Making progress, but Treasury can’t put price on Native Title liability

The Palaszczuk Government is resolving around 10 native title claims each year, however there is still a backlog and serious issues to resolve.

Dec 17, 2020, updated Dec 17, 2020
Shine Lawyers won the first round of a pelvic mesh class action in the Federal Court. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Shine Lawyers won the first round of a pelvic mesh class action in the Federal Court. (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

As revealed by InQueensland, the government sent the budget into deficit when it set aside $1.3 billion for physical abuse claims arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. That moved any such litigation from a contingent liability, unable to be quantified in dollar terms, to a certain future expense having to be paid.

However, budget documents have not done the same for Native Title claims, despite Queensland resolving more applications – 156 in total – than any other state to date. With around 50 unresolved claims on the books at any one time, that liability could potentially be higher than the abuse claims estimate.

Treasury established a Native Title Compensation Office in July to help resolve claims, ideally through out-of-court settlements that are consistent for other claimants and title holders.

With recent court judgments changing the parameters for all jurisdictions, a Treasury spokesman said negotiations were voluntary and confidential.

“The State is at different stages of negotiating compensation with various native title holding groups,” the spokesman said.

“The State’s preference for a negotiated settlement does not limit the right of native title holders to litigate their compensation.”

In 2019-20, the government settled claims with the Widi People from north Queensland, the Gunggari People and the Auburn Hawkwood claimants from southwest Queensland and the Burnett Region respectively, and the Quandamooka People on Moreton Island, or Mulgumpin as it is known to the Native Title holders.

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