ATTORNEY-GENERAL Philip Ruddock has announced his intention to appeal to the Full Federal Court over the Noongar people’s native title claim in Perth.
“On the advice that I have received this decision differs, or departs significantly from, the principles articulated by the High Court in the Yorta Yorta judgment and there are sufficient grounds to seek to appeal,” he said.
The nation’s chief legal officer said that although the Government prefers mediation of native title disputes where practicable, it was important to clarify Justice Murray Wilcox’s ruling “to ensure native title outcomes are credible and consistent with the law”.
The claim in question was made by the Noongar people, which the Federal Court last month acknowledged had developed and consistently maintained a society over a large area, including the city of Perth, since European settlement in 1829.
Ruddock earlier suggested the Federal Court ruling could mean that existing public areas, such as park lands and beaches, may be shut to non-native Australians. He said last week that his comments should be viewed in the “context of the facts rather than assumptions as to what people have believed I might be saying”.
“The important point that I was making was that this decision has left open doubt as to whether or not access by the general public to areas which are currently regarded as vacant Crown land would necessarily be able to continue,” he said.
“Such reservations have to be clearly made and if they haven’t then the tenure arrangements might well be such that areas - that could include beaches, could include other parks and forests - that are accessed by the public but which haven’t been reserved or dedicated and that might mean that those areas would be available for claim.”
The West Australian Government, through Attorney-General Jim McGinty, is also appealing the decision — not to overturn native title, but to understand “what the ground rules are in order to embrace native title in the future,” McGinty said.