The claims for land rights and compensation for land expropriation made by Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders, whose presence on Australian soil goes back over 40,000 years, against the majority of Australians descended from immigrants who entered the country after White settlement in 1788, taking away land inhabited by its original population. Reserves were established for Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders in areas then considered worthless. Land claims emerged as a central issue in the 1960s, as mining companies started to exploit the mineral resources of the Aboriginal reservations without consultation or compensation. It coincided with, and reinforced, a general growth in Aboriginal self-consciousness. As individual states were slow to respond to their claims, Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders lobbied the federal parliament, often with spectacular actions, such as the establishment in 1972 of a tent embassy for six months on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra.
In 1975, an Aboriginal Land Fund Commission to buy land for Aborigines was formed, and in 1976, the federal parliament granted the Aborigines some land rights in the Northern Territory. In the landmark Mabo v. Queensland ruling (1992), the Australian High Court for the first time accepted native rights to the land prior to British settlement. In 1994, the Prime Minister, Keating, decided to address some of the grievances of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. From 1 January 1994, they were able to claim government land totalling 5–10 per cent of the country's surface. However, this excluded lands already under cultivation, and did not affect the mining industry which only had to return land upon request after exploiting the land's mineral resources. Following his 1998 election victory, John Howard announced that he would seek to institute a final settlement in time for the Australian centenary 2001. However, he refused to issue a blanket apology for the wrongs committed to the Aboriginal population by the immigrants. The issue of land claims continued to be unresolved.Waitangi Tribunal
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).