarrick Small
Australia does not have a system of implicit recognition of the prior and continuing ownership of its land and waters by its First Nations Peoples (Customary Owners) according to their traditional law and custom. Such recognition has to be sought and determined through the Federal Court of Australia. Its recognition is based on the pre-existing superior right to the whole of the land of Australia, which must be shown not to have been extinguished by legal acts by the Australian government. Customary owners understand their connection to land in somewhat more substantial terms than is currently countenanced by western civilization. The reality of customary ownership and its relationship to western law have implications for planning. Planning is effectively the right, held by the government against private freehold or leasehold owners, to control land uses. Since customary owners hold superior title to the government, it is consistent that they are not only exempt from most normal actions of planning control, but also merit some level of involvement in the planning process by virtue of the nature of their rights to the land. The logic of customary ownership implies that they should have a right of veto against development proposals comparable to that which is the operational power of urban and regional planners. Customary Owners have a highly developed sense of responsibility for maintaining their land which suggests involvement in the planning system would respect the fundamentals of customary ownership and lead to enhanced land use planning outcomes.


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Macquarie University, Sydney, N.S.W.


Institute of Australian Geographers]

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Peer Reviewed


Open Access


External Author Affiliations

Not affiliated to a Research Institute; University of Canberra;

Era Eligible


Name of Conference

Institute of Australian Geographers Conference