'Landmark victory' for Aboriginal sea rights

August 5, 2008

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The Australian High Court has recognised Aboriginal ownership rights to a huge stretch of the northern Australian coast.

The court ruled that Aborigines from Blue Mud Bay in the state of Northern Territory have freehold title to both the seabed to the low water mark and the waters above it. This gives the Aborigines unprecedented control of commercial and recreational fishing in the area.

‘It is a landmark victory for traditional owners and we have waited for over 30 years for our sea rights to be legally recognised,’ said Northern Land Council chairman Wali Wunungmurra.

The ruling is being seen as a victory for Aboriginal rights all over Australia and may lead to further legal claims in other parts of the country.   

‘I think morally other Aboriginal people would now be able to argue that if these sorts of rights are being provided to Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, they should be extended elsewhere,’ said Professor John Altman, from the Centre for Aboriginal Policy Research.

Aboriginal peoples