Aboriginals in Australia have won a pioneering and monumental case that paves the path for billions of dollars in compensation claims for their colonial land that were lost. This compensation also covers for the loss of religious association.
The Australian highcourt ruled the case in favor of the Ngaliwurru and Nungali people who are from the Nothern parts of Australia. This is known to be the biggest ‘native title’ rulig on indigenous land and water rights belonging to the traditional inhabitats.
It was ruled that the government of the Northern territory was to pay $2.53mn in damages to the Ngaliwurru and Nungali people for an earlier high court ruling that found the NT government “extinguished” their native title rights after they built infrastructure on their land during the 80s and 90s.
Around $1.3 million of the damages was awarded for religious or cultural hurt, that each the district and federal governments argued was excessive.
On Wednesday, 14th of March, 2019,the High court ruled that the $1.3mn “was not evidently excessive and wasn’t inconsistent with acceptable community standards.”
It was indeed the first time the High court had put into consideration the value of the removal of land rights, as well as economic loss and loss of religious connection for the people.
“This, definitely, could be the ruling that sheds a unique light on native title and also the cultural and spiritual loss, including the inability to access any economic opportunities,”
Northern Land Council interim chief executive officer edible fruit Ah Kit told Al Jazeera. “We need to revisit those cases where they were unjustly compulsorily acquired by governments, and we’ll then need to take instructions from them,” he said.
The High court reduced the first compensation figure of $3.3m that was awarded by the Federal court in 2016, including an economic loss figure calculated to be eighty percent (80%) of the freehold price of the land.
The National Trust government made an appeal for fifty percent (50%) of the land price and the high court the court agreed to their appea. However, the ruling on spiritual loss is what makes this case and its victory such a munumental stride for Aboriginals of Australia.
“This is a very important case because it is the first time the high court has set out the principles for compensation.” Megan Brayne, a native title lawyer said.
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