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Aboriginal Land Rights

Aboriginal Land Rights

The movement for land rights has been a major focus of Aboriginal political agitation across Australia for many years. Aboriginal people in Tasmania have participated in this struggle, and presented an Aboriginal Land Claim to the State Parliament in 1977.

This asked for a number of places to be returned to Aboriginal control, including all sacred sites, Wybalenna, Oyster Cove, all the Muttonbirding islands, and Cape Grim - the site of the massacre in 1830.

The State Government elected in July 1989 was working towards the Grant of certain areas of land identified as having historical, spiritual, cultural or ecomonic significance to Tasmania's Aboriginal community. If legislated, an Aboriginal Land Rights Bill would have transferred 53 000 hectares to a Tasmanian Aboriginal Land Council which would have held the land on behalf of the whole community.

The 35 000 hectare Cape Barren Island would have been the largest area transferred. In July 1991, however, the land Rights Bill was rejected in the upper house of State Parliament. Since then, the new Tasmanian Government has indicated that the bill will not be reintroduced. In response to the defeat of the bill, Aboriginal people occupied Wybalenna on Flinders island. Part of Rocky Cape National Park had been occupied a few months earlier.

Tasmania is the only State in Australia not to have enacted some form of Aboriginal land rights legislation.

Taken from "Aboriginal People of Tasmania" © Commonwealth of Australia

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