Australia Aboriginals Compensated Billions In Land and Spiritual Loss Suit

Aboriginal leader
Indigenous dancers perform during the Kenbi Land Claim Title Deed Handover ceremony

A case filed by Aboriginals in Australia named Ngaliwurru and Nungali groups against their Northern Territory government saw them win billions of dollars following a High Court Ruling over suit on colonial land loss and spiritual disconnection.

According to the lawmakers, the Northern Territory government was to pay $2.53 milion in damages to the Ngaliwurru and Nungali groups for an existing court ruling which found the government violated their title rights when they built infrastructure on their land in the 80s and 90s.

In 2016, the Ngaliwurru and Nungali groups were to be compensated $3.3m including an economic loss calculated as a percentage the freehold value of the land, which the government appealed to be reduced.

However, the Northern Territory government claimed that it paid $1.3 million to Ngaliwurru and Nungali groups for spiritual or cultural harm and complained that the amount was excessive but the court ruled that the amount was the standard.

The court’s decree on the case is the biggest ‘native title’ ruling on indigenous rights to traditional land and water to the Aboriginals. This was the first time the high court considered the monetary value of the removal of land rights, including economic loss and loss of spiritual connection.

“This is a ruling that brings a different light on native title and the cultural and spiritual loss, let alone the inability to take any economic opportunities. We need to revisit those cases where they were unjustly compulsorily acquired by governments, and we’ll then need to take instructions from them,” Northern Land Council interim CEO Jak Ah Kit told Al Jazeera.

A native title lawyer Megan Brayne noted that the ruling on the spiritual loss which made the case a big win for the Aboriginals was a groundbreaking case because it was the first time the High Court has set out the principles for compensation.

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